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Monday, September 10, 2012

Liberation after 607 straight days

It was hard to let go. I kept feeling the need to stay. It was like Stockholm Syndrome had kicked in or something. Finally, the last straw had broken and I was tired of throwing away countless hours on it.

I quit Café World.

(Cue thunderous choirs of singers.)

OK, I admit it. I AM THAT guy. I play Facebook games. I am a prisoner of the evil Zynga.

No, not really. I do play Farmville, but even that is probably on its way out of my life.

I should have seen this coming. In fact I realized the problem months ago but continued to plonk away at the restaurant themed game, even though it was dictating some aspects of my life.

Let’s back up for those of you who have a life. Zynga has a game called Café World where you run a cafe. You decorate it with different themes and styles, holiday or country specific. You cook dishes, make drinks, cakes, all kinds of stuff, and serve it. You hire your “friends” to work in your Café, which has no real effect on them except that they sometimes get notified that your using their Facebook identity in your game. I think that stopped awhile back if it was ever a thing at all.

Anyway, you get goals or missions. You cook up a certain number of dishes or ask friends for certain items and complete those goals for rewards. The more goals you complete, the better you can make your café. But, there’s a price.

Not all the goals are easy to achieve. There are time limits. There are restrictions on how many dishes you can cook at one time, and every dish has a different prep time. There is a restriction on how often you can ask your friends for help… and they have to be playing the game as well. Not at the same time, but they have it loaded on their facebook account to be able to help.

So, you get a set of goals and you complete the first one, fairly easy. Then you get to the third or fourth and now, you have to cook up like 30-40 dishes, ask for 10 items, and you have three days left to complete that goal and three more to complete the entire list. Meanwhile, you are already working on three other sets of goals. The pressure is on. But, you can still complete the tasks if you use up your “special” cash which you earn along the way. Your regular profit is based in coins but there is the “Café Cash” which you can buy with your “Real Cash” and that’s where the real game begins. Zynga wants your money.

And why not? They are a company that provides the game free to use over Facebook. But these microtransactions are just the tip of the iceberg. The game sort of makes it unwinnable and never ending if you don’t spend in game cash. The later goals in any set involve a lot of items that are either nearly impossible to complete because you don’t have the tools to do it or you need the help of friends who don’t play the game. That’s their goal; get people to suck their friends into playing and spend real money to complete in game goals.

It wasn’t hard to see the problem with these games and yet I still played. Part of it was that spirit of not quitting and part of it was that I had achieved so much that it felt ridiculous to just throw it all away.

After all, one of the few perks was free items for cooking a dish every day. After 607 days though, I’d had enough of it. The game was notoriously buggy, it was slow, half of the items you cooked never stayed in game and would disappear upon refresh or coming back later to serve them. In all, it became extremely frustrating to try and make it to my computer to cook something just so I could keep the streak alive. I wasn’t having any fun and finally said, “Eff it!” And removed the game from my account.

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