More than ever, the Internet is a portal to the most honest, unfiltered view of human society in everyday life. It is a constant demonstration of the role of (positive) Capitalist values in supplying freedom of speech, assembly, and the pursuit of happiness.
And this last one includes [[Farmville]].
Facebook itself is an amazing listening post to glean any ideological spectrum, though somewhat less so in our admittedly more selective friends lists. But Facebook isn’t a real place and Farmville is just a game, right?
The buying and selling of only-in-game virtual items is a global, multi-billion dollar business, with the economy of some some games being valued in real currency more than the GDP of many nations. Is this any more silly than chasing around little green pieces of paper no longer backed by specific commodities such as gold or silver?
What is most real are the relationship between people across the world that never existed before. These virtual communities now have far more impact on the attitudes of geographically definable communities than many things going on physically within them. We older, non-native users of technology will deny it mostly on the grounds we just can’t wrap our heads around such a previously unimagined world.
Most people will psychologically accept this milieu even if they consciously reject it’s strength. When discussing the movie “[[The Social Network]]”, one poster says “What was the point of the movie if not to show how we all got here?” I had to pause at that statement. Are these the unintentional preachings of a Facebook catechism, with [[Mark Zuckerberg]] as Creator of the (virtual) world? I suggest this spontaneous choice of words was not random, but telling.
Even casting religious connotations aside we are left with the strange correct assumption that we “got here” through the efforts of a Capitalist. And of course these days, this necessitates Zuckerberg being portrayed as more of a villian than a flawed hero. I personally do not have an opinion. But I do observe the implications of all this.
Facebook is a Capitalist pursuit, yes, but is the ultimate example of the power of the people — Free Market in it’s truest, unadulterated meaning. Social media platforms are in a most fundamental way dependent on those who use them. This is no different than any other business (except those subsidized and sheltered through legislation), at the mercy of their target market of consumers.
It does not dismiss the vital choices and responsibility of the business itself, mind you. It takes two to tango. If the needs and wants of the virtual citizenry are not met, they will move elsewhere. But does Capitalism consolidate the market so the big players can always stay on top? Tell that to [[MySpace]]. Tell that to [[AltaVista]]. Heck, [[LiveJournal]] could have been bigger than Facebook and [[Wordpress]] combined if they wouldn’t have sat on their hands once they hit a respectable size. In the end, We the People make the choices who survive and how well — what whole virtual worlds rise and fall. Ironically, the arguably euphemistic “greed” of the so-called “elite” is the catalyst by which the rest of us who choose not to throw our hat in the Capitalist ring still get what we want — within reason.
And that’s the kicker. We have a rightful sense of ownership in social media (and the real world around us in a free society), and the Internet allows us to rally for or against the brands in our lives, especially the online communities themselves. But it’s often taken a bit too far. We want to assert morally that the will of some of us outweighs the rights of those “in charge”. Desire becomes entitlement. What was one gratefulness has become dissatisfaction and even derision, with people really upset over things like not connecting quickly enough across the globe on handheld devices that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
More than anything, places like Facebook show the common man’s ignorance of the conditions under which those actually creating and maintaining our world (virtual or otherwise) must do their job.
Don’t believe me? Any idea how many “causes” on Facebook are devoted to Farmville? At the moment, nearly 8000. That’s more than causes related to diabetes, heart disease, Darfur, and police COMBINED. Apart from a few true charity-related themes that may or may not be scams, Farmville causes are categorized under such headings as “Public Advocacy”, “Arts & Culture”, “Environment”, and even “Religion”. Many are requests to get features that bring lots of additional “currency” to it’s users at no cost to them, nor benefit to [[Zynga]], the game’s owners.
A little background here …
There are many “free” online games. Most have a revenue stream from advertising, no different than television and radio (except for public broadcasting, which taxpayers are required to pay for even if they don’t use it, but that’s for another article). Many have premium memberships, where supporting the game with a “donation” gives special perks or additional resources to a player. In Farmville, you can receive “coins” from your in-game activities and spend them on items and actions in the game. You also receive (sparingly) “farm cash” that is required to buy premium items or do special activities, and other than bonuses from leveling up or taking surveys with sponsors and the like, they must be purchased with real money.
What is all too common are players starting and joining “causes” (an abuse of the term by my personal standards) to push Zynga into such things as “10 FV Cash for every level” and “Buy everything with coins”. Either of these, if you are aware of and understand the business model, are detrimental to the company that runs the game. They must determine their own income to cover their own expenses, which include constant monitoring, debugging, and developing of the game by teams of people. Arguments over what is a reasonable profit level — if one thinks they have a right to decide such a thing at all — are ultimately irrelevant when one considers the game simply would not exist without this basic interchange of money for services.
The attitude is the problem. This is not the liberal virtue of equality, but the liberal vice of entitlement. People should have anything they want, and it should be free. After all, those behind the curtain have unlimited resources, right? I’d laugh except people actually argue this, proving further my point about not understanding the most basic common business sense required to make the world go round.
Must the alternative be some wishful utopia where the worst that would be required is for the “few” who are very successful are injured or eliminated to “balance” the socio-economic equation? This is killing the golden goose, and no more than a rationalized changing of the guard similar in intention to the communist and socialist revolutions in Europe that worked out so well.
Capitalism has it’s obvious vices as well, but Facebook and Farmville are a not-so-microcosmic reflection of our society’s unfair judgment against (or even denial of) a Free Market, and an indictment of economic ignorance all too common in Left-leaning circles. But that’s okay, at least on Farmville, since these hopeful people wont be forcing their legislators to make a law “fixing” it. Instead, they will have to vote with their feet and dollars. But in the “real” world, our track record of interfering with a real free market leaves me wishing it was just a game.