Having spent the last year or so making fun of my Facebook friends for playing FarmVille and posting those annoying requests and “so-and-so found a lost cow” messages on my news feed, I have recently tried and become addicted to FarmVille’s cousin, CityVille.
I checked it out at the request of a friend and found it quite fun and amusing at first. I don’t play sim games online and so felt a little silly, but something about the game just appealed to me so quickly. Within days, I became hooked.
For those of you familiar with the game, you can skip on down to the jump, but for those readers who don’t play Facebook games of this nature, or who want to know a bit more about CityVille specifically, I’ll provide a little background. CityVille puts you in the position of taking a small bit of land, town-sized, and giving you the ability to house citizens, grow and harvest goods, build businesses to sell those goods to, and supply community buildings to help your citizens and make your town (and profits) grow. Trouble is, the game gives you both carrot sticks and stumbling blocks along the way as you slowly build your town into a city, and then a Capitol.
I discovered quickly on that you need to network with other Facebook users who play the game on a regular basis. I first hounded my existing friends into joining in, then got bold and started friending friends of friends who play the game. Then, my brother-in-law out in Arizona (who is now a fellow CityVille neighbor of mine) suggested I try friending people on the CityVille forum. Lo and behold, I made new friends instantly there. Who knew? Sure, I felt a bit awkward at first. The opening scene of Pretty Woman came to mind, now and then, as I shopped for new friends desperate for some stranger to friend them and make them a neighbor.
The fun part of this is that I get to meet people all over the world. I have neighbors in Russia, Taiwan, Canada, France, the UK…name a country, I probably have a CityVille neighbor there. Sometimes we comment to each other as we work together sharing points, goods, and energy. Sometimes we even chat with each other while we sit and wait for more energy points or more crops to harvest. We open franchises in each others towns, we watch each others updates on our news feeds and jump in like vultures every time someone offers to send a train to our town. It’s all about cooperation, schmoozing, helping, sharing.
I love to visit other people’s cities and ooh and ah over the things they have that I don’t yet know about. Some of my friends are in levels much higher than my current one, and they’ve reached goals I haven’t yet faced. Some people seem to have way too much time on their hands, or too many city coins, because they’ve built cities that put my cluttered little mess to shame. Willow trees and fountains and rolling hills and sidewalks that cost $25 a pop. Wow. Other friends are in the early stages and need things I no longer have any use for. It’s fun and rewarding to “gift” them and watch them reach a new goal or level, thanks to my help.
Two of the highlights of my day are the time I get to collect from my community buildings, and the time I have to visit my neighbors and do five good deeds to increase my reputation. Community buildings provide mega coinage and extra bonus points and energy. They also have the ability to stand free of roads and sidewalks, so you can hide them in corners where no roads have been built, which is a nice asset. There are other benefits to them as well. Without them, you can’t increase your population. So throughout the game you have a constant need to provide more and more empty land for these ugly, clunky but oh so valuable buildings. At the same time, you have to continue building houses for your increasing population – a Catch-22 as you scramble to meet your next expansion criteria. You are forever making choices and rearranging buildings and uprooting or chopping down trees as you grab up more land. But the lesson is that every city, every town, requires community buildings in order to keep the people happy. I personally get very upset over seeing my population “happiness” meter fall to “sad” while my citizens await a new community building of some kind. The parallel to our true society there is so telling, is it not?
As for visiting friends on a daily basis, well, the advantages are numerous. You get to increase your energy, coins and reputation, and you also get to share in their wealth. You scratch their back, they scratch yours. It is this sense of goodwill that makes me enjoy the game so much. I’m a bit of a social butterfly in most cases to begin with, so making friends with total strangers around the globe as we send tour buses and helping hands to each other on a regular basis comes naturally. It gets to the point that when I see a friend’s crops untended or their rent uncollected, I worry.
In the beginning, I didn’t understand that each of my neighbors would have different styles and needs. Some of them carefully time the harvesting of their crops, or the return of their ships, and they prefer not to have you water their crops or gently guide their ships home sooner when you visit. Send them tour buses, instead. Others are out of energy and need your help in harvesting their crops or collecting their rent. It truly isn’t stealing – you both make a profit from it, after all. It is this aspect that has become the most fascinating to me. All of us have needs, all of us have abilities. This constant, daily give-and-take is what keeps us all growing, and proceeding through the game. Without our friends and neighbors, we can not progress.
A good life’s lesson.
Lastly, there is the aesthetics of the game. While I crave more land so I can spread out my ever-growing community, I try to keep the neighborhood as appealing and functional as I can. Not an easy task, and there is so much I would love to do to give it more bling and more eye candy. But for now, I just try to keep things visually balanced and organized, while constantly keeping things tended and running smoothly. It ain’t easy, but it sure is fun.
Working with and learning from other people around the globe in real life and in virtual CityVille is frustrating, hilarious, exciting, and rewarding and…a good life’s lesson. Who knew a game on Facebook would teach us so much?