Anti-Social Gaming

Dear Zynga,

Re: Anti-Social Gaming (less is more, more is less)

Let me start by saying that I really wanted to like this game. It had a great deal of creativity and many of the in-game puns are quite clever. From a content perspective, I was very impressed.

But with that said, I have removed CastleVille from my Facebook account. In short, it was just too intrusive.

Here are some additional details about things I did not like:

* You cannot proceed in the game without bugging your facebook friends. I get that its a social game, but the fact that proceeding REQUIRES “neighbors” and REQUIRES others to be assigned into building roles (ie Captain of the Guard) in order to continue is annoying. It does not feel “social” … it feels more like a telemarketer that calls day after day whether you say no or yes… there’s no stop to the incessant phone calls. This is not social gaming, this is anti-social.

* It did not allow me to target messages only to other CastleVille players. I do not like sending these messages to all my friends. While it would sometimes give me the option to target individuals, the default was always the “all of Facebook tab” and the “CastleVille Friends tab” was only available about 30% of the time.

* I do not like having to click outside the game to accept the rewards. Some rewards are available with-in the game. Others are not. Having to exit the game to collect the rewards is annoying and is the reason for applications like CastleVille Bonus

* Full screen mode is disabled every time the game tries to send a message via Facebook. I understand that this is because the system uses the FB pop-up dialog, but doesn’t change the fact that it is annoying to constantly be resetting the display to full-screen (sometimes every 30 seconds if you’ve just completed a few in-game tasks).

* The game-play actually discourages exploration. The game has the opportunity to allow you to explore, I really like that in a game… but if you do so without being first told to by one of the characters you are penalized. The players don’t recognize that you’ve already done what they are asking you to do, so you have to do it again in order to fulfill the quest requirements. In short, you are penalized for taking initiative. Its like the game is constantly in ‘training mode’ with the characters showing you how to play the game… but it never stops.

In general, I was willing to put up with a lot. As a game developer, I understand the concept is finding balance between interesting enough to keep playing, and frustrating enough that you’re willing to buy virtual crowns and coins with real cash. Similarly, the goal is to get others to play by showing your facebook friends that you’re having fun and finding way to hook your friends in. However, in both cases you’ve gotten the balance completely wrong. Simply put, all the creativity your artists and designers have put into the game is overshadowed by an overly intrusive social campaign.

I get it.. with tens of millions of active players your game is probably making you gobs of cash… but I personally think you’d be making a lot more (and you wouldn’t be growing an anti-Zynga campaign) if you weren’t quite so greedy.

Too much Zynga… too much.

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