Kirsten has given you a goat topiary

My desk is straining under the weight of debug code for Xbox 360 games not due out for months. My window ledge blocks out the sun with piles of games across all formats, some still in the cellophane. My media unit is crammed with consoles, my handbag is a nest for multiple DSs and PSPs. What am I doing? I’m harvesting my pumpkins, I’m gifting an animal shaped topiary, I’m basting my pot roast and changing the floor tiles in my cafe. I’ve just discovered flash games. Talk about late to the party? I never took any interest in these quick fix PC games before. I wasn’t “one of those women” – the casual gamer who actually puts in more hours than the average “hardcore” player. I don’t sit at an office desk filing my nails, talking about what happened on X-Factor last night and playing Bejeweled. I would have argued blind with anybody that this flash title playing demographic is every bit as entitled to call themselves gamers, that they play an important part in the industry, that they should be made to feel welcome and included… but I didn’t want to actually be one of them. I’m not one of those women, you see? But then I discovered Bejeweled Blitz.


It’s not that I hadn’t played Bejeweled before. It’s just that Blitz’s appearance on Facebook had you playing in one minute bursts to give you a high score that was then marked up against your Facebook friends list. It didn’t take up much time, didn’t require my concentration and hey I was checking my Facebook anyway right? And that’s how they get you. Of course the real clincher is beating Zoey’s score and then with the  table resetting each week, trying to beat her score again. It was endlessly amusing. I say endlessly – its amusement ended when Loz came along. It was like two ants fighting over a crumb of bread and then Godzilla coming along and stepping on them. Loz’s scores were in a different stratosphere to mine and all thoughts of becoming a professional Bejeweled player evaporated. Then I discovered FarmVille.


Now this was a game I’d seen many links to on Facebook. Whenever someone earned a ribbon or gained a level my newsfeed would tell me all about it. I dismissed it as nonsense that was simply clogging up my feed and keeping me from reading about people’s various journeys to work and their ailing health/relationships. However a friend of mine who I consider to have very discerning taste had a huuuge farm and had clearly been playing the game avidly. So I bought the farm. Now I spend my days harvesting clops, petting my horsey and picking the fruit from my trees in a virtual idyllic little world. Of course “idyllic” does not make for a successful flash game. There has to be something to drive you on. In the case of FarmVille if you don’t have neighbouring farms you aren’t going to get very far. Neighbours have to be made up of your real Facebook friends. You either have to link with others playing the game or get others to play the game and then gift each other various items you can use on your farm… and that’s how they get you. Of course in for a penny, in for a pound. If I’m going to be bugging my friends list anyway, I might as well see who’s playing Cafe World, right?


Cafe World is just FarmVille with jumbo shrimp cocktail instead of cherry trees and mood lamps instead of goat topiaries. It’s less reliant on you driving your Facebook friends to distraction than FarmVille is but requires more input and time from you. I say more time but it’s really just two minutes instead of one minute. The idea is that it’s not a time sink, that you can keep developing your farm or cafe in short bursts that the boss won’t notice. In reality you’ll be on there three maybe four times a day to keep everything ticking over just right. While you’re not playing, your crops and food are developing in real time. Leave them too long and they’ll spoil. I believe these games to be massively manipulative and purely calculated to get you hooked and eventually get you paying out real money to add extras to your game. Their speed, layout and mechanics lack any kind of creativity or point. They are as cynically and blatantly marketed as fruit machines. The audacity of their obviousness, the way you are flagrantly squeezed and spurred on is stunning. I’m massively impressed by this. I find myself prostrate in my awe of these games’ ability to turn me and all of my hardcore gaming mates, male and female into one of “those women”.








7 responses to “Kirsten has given you a goat topiary”

  1. Ben avatar

    The Bejewelled is really addictive, especially the old beat your friends high score thing it has got going on.

    It all goes well then Lozzy comes along and smashes everything with her l337 gem busting skills – if it was the Olympics, drug tests would be carried out!

    I like the new version of it, even if it feels a little clunky and less smooth, the new moves make up for it though.

  2. Lorna avatar

    They are incredibly manipulative and ingenous cash cows. Microtransactions are becming a huge source of revenue for the gaming industry and witht he rise of so many addictive Facebook games, I don’t see that fading any time soon. Even Sims 3 has them in the form of the Sims store which is accessed through your launcher panel…stuff that may otherwise have been free has to be purchased with ‘Sim points’ which of course come out of creaking credit cards…

  3. Tony avatar

    Looking at the screenshots, I love the concept of having a horse which is 38% ready. Eh?

  4. Duncan avatar

    Oh God Bejeweled…

    I remember the one time I took the lead. That was a memorable 23 minutes. 🙁

  5. Knikitta avatar

    I know this is completely not relevant at all, but my genuine scource has told me, that EA have just bought Playfish, the maker of some of the FB games.

    Hope they do not change anything about them… they are my little ‘get-away’ from life, my sanctuary!

  6. MarkuzR avatar

    My name is Mark… and I’m a Farmvilloholic… even if “Farmvillohol” doesn’t actually exist. I need help…. and enough cash to buy the haunted house, if you’re feeling generous 🙂

  7. Joanne avatar

    I am trying to resist all forms of Facebook flash types.. it seems though, that my whole family is addicted to Mafia Wars.

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