Developers who find themselves either surprised or disgusted by the success of games like Farmville may appreciate a recent interview with Braid developer Jonathan Blow. During it, Blow made clear that he doesn’t approve of games of that nature.
Blow told Gamasutra’s Simon Parkin, “It’s only about exploiting the players and yes, people report having fun with that kind of game. . . . But then when you look at the design process in that game, it’s not about designing a fun game. It’s not about designing something that’s going to be interesting or a positive experience in any way – it’s actually about designing something that’s a negative experience.”
Blow then continued, “It’s about ‘How do we make something that looks cute and that projects positivity’ – but it actually makes people worry about it when they’re away from the computer and drains attention from their everyday life and brings them back into the game. Which previous genres of game never did. And it’s about, ‘How do we get players to exploit their friends in a mechanical way in order to progress?’ And in that or exploiting their friends, they kind of turn them in to us and then we can monetize their relationships.”
So there you have it: a well-respected developer’s opinion on the subject, making quite clear that this isn’t the noblest way to approach game design.
Or, if you feel like going the other way (though we wouldn’t encourage it), you can look at Blow’s comments as a sort of laid-bare blueprint for designing a game like Farmville.