I’m a Happy Farmer
This is my everyday routine on the Internet: check e-mail, go through Renren and Facekbook, read quick news on Twitter and Weibo, and harvest my crops and cultivate my land. Yes, I am a farmer in Happy Farm – a Chinese social game.
It was around 2009, all of a sudden, almost all of my Renren friends began to talk about what they had grown on their virtual land and what they had stolen from their “farmer” peers. As one of the first social games in China, Happy Farm enjoyed a speedy expansion among Chinese netizens, regardless of gender and age. Unlike other online game, such as World of Warcraft, this social game attracts not only those who are male and young, but also female players and higher-aged players. In the 3rd quarter of 2010, the proportion of female social game players was twice as big as that of female online game players, the middle-aged players of social game was 28% more than those of online game.  Sometimes, middle-aged players are more engaged in social games than teenage players. Parents players often ask their kids to harvest crop for them in case of being stolen since they may be too occupied with work to do so on time.
Therefore, you may want to ask why social gaming is so unique, and how it breaks the boundaries of gender and age issues. Well, here is how I think about it.
Personally speaking, the most appealing aspect of Happy Farm to me, is the sense of success. I’m an urban girl and never have any experience of cultivating land or harvest crops. However, Happy Farm provides me with a chance to grow plants on my own land. Virtual as it is, every time I witness my plants growing step by step, from a small seed to florescence and fruits, and a new species of crop is unlocked, I feel as if I was actually a productive farmer, and am pretty satisfied with my achievement. The sense of success is the power that keeps me returning to my land and admiring my products.
Sense of community is another feature of Happy Farm, after all, in the community of social gaming, gamers are playing with their friends. There are always complicated emotions between friends. Friends like to share with each other, so Happy Farm allows farmer friends to visit each other. Friends would love to care about and help with each other, so they can remove weeds and kill pests for each other. Sometimes competitive relation may also exist between friends. If you feel jealous that your friends own crops with a higher level, you can steal fruits from their lands before they harvest. Even though it is in the cyber world, the real emotion and interaction of friendship is shared among friends.
Last but not the least, unlike online gaming, social gaming does not require a large amount of time to play. As long as players have several minutes, no matter they are at work or having lunch, social game players may utilize many separate moments to make a play.
The advantage of social gaming over traditional online games, is feeling real emotions without too much time consumption In social games, players are not completely separated from the real world; on the contrary, the virtual life in social game is an extension of the real life. Albeit in another “word,” social games combine virtual life and real life together, joining both space-time and emotion, allowing players to easily switch between real and virtual worlds.
 Baidu Data, Report of the Chinese Social Game Industry in the 3rd quarter of 2010. Retrieved from: http://gamerboom.com/archives/10845
Key image from Agha Go Blog