Game on and social stigma

Implications of the rise of casual and social games on the Internet for online gaming and everyday life

For our purposes, casual games are asynchronous and the interaction involves turn-taking as opposed to real-time games. The stress levels are inherently lower and players can take their time to nurture relationships. Social games are those where people come together. They can include cooperative play modes or a free for all. Broadly speaking, any game you play with other people is a social game. Some online examples of these types of games are World of Warcraft, the forthcoming Age of Empires, and the super-popular Happy Farm.

There are a total of 228 million active users, 23 million daily users… Approximately 15 million urban white-collars workers are estimated to spend more than five hours a day on Happy Farm. Because of its popularity, the game’s host, Tencent QQ, has capped the number of new players per day at 2 million. (“Happy Farm – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,” n.d.)

So many people are playing, and some are paying real money to advance their competitiveness. Certain features can be purchased with game points but others, such as food for a virtual guard dog, require players to reach for their wallets. Unfortunately all this play has several more drawbacks.

Some fear that this new social farming revolution may not contribute to the positive development of society. A central feature of social farm games in China is stealing vegetables. Official state media People’s Daily reports that 70 percent of users on Kaixin001 cite it as their favorite feature, and it has even spawned the popular phrase “How many vegetables have you stolen today?” This key addictive feature has created news stories of business executives “obsessed” with stealing vegetables and broken relationships over vegetables stolen on the night shift. The game is so addictive — with players setting alarm clocks at all hours of the night to check crops — that it 
“destroys jobs and relationships.” “Simplicity and stickiness are behind the global epidemic of farm games. Anyone can learn to grow crops within minutes and reap a reward for getting friends — or the entire office — addicted too,” said BloggerInsight Co-Founder Lucas Englehardt. (Ng, 2009)

A possible grim outcome of this is a gang of unemployed, disgruntled, and love-lost people sneaking around China and stealing from “friends”! Meanwhile, around the corner in population dense Seoul, broadband Internet connections are everywhere and fast. The effect of this infrastructure is to dramatically reduce the problems associated with internet gaming and online content distribution. (Brooks, 2008) A good thing considering that gaming is a mainstream activity in Korean culture, without any guilt strings attached. What about Australia and our plans for the National Broadband Network? Like the US, we simply don’t have the centralised population that Seoul has. With a better network though, will we become gamers to the same extent? Personally I hope Australian culture would never condone such poor behaviour and its consequences.

References

Brooks, G. (2008, July 8). Counting Rupees: Korea bangs. Joystiq. Retrieved September 11, 2010, from http://www.joystiq.com/2008/07/08/counting-rupees-korea-bangs/

Happy Farm – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). . Retrieved September 12, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Farm

Ng, E. (2009, October 29). China’s growing addiction: online farming games. VentureBeat. Retrieved September 12, 2010, from http://venturebeat.com/2009/10/29/china-qq-farm-happy-farm-games/