Friday, May 18, 2012
Column: Just add water
Breaking free from Facebook games
A few years ago I discovered, along with the rest of the world, Facebook.
During that time in my life, I worked part time and had a lot of free time at home. This online social network gave me the chance to catch up with old friends and keep up with new ones.
As I began posting pictures of my family and "liking" my friends' status updates, I also discovered the Facebook game "Farmville."
It all began so simply.
After checking on a few of my friends' Facebook pages for photos and news, I would harvest and plant a few rows of crops on my virtual farm. In the beginning, this only took 10 or 15 minutes.
Then my farm began to grow.
I made fake "Farmville" cash and bought more acreage and planted more crops. Soon, what used to take 10 or 15 minutes each day, began taking an hour or more.
One day, panic hit. My Internet had stopped working.
I had writing deadlines to meet and rushed my laptop to the nearest coffee shop to use its wi-fi. As I emailed work off to my very patient editors, I wondered if I had time to harvest and plant new crops on my "Farmville" farm. Checking my watch, I knew it was almost time for me to return home. Regretfully, I packed up my laptop.
As I navigated the winding country roads toward our house, panic struck again as I realized my crops might die if I didn't harvest them. My farm would soon fall apart and all I had worked to gain on this game would be lost.
Then I faced reality.
This was only a game. It wasn't real. It wasn't worth worrying about. And that is how I kicked my "Farmville" habit and swore off online games forever.
A few weeks ago, my kids had a school-free week. I took time off from work to spend time with my children and clean out closets.
One lazy afternoon, after finishing my housework early, I decided to check in with my Facebook friends online. As I navigated through my friends' wall posts and recent pictures, I found a game request from a friend to play something called "Words with Friends."
I began to move my arrow to delete this request when I wondered, what harm could come from playing this "Scrabble" kind of game? I reasoned that this was completely different from "Farmville" and all the other games online. This was more cerebral.
Over the next few days I took turns playing this online game with my friend. I delighted in dreaming up words to place on the colorful grid. I loved it. It was creative and strategic. And it only took an extra 10 or 15 minutes each day.
Then, my other Facebook friends caught wind that I was playing and sent requests for me to play with them. I accepted every single request. Within just a week I had 20 games going on at once. It wasn't long before my time on the computer increased from 10 or 15 minutes to more than an hour.
Over the past few weeks I regretfully began rejecting game requests. I had to cut back. So, dear "Words with Friends" friends, let me apologize. I wish I could play this game all the time, but my closets and kids need me more.