Social City: Cheats, Bugs or Bust 1.1

Below, Paul Simon performing Graceland at a South African concert in Zimbabwe:

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Saving Graceland

Graceland is in trouble!

Stan’s town needs your help.

Oh Noes!

The game they got going in Social City is as deep as a puddle. Nevermind the toxic, oily (but pretty) rainbow shimmer of the new Tudor Mayoral Estate. I think Billy got knocked around there once. Or twice. Billy who? Billy Shakespeare, of course. But that’s just a rumor – mind you.

The Mayor of Graceland is considering resignation. And Graceland will be no more. It will fall apart. Factories will grind to a halt and the people of Graceland will get laid off. Public services will stop. People will move out. There will be rioting mimes. Killer robots. Cute kittens left in trees. Fires in the historic downtown. Potholes that swallow whole cars.

Organize a rescue mission!

Your reward should be something like 100 Gazillion City Bucks.

Maybe, it should be a lot more. But heck, they only offered 100 City Bucks to the contest winner who came up with the most popular building to add to the “store”. That’s comes out to about 5 bucks for which you may or may not be taxed. Brian Drake, Playdom’s Social City Community Manager, must think we all live in a low population, under-developed village in India or South America- if they can imagine that we could appreciate the symbolic value of that prize.

A truly symbolic reward would be 1000 City Bucks and it would include credit to the lucky guy or girl in the object information. That credit would include their F/B pic and a working link to their F/B account. Better still, there should be 20 winners – not just one. Because, most likely, they will eventually use more than 20 object suggestions – if not hundreds.

Anyway, what’s up with the five bucks?

Is that what they are paying to sweat shops in India, South America or China for all those Social City goodies they want to raffle off and sell to us? <grin> It’s not unheard of!


Graceland is the name of my town in Social City. It’s also the name of the Presley (a la Elvis) Estate in Memphis, Tennessee. You can actually visit the Presley Estate. The official website is here. There’s several Youtube videos that give you a video tour of Elvis’ Graceland. Here’s one.

But you can’t visit my Graceland in Social City unless you are my friend in Social City. That’s an anti-social “feature”. Or failure. It depends on how you look at things. Or, perhaps, just your IQ.

In fact, I could tell you more about Graceland than you’d get from zooming in on the Social City graphic image (that you could see if you were my friend in Social City). My story about Graceland might be more interesting than helping cute kittens and wrangling rhinos. But the story-telling will have to wait- even if I am dieing to tell you.

The future of my Graceland, however, remains bleak. You and I don’t need much imagination to see the writing on the wall. The Mayor (that’s me) is considering his resignation. And even if I don’t resign, there’s not much more that I could do to make Graceland that much more interesting to me. Or to you. There isn’t even much point in us connecting in Social City. Or is there?

Sport and Play

Good play, like good sport, is about self-discovery, individuation and becoming fully oneself through virtue, grace, and relationship with the world. However you will define good play, good play should not be something that makes you into an unrequited pawn of someone’s business plan.

Yes, I could have made the worst city ever. I could make a Graceland that doesn’t reflect me, my soul, tastes, my prejudices, my travels and/or my experiences. I could push the limits a bit by throwing in all sorts of cheesy eye trash (the opposite of eye candy) so that the population of Graceland could grow to a few million. In other words, I could make a city based on buildings that maximize population and happiness without regard for any other consideration, personal or otherwise.

To do so would be counter intuitive and, I will argue, self destructive. Such play would be a self betrayal, a self contradiction, a hypocrisy, a self deception, and a self compromise. And significantly so. And hey, we all get enough of that in the real world.

At least, in the real world, there’s some kind of generally anesthetizing pay off for mucking about in the gutter. Of course, the emphasis is on Nietzsche. Not you. Not me.

Better yet, I could spend a few thousand real world dollars/euros/pounds and renovate Graceland every month or so: modernize or antique buildings as the eye candy is made available, change the look and feel of each neighborhood and help neighbors get cute kittens unstuck from trees. But since there’s no way or reason to become a Social City rock star with 20,000 fans who “like”, love, or worship my Graceland, why bother?


Or is this just a little too deep of a discussion for you? <grin>

Friends, Bugs or Bust

But what about my new Social City friends?

Most of my neighbors don’t seem to care much about me. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise as I solicited in-game friends from Playdom’s official forum for Social City. That’s what people do. Yeah, that seems a bit sleazy to me too! But like I said, it’s what people are forced to do for lots of Facebook games.

Even if I send my neighbors a free gift every chance I get- they don’t impress easily! Some of them prolly didn’t even know I sent them a Tudor Mayoral Estate yesterday. And a brick road, the day before yesterday. And a cobblestone road, the day before that. Hardly anyone sent me anything back in return. Ok. There were one or two gifts so far.

