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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Campus captivated by FarmVille

Emily Jones / Arizona Daily Wildcat

David Kim, an avid Farmville fan, plays the Facebook game daily in order to keep his farm running smoothly.
Emily Jones / Arizona Daily Wildcat David Kim, an avid Farmville fan, plays the Facebook game daily in order to keep his farm running smoothly.

Casual gamers and social networkers at the UA and around the country can’t get enough of FarmVille.

Created by Zynga, a video game developer based out of San Francisco, and offered as an application through Facebook, FarmVille is the most popular gaming application on the social networking site, with 65 million users registered, according to the game’s Facebook page. The game’s popularity is ever-present on the UA campus, with people everywhere, from the Integrated Learning Center to UA libraries to home on their laptops, being seen playing the game. The game’s popularity refuses to subside, despite controversies of advertisement scams being implemented through the application.

The extremely fast rise in popularity surprised the game’s developers. “”The (developing) team estimated that the game would attract maybe 6,000 users in the first weekend. We were blown away when tens of thousands of users had signed up by the end of the weekend,”” Zynga’s lead developer, Amitt Mahajan, said.

Many students use the game as a casual way of blowing off steam during a stressful school day. David Kim, a UA computer engineering sophomore and FarmVille enthusiast, said, “”For me, the game is a stress reliever, a distraction.””

Zynga, which is also responsible for other Facebook game applications like Mafia Wars, Café World and Texas Hold ‘Em, first introduced FarmVille to Facebook in June of this year.

“”We were mad about creating social games, and we were attracted to the idea of a farm. There have been online farming games before, and we wanted to give it our own unique twist,”” Mahajan said.

The game utilizes the program Real Time Simulation, which according to Wesley Kerr, graduate research associate in the computer science department, allows the user to tend to their crops digitally on a lifelike human time frame. Real time simulation is not new, he said, having been utilized in role playing computer games as far back as 1999. Kerr said that FarmVille and other Zynga games are the first games that utilize real time simulation to be marketed to crowds of “”casual gamers.””

While some professors on campus seem to be concerned about games like FarmVille distracting students from their studies, advocates of the game claim it is not too much of a problem because of the minimal time it takes to play. Kim says he plays FarmVille no more than 10 to 20 minutes a day and would never use it to avoid work because, “”Once you harvest (the crops) there’s nothing more you could do with the game during that session.””

However, some students use the game during class. Mike Crane, a psychology senior, said, “”It’s a good way to kill time during class. It’s simple and entertaining and doesn’t require any strategy.”” He added that the game doesn’t interfere with his work, as he never plays more than 30 minutes in a day.

“”It shouldn’t be too disruptive,”” said Kerr, “”It only takes about five minutes to play. It’s not much different than checking your e-mail, except you’re tending your farm.””

There is no doubt that FarmVille and other Zynga games’ (Mafia Wars and Café World are the second and third most popular gaming applications on Facebook, according to an article recently published in The New York Times) popularity directly relates to the games using social networking sites as their medium.

“”Facebook is a good medium to market games to the casual gamer. Facebook is the current online hangout spot. As Facebook’s popularity grew, so did these gaming applications,”” Kerr said.

Controversies and accusations of advertising scams surround FarmVille. FarmVille offers the gamer the option to play the game more efficiently through the exchange of real cash for “”virtual cash.”” According to an article recently published in Time Magazine, advertisement offers for things such as NetFlix give the user the opportunity for more digital cash to buy crops to be used in the game, and other, less legitimate advertisers offer digital cash in exchange for the user taking an IQ test. Once the test is completed, the user is asked for a name and a cell phone number. Once the name and number go through, the user has unwittingly signed up and will be billed for a service they most likely never wanted.

Kim said he has seen these false advertisements for IQ tests, but says they’re “”pretty obvious.”” Crane agrees that the advertisements are easy to identify, saying that “”when they (the advertisements) ask for a credit card it should raise a flag that the advertisement is bogus.””

The Zynga staff acknowledged these false advertisements and is trying to erase them from the FarmVille application. Mahajan said he wishes they were more careful about policing the application and its advertisements when it was launched, and that Zynga is working to rid FarmVille of advertising scams.

“”We’ve removed all the offers from the game. The only way to now get digital cash is directly through credit card payments,”” he said.

Advertising scams or not, there is little question that FarmVille is a success at the UA and throughout schools in the nation.

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