The Facebook Gaming Extravaganza
Lately, thanks to some good folks at Mythic Entertainment who’ve been idly playing it in their free time, I’ve finally gotten into the rush of Facebook games with Warstorm, a trading card/battle game that tickles my little Magic: The Gathering teenager still lurking inside me. The free-to-play, beta title is a game you can play for 10 minutes to hours, and features both single-player and player vs. player card conflict, using fantasy elements.
After the article I wrote regarding Zynga vs. Valve, I suppose it’s really a good thing I’ve gotten addict-er, I mean, interested in at least one casual Facebook game. The reason being, of course, to expand my exposure and knowledge of the gaming world. There’s a certain kind of value to actually touching and playing a game before you choose to write about or judge it, and the rush of casual games, especially on Facebook, has always been something I’ve been apprehensive about. Most of it has to do with the fact that I was afraid that Facebook games would take away time from me playing more traditional titles that I’ve been working on. The fact that some people spend hours a day on their farms in Farmville was more than enough intimidation to scare even an optimist like me away.
The pleasant discovery I’ve made, however, is that Facebook games, because of their very casual nature, can be played in a variety of circumstances, whether that is multitasking on other projects, over lunch, or just to engage your brain a little if you’re bored. With Warstorm, I can knock out a match or two in about 5 minutes (especially with the play speed turned all the way up), and even better yet, once I strategize, the game basically plays itself, allowing me to do other things at the same time – such as write blog posts. If I want to see something unfold I’ll click back to check, or wait til I have more time to watch a match in progress to see if I need to change my card strategy. It’s quite refreshing from the micromanagement needed for games that require all your attention.
Systems which automatically manage the heavy lifting while you make the decisions are things that have appeared in traditional games, too. EVE, for example, allows you to train your skills while you are offline, ensure that you are making progress even when you are off doing other things. A side element in Assassin’s Creed 2 that allows you to collect and earn income from your villa while you are off stabbing people in the face is another such example. The obvious counterargument is the idea that if a game plays part of itself for you, there’s no point to playing, but really I see it more along the lines of removing the dull inconvenience of management you’d normally repeat – leaving you to the relaxing joy of playing when you have to.
Ultimately, this is probably why Facebook games, or casual games in general, aren’t going anywhere for a while. Not everyone is a geek, sadly, but more people want to play games for entertainment and escapism these days more than ever. Providing a medium and a set of titles that meet that simple goal is a good thing, not a bad thing. Besides, after all the unjustified public hullabaloo over games like Grand Theft Auto, Mass Effect, and other such bombastic examples, gaming could use a little reputation boost.