You can send me a free gift (Social City game piece) by clicking here.

Is it a bug in the free gift script? Or are the general kind of people that play Social City so unkind, thoughtless and self-absorbed? Or shall we just say they are busy?

I’m going to assume that the real problem is not the user base.

I’m going to assume that Social City is having very deep problems tracking and killing bugs. In other words, the code must be fubar. And, if so, I’m wondering if they outsourced the code through or like for 5k/month.In my opinion, bug tracking and bug killing are things that neither Indians nor South Americans are good at managing.

Now, if Playdom had paid 50k-100k/month to a solid development team, you wouldn’t have to have Brian Drake, a.k.a. the Social City Community Manager, running interference and happy face on an almost day to day basis.

How do I know this stuff? <grin> Maybe, that’s what Playdom Chief Executive Officer John Pleasants would like to know. Relax, John.

The mispellings are a dead give away to those in the know, Mr. Pleasants. Myself, I won’t tell anyone else. <grin> More importantly, Disney will still pay up on the 763 Million in cash and prizes for Playdom.

So what if Mr. Pleasants and the other Chieftains tricked up the books for their VC friends at Lightspeed, etc.. It’s all good now. Disney saved the day.

People as Objects

Beyond Playdom’s lack of capacity to trouble shoot, track bugs and fix bugs in Social City, there’s no real, social communication system to speak of. Heck, these people must think the Twitter communication platform is rocket science.

Using Facebook wall posts is a lousy way to communicate urgent requests and structure relationships and interaction. All those thousands of F/B apps are all about supporting F/B’s aim to keep your F/B relationships as dynamic and engaging as possible.

Perhaps, Playdom’s un-rocket scientists can’t imagine what could be more urgent than building that perfect world (um, city) right now. For all my Social City neighbors might know, I’m just an NPC generating more self-promotional spam for the game. After all, that’s how Playdom’s game designer imagined how we should relate/unrelate to each other. As objects. Not persons.


I also suppose he/she is actually an anti-social, borderline sociopath. If not the creative director, certainly, the project manager. J/K. Maybe. People are People! Not Objects.

Worse: the poor implementation of inconsequential, useless and contrived interaction is a total fail. It may be cute the first time the average user sees a particular scripted dialogue, but after a few times, the misspelled kindergarten wit hits me for what it is: an insult to my intelligence, education, general sense of humor, conscience and humanity. Yeah, all that!

We are long past the days of Atari! Get with the program, kiddos.

What the heck is Steve Meretzky doing? Not doing? Mr. Meretzky, of course, if the Vice President of Game Design. And if his time at MIT wasn’t wasted, his collaboration with Douglas Adams is seriously in question with Social City.

Social City

Build and run your own virtual city. Create the perfect place for the people that call it home and you’ll become the most loved and revered mayor of all time!

That’s Playdom’s official description of Social City from the Playdom official website. Kinda sucky.

Social City is just another Facebook game by Playdom, a start up that hit the jackpot by launching social games on MySpace and Facebook. Want to know how to play it? Check out Kellie Cardwell-Winters’ walkthrough on gamzebo. Go here.

Is Playdom’s Social City just another time killer like most so called social games trying to milk the Facebook and MySpace audience/market?
Or is there something more to it – even potentially? Time will tell.

Social City Cheats

There’s no cheats to speak of.

Not at the moment. But I’m sure there are some scripts in the works. There always are. Scripts, a.k.a. cheats in the making, that is. Try searching for a Grease Monkey plug-in to help you with you cleaning, population growth and factory production.

Some one is working on it. Just as surely as there’s a programmer out there not doing his or her work assignment. <grin> I know. Because I used to employ a fair share of them. Programmers and designers, in fact, are the worst time sheet cheaters out there. Dave, co-founder of the Casual Collective, made his big hit game at work.

Yeah, I’m also talking about you, Samwise. And you too, Roberts. And all the rest of you- you know who you are! As if I didn’t know why you didn’t get your assignments done on time! The cat was never in the bag. <grin>

Anyway, Social City is lackluster if you have played better browser games a la Travian. Ironically and despite the so-called powerful insights of the Porsche Consulting Company, the Germans don’t seem to get it. They can’t see past the Black Forest and capitalize on a Facebook presence as a Facebook game. But that’s an entirely other subject for satire.

Honestly, what bothers me most is the name, Social City. Social City suggests that it’s about building your social circle and working together with them to build a City. Unfortunately, Social City doesn’t provide the next generation platform for social interaction. Not yet. And that wouldn’t be rocket science.

Facebook Games

I’ve been asking myself why people would play Social City or most any other Facebook game.

There must be a reason – even if it’s not a compelling or interesting reason. Farmville, for example, is a whole lotta lackluster, but 20+ million sign ups is compelling from a business standpoint. But hey, SPAM, has a business model too. Nevermind that no one walks into a party and brags that they sell spam. Even if you make millions, most people don’t like to schmooze with the trash.

