When it comes to this whole recent “social games” vs. “REAL games” tiff, I’ve largely shrugged and gone on my merry way. For one reason, it seems as though this is just another iteration of the whole “casuals vs. hardcore” argument that is destined to go on until the sheer bloody end of time, and I’ve washed my hands of that lunacy. Really, it’s just pointless and counterproductive to both sides.
Whether or not Farmville exists has no real bearing on my life. It does not offend my senses, it does not alter the course of my daily decisions, and — most importantly — it does not stop the type of games that I enjoy from being developed, launched and run. It is, simply, another option on the gaming menu. If I was to use a restaurant metaphor, there are fast food-style games, sit-down eateries types of games, and 5-course meals of savory goodness in gaming. The fact that one exists does not put the others out of business, because they appeal to different people at different times.
Here’s what I don’t understand about this whole struggle: unless you’re a person whose questionable ego is tied up in defending to the death the purity of one type of game/difficulty/gaming platform/gaming style, then chances are that you have a variety of play appetites just like the rest of us. There are PC MMORPG players among us who also own an Xbox 360, or a Nintendo DS, or — saints preserve us — a TRS-80. There are hardcore raiders among us who also enjoy a good round of Bejeweled and Yahoo! poker.
For the most part, many of us are grown up enough to realize that we don’t owe a particular gaming platform or type of game or company our undying loyalty, because those things don’t care if we feel that way or not. They are just there, and we either enjoy them or we ignore them. It doesn’t do a lot of good to expend copious amounts of nerdrage and flaming to jockey for some imagined superiority over others.
For me, I love PCs and playing MMOs on them. But I also own a Wii, and play party games and Rock Band with friends and family on occasion. I enjoy little games on my iPhone while I have breaks here and there. And sometimes, yes, I want to enjoy a game that I can play right in my browser without a high-end computer or a subscription. I don’t see what the problem is for having all of these kinds of games.
I’ve seen a lot of folks rail against browser-based MMOs, for instance, mostly on the platform that “all browser-based MMOs are crap” (really? where’s your scientific data? have you tested them all?) and that “real players play… um… non-browser-based MMOs”. That’s pretty much the extent of their derision, but it keeps popping up. And here I am, slapping my forehead and thinking, “These people don’t get it!” It’s not about making a browser-based MMO that’s better than some other game that’s out there, it’s about making a highly-accessible game that’s fun in some way, for people who don’t always have an awesome computer or who might want to play on a laptop or on a more casual footing.
If someone has honest-to-goodness fun playing Farmville, then the more power to them. I’m not going to tell them that they’re not enjoying what they clearly are, and I think I’d be a hypocrite to condemn Farmville’s grind while I play some of the grindiest games ever made. Social games, browser-based games, casual games — these may not be your cup of tea, but guess what? They are someone’s cup of tea, and those people have a right to enjoy the types of games they like at the level of difficulty and access that they demand just as much as you do.