Time-Waster “Games”

My fair in Snoopy’s Street Fair. I have those kids working 24/7 to make me my millions.

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.

My Smurf village sucks. I always let my crops die. I gave up planting them.

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.

  • I agree they are not games.
    Games are supposed to be an interactive fun experience.

    These “games”are just projects to get you to waste time and get you addicted.
    Pretty much like a one armed bandit.
    They are set up so you get more and more discomfort, unless you pay.

    Pretty much the worst F2P model.. without the fun.
    That and why is there the requirement to add and “use” social contacts?

    “looks at your experience with your mom dragging you into it” Aww so thats why.

  • If you asked my Mom, she’d say she’s having a blast. She has TONS of fun. So there’s definitely fun here, despite not playing at all. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having a little bit of fun decorating my castles. I always loved that part of DAOC, UO, and SWG… I like making things I own look cool.

  • Truth.

    For me, these are the ‘dark side’ of game design. Games are meant to entertain, to tell a story, and to give something of value and meaning to the players. However, some games have a mentality that players are ‘cattle’, that you can farm them for cash.

    See Zynga.

    There is an inherent fun to the time-wasting games. It plays off of our basic human desires. At the end of the day though, all games are simply digital fiction. But there are some that can help you make meaningful friendships or accomplishments, and entertain you for a while, but also some that provide no value at all beyond instant gratification. I try to avoid the latter.

  • This is the exact trap I’ve sunk into these last few weeks. I’ve been spending too much time staring at tiny things so I bought The Sims Medieval to give my poor eyes a break and have a computer screen to stare at. It’s still task-based addictive gameplay, but it’s easier on my weak constitution.

  • Yesterday I read on some news site that an American woman used the credit card of her boss to pay for 10000$!! worth of goodies in frontierville in 4 months time. A Zynga facebook timewaster game.

    Some people are just more susceptible to addiction.
    They say this game is fun and worth it, just like a smoker says his cigarette tastes good. Well duh thats because your getting a shot to feed your addiction.

    Pssst… They also use the same mechanics of a slotmachine to keep people playing mmo’s. Why else do you think people run 4+ hour instances for a small chance to get the loot they desire?

    Personally I refuse to play the raiding game any longer.

    What saddens me is that these kind of mobile and facebook games are so cheap and easy to make and rake in so much profit.
    I know that smurfsville game made a big % of the profits of the big name company that also makes AA games.
    Why would “they” make a good game if it generates less profits?

  • @Zyler

    “Why would ‘they’ make a good game if it generates less profits?’

    If they care, they will take the hit. You can be very profitable making solid, quality titles. It’s just harder to do so. There are still great developers out there who are invested in making quality games.

    A game is only like a cigarette if you design it to be. This is a particularly rough market, and there will always be people who sieze the chance to take advantage of and exploit the weak constitutions of many gamers. It sucks and it brings down the quality of the industry, but it’ll never last. People can tell the difference when they play a game they’re excited about (not just the mind-numbing instinct-following ‘excitement’ of Farmville).

    As long as people are willing to buy quality, it’ll live on. Everyone on these comments is proof of that. There are still many people that care. I’m so glad there are.