October 8, 2012 @ 7:04 pm
I have, over Fall Break, been sucked into my first Facebook game. Avengers Alliance is interesting for about twenty minutes until you figure out the design principles. Like many games, the skin (the details of the world and the narrative of the story) is totally not the point. The point of the game is to get you to check into Facebook, interact with your Facebook Friends, maybe spend some money or get them to spend some money, and get out. So your energy runs out after 10 battles or so, unless you spend money (faster if you lose). As far as I can tell, the only way to get those little purple S.H.I.E.L.D. tokens that allow you to train your characters, other than spending money, is to get your Facebook Friends to send them to you. You can send them some in return, which if this weren't Facebook would make no sense. In fact, my wife (keeper of the Facebook flame) just showed me how to claim bonuses posted to her page when she wins battles. And round and round it goes. After a while, it starts to feel like work to me.
This is quite different solution to the same set of problems, than the previous generation of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs, for the busy, the ancient, and the Luddites). City of Heroes instead had a monthly fee, and the expensive upgrades were not chopped so finely (of course, CoH is being shut down in a few weeks). FB is looking to nickel and dime us into submission. And that casino-like nature of the game is certainly effective, for what it is. Maybe these little games are the cockroaches of the virtual world -- cheap to produce, cheap to reproduce, around forever -- where the big games are mammoths, huge and ambitious but vulnerable to the least little change in the environment. I certainly never paid for CoH, because I'm trying to get tenure. I don't have ten hours a week to spend defeating villains, though the two weeks of the trial period over the summer were pretty hero-licious. We'll see how long Avengers Alliance manages to keep my attention. Who knows, it might fit into the same narrow time niche that short stories did when I was in graduate school. Novels were just too long, and too tempting, so I read short stories almost exclusively.