Editorials

I Don’t Understand Why I Can’t Stop Playing SimCity Social

SimCity Social is one of those social games that doesn’t let me play as much as I want unless I pay money or bug my friends. So why can’t I stop playing it?

Ted Polak

I’m supposed to hate gimmicky “social” games like SimCity Social, with their use of energy as a resource that doesn’t let me play as much as I want unless I pay money, or bug my friends. And, I do hate them. There’s very little “game” about them. I have to accomplish tasks often by bugging my friends, or even worse, letting the game make wall posts on my behalf. All so people who don’t normally play the game might be interested in starting, in the infinitesimal hope that someone will spend real money on the game. The number of people that spend money is absurdly low, and you might have noticed Zynga’s stock take an absolute drubbing lately.

And yet, I’ve been playing SimCity Social for weeks now, and logging in consistently every day. I haven’t the foggiest idea why. Maybe part of it is that there are a few of my friends who play; if I stop playing, it becomes harder for them to complete their goals, and I just don’t want to disappoint them. Maybe it’s the fact that I only have to give it 5 minutes of my time two or three times a day to get the most out of it.

Or maybe, in this era of achievement-hunting and meta-gaming, a game that offers small rewards quickly and often touches a gaming nerve some of us didn’t know we had until Microsoft debuted their Achievement system. I just finished a major building that takes weeks (The Arcology) to complete, but the rewards (Lots more population in my city) are such that I feel like I accomplished something. So, I continue playing. And when my motivation runs low, I accomplish yet another monumental task, and I am the king of my domain.

I am keenly aware of all of this, and yet I continue playing. Don’t think for a second this is accidental; EA has PhD behavioral scientists to calculate the median amount of playtime before you need another reward is bestowed unto you. They are effective.

Nevertheless, they haven’t gotten a dime out of me.

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