Z is for Zynga
For the last post in this fantastic A-Z Challenge, my chosen subject for the letter Z is Zynga. For those of you who don’t know, Zynga is a gaming organisation with a large range of games available on Facebook.
I am a keen player of their Pioneer Trail and have played it since it was first launched around 2 years ago. Until then I’d avoided getting involved with any games on Facebook (ok, Mindjolt was alright for a minor distraction now and again) but I did my best to avoid getting into Mafia Wars, Farmville and Cafe World etc. The Pioneer Trail was originally called Frontierville, and then it changed to The Oregon Trail for a short while. I think there was some sort of copyright issue with that so it was swiftly changed to Pioneer Trail. Personally I couldn’t see what was wrong with the original name, but hey, I’m only a player so what do I know?!
Zynga’s games all belong to what could be described as a suite of games – the graphics are very similar, the game stories are similar, the mission requests are all very much the same – which is why I didn’t get involved. However, the Pioneer Trail is different. The graphics are far superior and in terms of game play it manages to strike that balance between playing it for long enough so as you don’t feel short-changed, but things taking that much time to complete that you can’t get totally hooked on it and end up spending 24 hours a day on it as you can with other games (I’m thinking of the endless hours spent on the Wii and the Nintendo SNES….)
The basic story is that you have decided to make it on your own as a pioneer, and you basically make a settlement for yourself by building a cabin, growing crops, chopping trees and tending animals. From there the story develops and we’re at the point now where we’ve built a whole town, got trainable animals, a vast array of crops to choose from and there have been side-games along the way for variety.
There is a complete game experience with Zynga’s games and there is a forum where you can discuss various aspects of it, vent any frustrations, contact the development team etc which is fantastic. I joined it pretty much early on so that I could keep up with new things coming up in the game and learning from other players about what to expect for the missions and the quests etc.
The whole Zynga experience for me has been largely a positive one. I only began playing because I was stuck at home, sick, and unable to do much of anything at all (this is an old story and I don’t want to rehash it here!). The thing that hooked me into the Pioneer Trail was that you need neighbours to help you out and for you to visit to get things done for missions. I took a leap of faith pretty early on by joining the forum and putting my name out there on the “add me” pages. It meant that I practically doubled my Facebook friends within a very short space of time, but being savvy with the privacy settings I am able to separate my gaming friends from my real-life friends. Of course there are cross-overs: some of my “real” friends also play the game, and some of my gaming friends have become like “real” friends. It has been important to me that I maintained contact with real people throughout my illness otherwise I would have literally gone insane! I am definitely a people-person and yes, the Zynga games are only coloured pixels, but they are played by real people and that contact has meant a huge amount to me.
I have been on the receiving end of a certain amount of mickey taking because of my Pioneer Trail game playing, which is ok, but…oh hang on a minute, my crops are just coming up and I’m going to have to go and pull them before they wither. Later taters!!!!