[Trigger warning for fat shaming, ableist slurs, class privilege, also general warning for thought rambling]
A long article was released yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle about FarmVille game developer Zynga, claiming that the company is one of the largest growing firms in the city. Like any article in any mainstream publication about social games, the comment section quickly turned into an insult-fest of people throwing around privileged-filled comments about the kind of people who play Facebook games.
Reading through the comments, I saw the following statements:
- These people are absolutely pathetic to be wasting all of their time playing these mindless games. (Says people who are ‘wasting time’ commenting on news articles)
- Why don’t these people go outside and plant a REAL garden? (Have you personally planted a garden before? It’s not exactly easy, and not everyone can do it)
- These people are all social outcasts who cannot communicate with real people outside of their houses. (Although they have plenty of friends on Facebook to play games with?)
- These people are just addicted and depressed, they hate their lives and social games have filled a void. (Ah yes, no one could possibly be playing these games because they ENJOY it)
- People who play games on Facebook are fat and lazy and contribute nothing to society. (Of course you bring out the fatphobia, you can’t possibly forget the fatphobia)
- You have got to be a “retard” if you spend one minute playing FarmVille. (Ableist slurs make you cool, you know)
- I’m going to go run my “real business” while these Facebook gamers sit on their asses and collect unemployment checks. (Don’t mind me, I’m just a privileged asshole who owns a business)
- These games are unhealthy for the people who play them. (Weee-oooo weeee-ooooh, the health police are here!)
- These people are mindless consumers. (Here, let me make your decisions for you since you are incapable)
I normally ignore these comments, because I’m one of those people who plays these games. Sure, I’ll completely own up to my personal privilege here – I make these games for a living so I play them for business purposes as well as a personal hobby, and I get more chance to play them than most people probably do. None of that changes the fact that reading through these comments makes me almost feel like a complete waste of space because I have fun playing Facebook games.
Social games are all about accessibility, which is a huge reason that they have become so popular. They are free to get started and players can enjoy them without ever spending a dime if they choose not to. Anyone with an internet connection can enjoy them, compared to a console game that costs $50+ just for the retail box, or a subscription-based MMO that requires a $15/month fee. These kinds of games open up the world of casual gaming to people who might not be able to afford the luxuries of buying games. Let’s not fool ourselves, video games are freaking expensive. If you are lucky enough to afford the latest console, you still have to pay out a lot of money for each individual game. Not to mention if you want the DLC or additional content, you can be paying an awful lot for your gaming experience.
A wide variety of people play video games, and you know what? Some of them might not leave the house. This can be for a huge variety of reasons – they could have social anxieties that prevent them from going outside. They might have health reasons for staying indoors. They might not be able to afford to go out and do much. They might be taking care of their kids all day at home and stopping in to play FarmVille now and then while they’re taking a nap. Social game players might not be able to plant a garden because they have a disability that prevents them from doing that. And frankly, who are they to tell someone to go plant a real garden instead of play a game?
What I do with my personal gaming time is my business, and why do people I don’t even know care about how I can spend that time? Why is it a “waste” when it is my personal time to spend the way I choose? Why do they assume that I am a mindless person who is blindly consuming products because I am incapable of making decisions for myself? People seem completely unable to grasp the idea that social games are fun. I play these games because I find them enjoyable. I’m fortunate enough that I could be playing my Xbox 360, or another game on my rather beefy computer system, or the Wii, but I choose to play Facebook games because they fit the kind of short gaming sessions that work with my schedule.
I’m a Community Manager, and I hear from my players all the time that they appreciate our game because it gives them something to do in their wheelchair that connects them with other people. They make friends through our game and work together on common goals. I’ve had players thank us for making a game that’s affordable on their disability income, or their retirement income. I’ve had people tell me that playing our games helps them get their mind off of a recent tragedy in their life. I’ve known players who play our games together with their kids, and their whole family comes together around the game every night before bed. The Border House is all about how games are meaningful beyond just mindless drivel and that extends to all categories of gaming – be it hardcore, MMO, casual, social, puzzle, or co-op console shooters. Social games bring people together in meaningful ways on social networks where players already spend time. It is easy to play games on Facebook, and that opens up doors that bring new people into our world of gamers.
I am tired of people belittling those who play Facebook games. So you don’t like them? So what. We’ve heard this before about MMOs, about the people who enjoy them being lazy and antisocial. While it’s absolutely fantastic that these commenters don’t have a disability or other issue that prevents them from going outside and shooting people in paintball instead, it’s complete ignorance and lack of understanding about the concept of privilege that makes them blind to the fact that others might not be in the same boat as them. It’s great that they can afford to buy expensive games and pay monthly fees, but other people have to make do with less expendable income to spend on hobbies so that they can feed themselves and their families.
I am perfectly fine with people simply not playing Facebook games because they don’t find them fun. Go ahead and insult their game design and call them spammy clickfests. But this incessant need to slam and ridicule social game players for doing something they like to do is just privileged bullshit that really has to stop.