I’ve been inundated with time-waster “games” lately. They come in all shapes and sizes, on all platforms, from all settings, for children and adults alike. The iOS and mobile device markets are flooded with these games, and they make oodles of money.
For the past couple of months I’ve been managing Snoopy’s Street Fair. I would have quit forever ago but my mom will call me up and talk me into “playing Snoopy” with her. I tell her that we’re not playing together, that she has her fair and I have mine, and we just ‘visit’ each other and give gifts, but it doesn’t matter. Now I’m level 18 and my fair has earned millions of dollars. I even checked up on my village during my Managerial Economics class because I felt like I was learning more selling pancakes to virtual children with over-sized heads. She also wants me to play Smurfs’ Village with her, planting crops and baking delicious confections, because if I keep giving her gifts she’ll max out her level and get her beach front property land expansion. I regret asking her how much money she’s spent on these time-wasters because she just grins wickedly and declares she’s lost track. I cringe.
Last week I downloaded Shrek’s Fairytale Kingdom on my iPad. I’m a sucker for fantasy; Castles, knights, and magic are my Achilles heel. I’m decorating my swamp, placing puddles, stumps, and Donkey’s Waffle House. I’m sending Lord Farquaad, Donkey, and Shrek on quests. I’m picking earwax out of Shrek’s ears, decorating Duloc with shops and sidewalks, and realizing that the longer I play the more ‘they’ trap me and make me feel like I’ve dedicated so much time getting to this point that I can’t simply stop now — I must keep going and buy that $20 bag of magical wishes to buy the Three Little Pigs’ stuff! Before you know what’s happened, they own you.
I’ve come to the conclusion that these aren’t “games” at all! They’re insidious traps; Horribly cute, addicting, and oft full of nothing but watching, poking, and waiting. Rarely, if ever, does one do anything that resembles “playing” in a time-waster game. Is it horrible of me to want in on a piece of that action? I’ve already come up with a way to introduce gameplay into them that actually resembles “playing”, all the while maintaining the lure. I’m adding it to my list of games to make one day.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think Shrek is ready for his Noon spa treatment.