The Zing of Zynga

Farmer Terry checking in.  Well, former Farmer Terry.  I was hooked on Zynga’s Farmville for a long time.  I had created quite the lush little farm – surrounded by fruit trees and roses, with horses and chickens and cows all neatly housed in their own barns.  For Farmer Terry, nothing but the cutest little farmhouse would do.

I checked in several times a day to virtually weed and harvest my crops.  I kept my property in good shape, even decorating it at the holidays, something I would never dream of doing in my real house.  Honestly? My husband thought I had lost my mind.

He may have been right, but it was fun. Until I realized that to get ahead, I needed to spend real money on the game. Tired of your crops dying before you can harvest them? No problem. A mere dollar will revive them.  Want a bigger house? Ka-ching here, and your wish will come true. Getting carpal tunnel syndrome from hand-harvesting and planting?  For a few bucks, you can buy gasoline for your tractor and let it do the work for you.

This month’s Vanity Fair features an article on the remarkable success of Zynga and the genius of founder Mark Pincas.  Pincas, who seems to have been consistently underestimated by Silicon Valley, is laughing all the way to bank, his path fueled by gaming fans who don’t mind plunking down their money to buy an advantage.

That wouldn’t include me. So I put away my farming tools and retired from Farmville. Ditto with Mafia Wars. And during the heyday of Second Life, I refused to put U.S. greenbacks into virtual dollars to buy outfits for my avatar. Outfits for my avatar??  Are you serious?

But I’m clearly in the minority. Lots of folks don’t mind doing this.  After all, the money you spend is chump change, and in return your online life is richer and easier. And your money fuels Zynga and its gaming counterparts to create more games and more fun.

My current addictions, PopCap’s Bejeweled Blitz and Zuma Blitz, truly mindless arcade-type games, are free. You can buy some advantages, but not enough to tempt me.

So I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who generously support online gaming with real dollars, allowing cheapskates like me to play the latest and greatest for free.  Yes, we’ll always lose, but we can enjoy the journey – at least for awhile.

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