I’ve never really understood Facebook games. Everyone’s heard of Farmville and its ilk, all the big time casual games on Facebook that are built to appeal mostly to the middle-aged women demographic. These are video games designed for people who don’t like video games, in that they can only be defined as games in the loosest sense of the word. As an example, Farmville and all of its copycats are civilization sims stripped of most of their gameplay elements: you obtain structures and place them wherever is most aesthetically pleasing to you while you’re working towards unlocking the next thing you can get and place in your farm or town or whatever. The game spurs you on by presenting you with “quests” like “Build a henhouse!” or “Harvest 30 carrots!” and that’s essentially it. Don’t get me wrong, I see the initial appeal. I’ve played a few of these games on Facebook, and they’re great time wasters, but, eventually, I get bored and stop, because I realize that what I’ve been doing is uncomfortably close to cleaning and redecorating my room, only far less productive.
But, Marvel Avengers Alliance is different.
This recently released Facebook game casts you as a newly recruited S.H.I.E.L.D. agent tasked with leading a team of Marvel heroes in the wake of a mysterious worldwide event. It’s a tactical RPG combat game with a decently engaging story that unfolds over ten chapters, each containing six missions. There’s a surprising amount of depth to the game, since there is a sizable roster of Marvel heroes to unlock and play with, each with their own unique powers and abilities. There are also five character “classes,” strong against one class and weak against another, which adds an additional layer of strategy to each fight. And, to top it all off, it plays like an actual game! It’s totally different. So, if I’ve been spending a lot of time playing it, it’s because I enjoy it, not because it’s designed like every other social media game with their addictive hooks.
For instance, games like Farmville force you to enlist your friends in order to keep progressing. Don’t have enough space to place your next building? Invite three more friends to expand your borders! Want to complete the construction of your new laundromat? You’re going to need six friends to help you staff it. Trying to stock your newly opened grocery store? Have twelve of your friends send you some goods to put on the shelves! It’s endless, and the numbers just keep going up, so if you can’t convince your friends to play, then you can’t keep playing.
Not so in Avengers Alliance! You can take care of everything all by yourself! Except for jet hangars, but that makes sense, because there’s no way that a single person could construct an entire jet hangar. It’s not feasible. So, that’s just for the sake of realism. And, of course, when you upgrade your jets, you’d need more people, because it’s a more complicated jet, so, obviously, more people would be needed for a more complex task.
But, other than that, you don’t need anything from your friends to play the game. Except the distress calls you can get from visiting their profiles, because those help during boss fights. But, again, a real government agent would call in allies for support, so we’ll chalk that one up to verisimilitude as well. This game really is different though, you guys.
It’s not at all like Farmville.
There’s fighting, remember? Also, I’m like 100 hours in right now (my choice, totally voluntary), and there isn’t a farm in sight. See? Nothing in common.
Plus, in other social games, they always try to get you to spend actual money on the game, which is lame! No one is going to think you are cooler if you pay $5 to replace your post office with a super special rainbow post office. That’s just a waste of money, but games like Farmville are filled to the brim with useless things to purchase.
Sorry, I just remembered that they’re going to be releasing new costumes for the heroes in Avengers Alliance soon! I’ll have to watch out for those.
Games like Farmville will also try to get you to spend money to speed up the game, since a lot of tasks require a certain amount of real-time to pass before you can complete them, sometimes up to several days. It can get annoying, so the temptation to skip all the waiting is something the gamemakers use to their advantage. Don’t feel like waiting 18 hours for Captain America to level up—I mean, for your dumb henhouse to be built? We’ll let you skip it for a buck or two. Just do it! Stop thinking so hard about it! Give us your money!
Just ignore that Captain America thing. I don’t know why I said that, I haven’t even recruited him yet, since he’s way expensive. I mean, I’d have to play for weeks in order to save up enough command points for Cap. Although, for like ten bucks I could get some gold and recruit him by—
Yes, I am playing an addictive social media game.
But, it really is good!
And, it’s free! And, there’s PVP!
And, it’s so free!