Except farmville IS NOT a competitive game therefore it does not change the fairness of the game. [...]
Those argument are irrelevant.
You could argue that any game where the results are shared and can be compared is, to some degree, competitive. But it doesn't matter - I was talking about the general concept of the fairness of microtransactions in multiplayer games, not Farmville specifically.
Spending time isn't valuable. It's the expression we want. So no, painting's not a grind.
And half the stuff you are calling grinding in Minecraft is expression too. I've hardly spent any time digging away randomly, but I have spent time carving out spaces. It's the difference between killing 50 orcs to try and get a rare drop and killing 50 orcs to get into the orc stronghold.
Personally I hate the term 'grind' because it's a nebulous idea referring to any repeated action that someone somewhere finds boring. Some of these actions may be more down to compulsion than fun, but people have vastly different scopes for what counts here.
People grind in MMOs and in Farmville and in Minecraft for the same reasons: to unlock the ability to do something later (raid, buy, build). Unless your mine is a creative expression for you (like my friend who's carving out the mines of Moria, but unlike myself who just wants more iron), I'd say it's just another type of grinding.
Almost everybody I know plays Minecraft as some sort of expression. There's virtually no other point, is there? You combine the resource acquisition with the sculpting of your landscape. Occasionally there's a bit of one without the other, but not in such quantities that I'd consider it laborious or arbitrary, which I think is the key.
I disagree with trying to split this into two distinct categories. The social aspect and the business model are orthogonal, and there's nothing inherently wrong with either. The problem is when you tone down elements that are fun, replace them with elements that are compulsive, and then essentially put paywalls between the player and their next reward.
I think this is the crux of the anti-Farmville sentiment. The problem with this argument is that "fun" is incredibly subjective. The thought process behind the anti-Farmville camp seems to go something like this:
I don't find the game fun. Therefore it isn't fun. Therefore no-one can find the game fun. So what's keeping the millions of players playing it? ZOMG MIND CONTROL!
You are trivialising a serious issue by characterising it as an extreme situation when it's more nuanced than that. The problem is:
- we know people repeatedly do things in life that they will tell you that they'd prefer not to do. Typically we refer to this as addiction.
- we also know most of these things are originally done "for fun". Thus it's not just about subjectivity, but about a sliding scale of where something crosses over from "fun" to "compulsive".
- we know enough about psychology - or at least the behaviourist approximation of it - to know how to create stimuli that specifically pushes behaviour into the bounds of compulsion. This has been empirically studied.
- we are seeing games that are beginning to resemble these behaviourist experiments - as we always have - but where there appears to be little narrative or ludic justification for this.
- worse, we are seeing games where these approaches are coupled with microtransactions to convert successful compulsion into payments.
Surely you can see how this is a cause for concern, at least?
Characterising the microtransactions in those games as paywalls is pretty unfair and fallacious as well.
Perhaps it's a bit strong, but there are certain activities that require FarmCash to buy, and FarmCash accrues very
slowly if you're not willing to pay.
The vast majority of players of freemium games never pay a penny to play - they just log in when it's convenient, do what they do, log out again, and eventually get the stuff they want.
The game is designed to work that way - you don't want people on your servers for too long, after all. It costs money. The fact that lots of people aren't playing isn't a sign that "paying is optional" - these people are additional content
for the paying customers and referral sources
for potential future paying customers.
Hard-wired into their design is a mechanic that ensures they'll be played in short bursts, in a schedule that suits the lifestyles of the players. How many "proper" games have that?
You make it sound as if it is done to be nice to the players. I assure you that it is not. It is done primarily to reduce costs, by getting people off their servers and back on the Facebook infrastructure which is essentially free for them. The perfect player is one that is paying you money but barely using your resources. This is how they can afford to have so many people playing without paying. Note that they go to some effort to try and get you back into the game, via daily reminders, gifting, etc., because they do want you back frequently - just not for long periods.
The problem is that Farmville provides mechanisms to encourage you to harass your friends in order to make your own gains in the game.
And that's why I wanted to make a distinction between the "social" aspects of these games and the monetary aspects.
But they're just separate parts of the same machinery. There are things in Farmville you can spend real money on, or instead get lots of 'neighbors' and acquire the stuff that way, and Zynga have measured these quantities out based on the amount of cash they expect a typical new player to bring in.
Spamming people who aren't already playing the game? Yeah, that's pretty crappy.
But that is, of course, the absolute only reason this stuff exists. It's to spread the application virally by making your players spam their friends in exchange for benefits. Whereas a less antisocial game like Minecraft relies on you thinking that it's really cool and choosing to spread the word with no benefit to yourself.
But again, I don't know of anything which you MUST pay for to attain, and even if you do, I think you must be an incredibly sensitive soul if you feel "taunted" by seeing someone owning a piece of virtual property that you don't. I don't hear of anyone being upset that other people's XBox avatars have clothing or accessories that they don't. I happen to have a set of that overpriced Horse Armour in Oblivion - who would be upset if I posted a screenshot?
It happens all the time on MMOs. You see someone with certain kit, so you want it. It doesn't have to be a PvP game for that. People covet cool stuff. Nothing wrong with having a game that shows cool stuff and lets other people want it, of course. What matters is how you, as a developer, choose to advertise that to players, and how you capitalise on their resulting desires.
There is also a strong thread among gamers which states that you shouldn't be able to introduce external resources to improve your standing within the game, as a point of fairness.
Sure, I understand that point of view. But nobody is making the gamers that hold that opinion play these games. Nobody is making anybody
play these games.
Except the deception that people don't know what they're getting into at the start, and the psychological addiction - or a lesser version of it - that can make people do things they wouldn't otherwise choose to do.
As GILBERT Timmy pointed out, none of these games (at least none I know of, and certainly not Farmville) are competitive. They're co-operative.
Absolutely loads of these viral freemium games are explicitly competitive, but even those that are not can still bring out competitive behaviour from people. Competition doesn't have to mean zero-sum conflict. It can mean something as simple as comparison. If I score higher on Pacman than someone else then the only difference is that I appear higher up the high score table than they do. That doesn't mean I won't be pissed off if someone else put in an extra dollar to get a free power pill on each board and beats my score.
I'm not saying Farmville is evil or entirely without merit as a game. But I am saying there are serious question marks over how ethical this sort of game is, when you take into account the whole package of mechanics, referrals, and monetization.