1. “Farmville is not a good game. While (…) games offer a break from responsibility and routine, Farmville is defined by responsibility and routine.”
2. “(…) if Farmville is laborious to play and aesthetically boring, why are so many people playing it? The answer is disarmingly simple: people are playing Farmville because people are playing Farmville.”
Farmville is defined by responsibility and routine, yes; but what defines Farmville as a game is the special type of responsibility and routine! Take any game you want and you’ll find at least the same amount of the two.
The responsibility in this game is, by default, a pleasant one: “Oh, I have to harvest my crops!” – everybody laughs and you can leave your real responsibilities away for just a minute and take care of a fake responsibility: harvesting your virtual crops (in this case; there may very well be anything that any other game requires).
When you harvest your digital crops you are actually leaving your life behind. This becomes a very good excuse and leaves all the others around you (co-workers, bosses, friends, kids, parents) smiling encompassing: “This guy / gal seemed too serious till now; now it looks like he / she has a childish side which we find pleasant”.
Digital farming is also a joke by itself. That’s why it gets so easy accepted. I heard a stories about business meetings when, at the coffee break, everybody jumped on their laptops not to be late from harvesting.
You have to seriously lack sense of humor not to laugh when hear “I have to leave this important meeting for only 2 minutes: otherwise I’ll lose my digital strawberries and never be able to buy that digital cow this week!!”
Regarding the second argument – about the motivation – it’s insufficient.
There are more games than gamers; choosing one of them is not something like getting a virus, although it looks like. People are playing because other people – friends, family, colleagues, bosses – indulge themselves playing that funny game. All my friends are playing all sorts of games; but, man, when I see my boss, my business partners, my daughter’s paediatrician and all the “suit people” leaving the social mask away and just playing a stupid, simple game – this sends the following message to me: “WTF! Everybody’s out playing like kids, while I am keeping my suit on like a moron!”…
The adherence of the Farmville-like games consists in their capacity of reducing everybody to a deeper, lower common denominator: basic – simple – pleasant routine.
Farmville was smart because it managed to attract both kids and lawyers, but this is entirely another story which I’m not going to tell now. Just imagine Farmville would have been about mining or medicine instead of farming. The main massage of farming is: return to the roots of humanity and be a good neighbor.
I never played Farmville on web; I’m just “testing” a bit the iPhone app…