Get Your Game On

29 03 2010

Games are the glue that bind humanity. They provide an escape from the drudgery we call daily life. They offer us an opportunity to test our mettle. They give us the venue for human interaction.

Which may explain why games are so enduringly popular. One might even argue they are the hallmark of an advanced society, for anyone who has time to play games has clearly mastered all the other intricacies of survival.

From a very early age, children are game players, taught perhaps by doting parents playing peek-a-boo. From then on, until our last domino-laying, dice-rolling and card-playing day, we will play games.

So I suppose it is only natural, then, that millions of people have jumped onto the social gaming wagon courtesy of Facebook. Farmville. Mafia Wars. @Hearts. About one-half of Facebook’s 400 millions users play games there. My Facebook screen is littered with offers of eggs or the need for bullets, attesting to the fact that many of my friends use social networking not so much as a simple means of keeping in touch, but for far more thorough engagement (with the site and one another).

Now let me make one thing perfectly clear (he says in his best Richard M. Nixon voice): I really do not give a cow patty about these games. I prefer my games to come in a box, thank you very much. And that box should clearly be labeled Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary or Apples to Apples.

But that doesn’t mean these social games are wrong. They’re just not for me. But developers are still not happy with what it currently available. No, they are trying to create the Magnum Opus of social games, the killer app that will work not only in Facebook, but also on your iPhone and your TV. And you may as well toss in your iPad as well (assuming you reserved one before they ran out this weekend).

Now that’s ambition.

Imagine, if you are a FB gamer, being able to play whenever and wherever. Farmville will no longer be just an office time waster. It could be an all-consuming 24-hour preoccupation. To and from work (but hopefully not while you’re driving). At the office by day. And on the couch at night.

So what is all the fuss? Because whoever can find this mother lode first will reap an enormous windfall. Virtual goods that complement on-screen game-playing are extremely profitable because there are no tangible elements involved. And if you can sell an app for the phone and/or TV, there’s extra money to write home about.

And while I shudder to think of what life will be like with folks walking around face-down at their phone while trying to build another barn in Farmville, I admit that this could be a lucrative enterprise. Maybe I really am just a little bit old-school in that I prefer my game-playing to be F2F, but if phone-to-phone works for you, I’m not going to stand in your way. Just don’t send your mafia after me.

Dr “Game Face” Gerlich

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