But, after playing FarmVille, Mafia Wars and the rest for just over a year now, there are a few things in these games that have really started to gnaw on my nerves -- four in particular. They don't actually make me want to chop down a door with an axe like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, but they make me go, ya know, something, something.
Bugs, bugs, bugs
My biggest gripe about social gaming is the bugs. I'm talking about all of the little glitches in games that never really seem to go away. Examples of this include items that mysteriously disappear, buttons that don't work or losing connection to a game. It's like Whack-A-Mole, once one bug is bopped in the head, another one pops up somewhere else.
For instance, I was tending my FarmVille crops this weekend and got the ever annoying 'Game out of sync with server' message, which means you have to reload the game and re-do everything you just did again. So after spending five minutes harvesting and planting crops, then I had to do it again. Then I had to reload the game again. Then harvest the same crops again. Ugh.
This has happened to me several times in Mafia Wars as well. After promising that a more stable game experience was on its way, Mafia Wars rolled out a special event, San Juan, and then had to roll it back again. Then it launched again. This had also happened a few weeks before with the similar Beat the Feds event. FrontierVille, lately, has also been a big reloader.
Some might say that's the nature of social gaming -- everything's created and pushed out to players without proper testing, but I'm looking forward to the day that this whole form of gaming evolves and it will not be acceptable for games to have so many problems after it's made public, especially considering how many players might be losing real-life money due to some random in-game hiccup.
Annoying pop-ups advertising virtual currency sales
I've also recently noticed that more games have started introducing random pop-ups, informing me that I've been especially been chosen to participate in a sale on the game's virtual currency. It's all very annoying, kind of like those silly TV infomercials that play on a loop after midnight. No, I don't want a Slap Chop or a Perfect Fit button, and I don't want to buy any Horseshoes in FrontierVille either. The only way that I'm might possibly consider spending my real-life cash for virtual cash is if there was a 75% clearance sale. And that's just to consider it. Zynga games have particularly been aggressive with this form of advertising, and it ain't working for me.
Pop-ups in general are also annoying. If I have already given blanket consent for a game to post messages to my Wall, why do I still have to click on pop-ups that ask for my permission to post something to my Facebook wall?
Too many extra things to do in a game
One of the great things about playing games on Facebook is that you can get in and out quickly. I can take a break from writing or whatever I'm doing, jump into a game for five minutes, play and then be done. In the beginning, it was easy to run out of things to do in FarmVille and the other big Facebook games. Once you reached the max level, it was pretty much game over. To keep people playing, developers responded by rolling out more and more new features -- special fighting events, buildable items, holiday-themed events, etc. While these new add-ons will certainly keep the average virtual farmer busy, they have also started to pull players into too many directions, rather than giving players a more directed experience.
Zynga's Treasure Isle is one of the worst offenders -- I am literally working on four side projects at once, and instead of digging for treasure, I usually spend most of my time posting message on my Facebook Wall, begging for friends to send me dye, ropes and other building materials to get the jobs done. RockYou's Zoo World is another serious offender. Just slow down on the projects, partner. Not everyone is playing your game 24/7.
Accepting gifts ... for hours
Sending and receiving gifts is an integral part of the social game experience. And let me tell you, I like getting gifts, however, accepting them. A few games like Pet Society, Cafe World and PetVille have streamlined the gifting process quite nicely. But, when it comes to accepting gifts in the three games I probably play the most -- FarmVille, FrontierVille and Mafia Wars -- it's a time-consuming affair.
The process breaks down like this: I click to accept a gift on Facebook, then I wait while I'm bounced to the game. Then, I click another button confirming that I want to accept the gift. Then I click another button to go back to my Facebook game gift page (if available). Sometimes I'll accept a gift from someone and instead of directing me back to Facebook, the game loads automatically right afterward. Then I'm frantically scrambling to hit the back button so I don't get stuck waiting for the game to load. Exhausted yet? I am.
While I'm sure there's a reason the gifting is set up this way; I really wish there was a better way to get the job done. I don't want to click anything to receive gifts -- just let them flow automatically into some virtual gifting box and let me have those hours I spend accepting gifts every week back to actually spend more time playing the games.
What drives you crazy when you play FarmVille or other social games? Sound off in the comments below. Add comment.