Jun 16, 2010

[Social Networking] Why Giving Up Facebook Games Is A Good Idea

A screenshot of the first New York job tier on...Image via Wikipedia
When privacy concerns over Facebook started to pick up after the OpenGraph annoucenment in April, I was one of those geeks out there who was a bit worried about how Facebook was doing business. Sure, I know I'm savvy enough to set the myriad privacy settings in Facebook to a level of sharing that I'm comfortable with, but I know not all my contacts are. Given the chances that access to them leads to access to me and the plain and simple fact that Facebook was offering our information to marketers around the world at our expense, I really needed to think about what I was doing.

While I didn't join the others on Quit Facebook Day last May 31, I have significantly changed the way I interact with the service. The main reason I remain on the site is the plain and simple fact that as a networking tool, it's hard to match. This is only because I have too many contacts (and not necessarily "friends") on Facebook related to my role as alumni representative for my high school class. So yeah, that sort of left me tired to the service, along with a few far-flung friends who didn't appear to be ready to jump on over to Diaspora or something.

So after the big announcement about simplified privacy controls, I felt a little better but still remained unconvinced that this would lead to everyone being smarter about their Facebook usage. Case in point, a friend of mine recently received an invite from a person who was not allowing anyone outside his network to add him. How weird is that, right? The challenges go on.

But beyond my decision to stay on Facebook, strip my profile of all likes and interests, cull my friends list of acquaintances that I didn't trust my data with and surf the site only using Google Chrome's Incognito Mode, I also made the hard decisions of quitting all my Facebook games.

It was the best decision of my social networking life.

When Facebook started to become popular, one of the biggest draws was its diverse applications market that had quickly become a popular gaming platform - at least this was the claim of my friends. So when I finally relented and joined the site, I tried out a few games and was marginally impressed. I could read the patterns of how the games were designed to make you force your friends to join in term through peer pressure like some weird online pyramid scheme. But as time passed, I decided to put more effort into playing the games and for a time it was part of my daily routine. In fact, applications usage probably accounted for majority of my time spent on Facebook, which was kind of weird. For a social network, I wasn't exactly doing a lot of socializing.

So when I eventually quit all Facebook games last month in line with the privacy concerns issue, I realized a few things. And this is more or less of key points to consider when it comes to these apps and why you're better off removing them from your profile.

Most Of Them Aren't Really Games - Let's face it, most of them aren't actually games landmark achievement or even games at all. I used to be the kind of person who got sucked into the "Wars" genre of games like Mafia Wars, Vampire Wars, Zombie Wars, Castle Age and something with superheroes in it. If you've ever wandered into the Zynga side of the universe, then you know what I'm talking about. Most Facebook games try to generate appeal through repetition - you do a series of set actions, you increase in level and then you realize to advance you need more friends playing the same game. The game is not there to be fun - it's there to get more and more of your friends trapped within the game, thus giving the game companies like Zynga and Playfish direct access to your personal information. Under the new Facebook privacy rules, they still have free reign to access your data and resell that information for whatever marketing purposes they see useful. If you really want to play games, get a console unit, try one of the free gaming sites anywhere on the web or download really fun games like Plants Vs Zombies instead.

You're Not Actually Socializing With Friends - Others argue the games are good since you get to play with your friends, when in fact you don't. Your primary level of interaction with your friends is either (1) competition, (2) using them as added numbers to achieve a friend-locked objective or (3) making them work in your restaurant / hotel / on your farm without much interaction from them. You don't actually talk to them or find out what they're doing - you just need them as an additional warm body needed to boost your numbers. If you really want to socialize with your friends, try actually talking to them directly and not by leaving them an impersonal and yet public wall message.

They're Probably the Biggest Risk To Your Privacy Right Now - More than any third party trying to hack into Facebook, the app makers are the biggest threats to your privacy that you actually allow access to your profile. They can harvest your friends lists, interests and any other details of your actions on the site for their purposes. They're not limited to what data they can get - there are no rules stating that they can only get data relevant to the game or the app you're using. They either get everything or nothing, end of story. If you're really concerned about your privacy, then get rid of the apps that are acting like leeches funneling your info outside of the Facebook. Plus companies like Zynga are dicks.

You'll Get Back So Much Time - You may not realize it, but these games are a major time vortex sucking out your life. Even if you only play 2-3 games at most, you'll realize that hours and hours of your life are spent "playing" these so-called games. I realize that when I first joined Facebook, I hardly did anything on the site except check out the News Feed, greet people o their birthdays and maybe post updates of my own. That really doesn't take much time out of your day - time better spent actually picking up the phone to contact you friends, getting out of the house to watch movies, attend conventions or walk your dog instead of staying home thinking that you're actually living the life of a gangster / farmer / hotel manager / hospital administrator / supernatural creature / restaurant owner or whatever. Then again, there is the realization that apart from the fact that all of your friends are on the site, there's not much that makes Facebook special compared to Friendster or MySpace once the apps are gone. Think about that for a moment.

So let's all get a life people! Yes, Facebook is a great social networking tool and a wonderful way to stay connected to your friends. However the games aren't a great way of achieving that goal. So if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to trying to finish Final Fantasy XIII or learning to cook a new dish for real or mapping out the next steps for my tabletop role-playing game character or just spending time with the man I love.
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1 comment:

  1. I stopped Farmville and Mafia Wars when it started to feel like work having to log in and do something instead of wanting to log in and play.

    I only visit F-book now when someone I actually know links me to something or asks me something on there.

    I think I was overdosing...just a tad.