I have recently come to terms with one incredibly embarrassing fact about myself: I rock at online games.
When it comes to the digital world of gaming, I consider myself quite the expert — I was taking “Serial Killer or Kindergarten Teacher?” quizzes and playing the Helicopter Game while the rest of the world was still busy with Minesweeper. My computer chair was my throne, and I sat, eyes glued to the computer, ingesting meme after meme while reading my friends’ AIM profiles.
It was through a fellow digitally inclined friend’s profile that I discovered Albino Blacksheep, a site that featured funny videos, flash animations and other content no one but a high schooler would enjoy. After watching only a few of these videos, I would quickly grow bored and scan the site for something more entertaining. It was on one of these many scanning ventures that I stumbled upon the games forum.
And then the fun began.
Squares 2, Bejeweled, Bubble Spinner — the options were endless. My bedtime became later and later as I discovered more ways to test myself — logic puzzles, action games, you name it. I even discovered an adventure game where I assumed the role of a boy and tried to date my dream girl; it, unfortunately, turned out to be anime porn.
Practice made me darn close to perfect, and, the better I got, the more captivated I became. Slowly, my habit started to look more like an addiction. The Sims effectively gave me agoraphobia, but I lived an incredibly full virtual life. I found online gaming communities that were able to satisfy my need for interaction, and to this day I swear I already met my future husband in a Neopets forum.
Throughout the years I have kept fueling my obsession by finding new games to be awesome at. I have had good luck with friend recommendations, from Facebook’s addicting Packrat to the essential quiz database of Sporcle. However, this week I was introduced to something that killed not only my opinion of interactive gaming communities, but my respect for all its users: Farmville.
Farmville is — for a lack of a better term — worthless. Buying virtual agriculture with virtual coins is not even close to a quality form of procrastination. In fact, offering a substitute to real shopping may be even filling a void for consumers, partially causing our economic recession — not to be dramatic, or anything.
Farmville is currently the top application on Facebook, and while it infuriates me, it doesn’t surprise me. The app offers no clear purpose besides a weird sort of community, and that is what so much of the Internet thrives on. Online gaming doesn’t have to be you, isolated and alone, pressing the arrow keys until you’re satisfied with a score. It can be a group of people on the same website, doing pointless things — but doing them together.
A number of today’s online fads are community-based games, and this has to do with our current networking nature. People like inviting others to be part of their society, and everyone gets added enjoyment from the way it feels to communicate with someone through a different medium. When they create real human interaction, online games go far beyond simple entertainment.
In a sense, online games function as their own little meaningless version of social networks. As seen by my Neopets boyfriend (if you’re reading this, Facebook me!) and the thousands of other “relationships” coined through message boards and the like, raising made-up animals doesn’t have to mean you’ll be antisocial.
Because they are so interactive, many of today’s online games don’t even explain how to “win.” Instead, they offer a society where making friends and trading items gets you to the top, allowing a realm for even the most socially awkward to assume the position of a cool kid.
As pathetic as it sounds, I personally enjoy online games because they are one of few competitive activities I excel at. Everyone needs to be good at something, be it football or chemistry or Bubble Spinner. If procrastination offers you self-confidence, enjoyable communication or even entertainment, then it’s not really procrastination at all — it’s a pleasurable pastime.
Jen Winston is a junior majoring in communication. Her column, “The Memeing of Life,” runs Tuesday.