Remembering FarmVille And The Early Days of Being a Facebook Gamer
The end of Farmville marks the end of an era.
Life updates from relatives and friends and friends of friends, viral memes, adorable animal videos that only a monster would scroll past without clicking on.. this is basically what my Facebook looks like right now. Not the most appealing social media app, but still necessary in a way. I joined Facebook a couple of years after it officially entered the Indian market in 2006. Around 2008-09, Facebook was the cool kid on the block but the experience back then was very different from what it is now.
Personally, I'm not a gamer. At all.
I barely ever graduated from playing Snake 97 on my old Nokia.
Although, back then, Facebook had successfully, for a brief period of time, converted me into a gamer.
The End of an Era
Wondering what triggered this particularly nostalgic trail in the middle of a pandemic? FarmVille, of course!
Turns out, the once-popular Facebook game is officially shutting down after 31 December 2020. The parent company Zynga recently made the announcement on its blog, citing technical reasons.
Well, it's not totally the end of the road. Zynga did leave its players with a hint of hope.
“We look forward to you joining us in Farmville 2: Tropic Escape, Farmville 2: Country Escape and the upcoming worldwide launch of FarmVille 3 on mobile.”Zynga
In case you need me to jog your memory a bit - FarmVille was a farm simulation game that allowed players to sow seeds, harvest crops, milk cows and run an entire virtual farm on Facebook.
The launch of FarmVille on Facebook in 2009 coincided with the app's presence in my life. At the peak of its popularity in 2010, FarmVille had 89 million monthly active users. I still have vivid memories of returning from school, hurriedly gobbling down my lunch just so I could spare a leisurely 30 minutes harvesting my wealth of FarmVille before heading out for my tuition classes.
But here's the thing, FarmVille wasn't some adolescent/teen fad, it was an intergenerational phenomenon. My parents, too, would spare some time at the end of the day to get their farms in order. If not harvested on time, crops would go to waste and no one wanted that, obviously!
In those initial days, FarmVille was often mocked by serious video gamers but its charm was beyond all of that and its success unprecedented because it turned the most unlikely Facebook users (like me!) into dedicated gamers.
The Magic of Mafia Wars
FarmVille, albeit the most popular, wasn't the only one. I recall splitting my time between FarmVille and Mafia Wars. Mafia Wars, also created by Zynga, was considerably darker. Players could 'become' gangsters and create their own virtual mafia organisations in order to compete with other gangsters. It was pretty competitive and I remember losing friendships over this. A copyright infringement lawsuit against Zynga by the makers of a similar game called Mob Wars would later mark the end of Mafia Wars.
Other Facebook in-games that were also quite popular included another personal favourite Pet Society, Bejeweled Blitz and Uber Strike.
I haven't played FarmVille in years but the news of it shutting down still felt like a soft punch in my gut.
FarmVille belonged to a very different Facebook universe - one where ‘poking’ people endlessly for fun was acceptable and many did not hesitate from having private conversations on very public Facebook ‘walls.’
Taking Facebook quizzes was cool and so was tagging people in random photos. It was also the beginning of 'social networking' as a phenomenon. FarmVille and other Facebook games gained popularity because the app made them more accessible and added that community feeling. People both young and old were discovering 'Facebook' even before the advent of smartphones. There was hope and excitement and the promise of a technological future.
In 2020, none of that exists anymore. In the recent past, Facebook's popularity has been declining. There are many reasons for this; the Instagram boom being one of them.
Over the years, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has found himself embroiled in many controversies related to fake news and data scandals. Most recently, Facebook found itself in hot water once again for allegedly promoting hate speech in India.
Clearly, Facebook no longer has the innocence and excitement of its early days. The end of FarmVille, in a way, marks this slow transition.
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