Every day I am bombarded by “Farmville” requests on Facebook from a few of my cousins who happen to play this game. Thus far, I have staunchly refused to get roped in to this outlandish pastime. Until now. In the name of research, I broke down and got my own virtual farm, which I quickly populated with the 32 gifts I already had waiting from my farming relatives. These same relations are also my new neighbors.
So I set about finding out what all the hub-bub was about. You can plow your fields, plant and harvest crops, visit your friends’ farms and fertilize their crops (which is infinitely preferable to actually doing that particular task!), buy seeds and animals and other things from the market. You gain money by harvesting crops and selling them, as well as selling other things, like the pile of maple leaves some thoughtful kinsman gave you! Experience points are gained by performing certain tasks, and these points increase your level and earn you awards, such as the highly coveted “Pack Rat Award” that I attained after playing for only 15 minutes. Helping out on friends’ farms and sending them gifts augments your journey toward higher levels, but really, how many of my friends indeed play Farmville? Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the “My Neighbors” button and found….16 people, not including the ones who continually invite me to play, on that list! All ages, job descriptions and education levels were fairly well represented, including one middle school principal and a couple of COMETeers.
Now for the analysis. Individual Motivation. While there is not really one clear goal for playing Farmville, players do earn virtual money, which enables them to buy other items for their farm. This, along with attaining higher levels which enable farmers to “unlock” new elements of the game, offers the element of challenge. Curiosity seems to be fairly inherent, as evidenced by the number of people who try the game out in the first place, but it is continued with the wonder of what the game creators will next add to the market place…a baby turkey? perhaps a carnival tent or ferris wheel? a harvest table or a pile of maple leaves (I must ask, pile of leaves…why??)? Yes, all of the aforementioned items are available for a limited time only! Fantasy is another motivation that many egames have ingrained. Ingrained. In-grain-ed. Get it? Yeah, I know, dumb farm joke. Never the less, where else but Farmville can one find pink cows, blue hay bales, and strawberries that are ready for harvest in 4 hours? (I hear tell the “where else” is Farm Town, but I ain’t goin’ there!) Control is another feature sure to keep hayseeds motivated. Don’t like where you put that last section of purple fencing? You can move it. Tired of looking at that birdbath? Sell it. Garden getting cluttered? Store all that excess in your brand new pink tool shed!
Mooving on (yeah, that was cheap, but what the hay?) to interpersonal motivation. Cooperation in this game lends itself to interpersonal motivation, since to help one’s neighbor gains one not only recognition, but lands you monetary rewards as well, which also adds to that individual challenge aspect of the business. In terms of recognition, other players can thank you for helping out on their farms by helping out on yours or sending you gifts. And let us not forget the “King of Compost,” “Crop Whisperer,” or “Pack Rat” ribbons to be earned! These mighty symbols of recognition will be published on many Facebook pages! Think of the applause! Competition, while not a blatant source of motivation in Farmville, is still evident in the ever present farming levels of your neighbors. And more so when you visit their farms and see all the great stuff they have! Just how long do you have to play to get a pond and a dairy farm?? Well, I don’t know, but I best be getting back to my farm. Got some strawberries that are ready to harvest!