Even the smell is sticky.

And that’s what we’re talking about.

Trash. Spam. And even more spam.

It’s too bad that Disney is digging in the trash. And its just another example of what’s wrong with Wall Street, big business and how we got ourselves into the Great Depression Part Two. Oh- I meant to refer to the present situation as a frequently recycling economic downturn.

Yet another subject for satirical treatment.


Farmville v. Farmville killers

I am just another Farmville sign-up who lost interest in Farmville’s lack of game in 60 seconds or less. Ok. It’s true that I believed that Farmville sucked before I even signed up. I even made fun of friends who invited me to sign up. But for sake of kindness, I signed up so that I could make public comments about the suckiness of Farmville in good conscience.

People are neglecting work and, maybe, family and friends. Stealing five minutes here and fifteen minutes there. Perhaps, work, love and life just doesn’t generate enough excitement. Or positive reinforcement for anti-social, un-family, and un-neighborly behavior.

Obviously, since Farmville doesn’t pack enough entertainment to keep their users focused only on Farmville, you can choose three or four other time killers. Or more.

Is that what social gaming means?

It seems to be the case for Facebook games. And yet I am hopeful that social gaming comes to mean something more than killing minutes. And that hope includes certain expectations about the next generation of Farmville killers.

Social Games

Nabeel Hyatt, one of the co-founders of Conduit Labs, wrote this about social games:

Social gaming holds the promise of letting us have a little fun together online in a way that has meaning.

You can read Nabeel Hyatt’s hit and run definition of social games here. Nick O’Neill also tried to define social gaming. Read it here.

Nabeel Hyatt

Nabeel Hyatt seems to have a sense of what a good social game should achieve- beyond funding, sign ups, spam and micropayments which aren’t so micro anymore. He gets it. Almost. About social media that is.

Nabeel gets that social games are not just about games that leverage social network audiences and markets – they should provide a platform attempts to structure interaction to accomplish the same kind of things that the same people (users) hope to get from social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.

Nabeel didn’t state it as succintly as I just did. But he almost did. Really.

What kind of things? Nabeel?

Things like love, friendship, entertainment, excitement, information, sympathy, sharing, collaboration, reputation, opportunity, fame,
money, dates, jobs, etc. The list could go on and on. But then I’d need to be paid as a consultant for me to dish it up.

Anyway, if you can make those kinds of games, companies like Disney, Sony and Zynga are going to pay you a boatload of money. I’m not talking
canoes! I’m thinking oil tankers. BP tankers  – that is. <grin>

Hype or Hell?

The corporate PR blah blah blah of Playdom is that they listen to users. That the users co-write the game. They say this is the secret to their winning business model. Let’s assume this statement is as true as their commitment to exploit third world labor markets. If so, you can help me save Graceland. You can help me make Social City into the game that it’s name suggests it to be.

In the Social City game, go to help. Select support. Next, select the NO to “Did this information address your concern” and paste the URL of this blog post in the comment box.

Copy this now and paste it in that comment box:

Be sure to let me know you have done it. I may even send you a free gift (Social City game piece) too. <grin>

For my part, I’ll continue writing blog posts about Social City, what’s wrong with it, and what could make it more meaningful from a game and business standpoint. Just like I did for Backyard Monsters. Read it here.

Let’s bring some social action and change to Social City, neighbor. Together, we can demand a much better game from Playdom. Because, it just ain’t happening by itself. <grin>

And the cool thing is that I have some ideas that will transform Social City into a social game AND a game that is worth your and my attention and affection.

Stan Faryna
July 27, 2010
Bucharest, Romania

If you’d like to connect with me, follow @Faryna and tweet me up on Twitter:


About Stan Faryna

Mr. Faryna is the founder and co-founder of several technology, design and communication companies in the United States and Europe including Faryna & Associates, Inc., Halo Interactive, and others.

Stan Faryna served as a Global Voices author and translator. Global Voices is a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research think-tank focused on the Internet’s impact on society.

His political, scholarly, social and technical opinions have appeared in The Chicago DefenderJurnalul NationalThe Washington TimesSagarSaptamana FinanciaraSocial Justice Review, and other publications.

Mr. Faryna also served as editor-in-chief of Black and Right (Praeger Press, 1996), a landmark collection of socio-political essays by important American thinkers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.


Copyright 1996 to 2012 by Stan Faryna.

Here’s my fair use policy for my content:

If you want to share my content with your own audience, you may quote a brief excerpt, if and only if, you provide proper attribution (Source: The unofficial blog of Stan Faryna) with a direct link to the source. Generally speaking, as long as you are not acting as an agent or on behalf of a corporation or institution, I am not interested in any payment for the quotation or use of a complete article. Nevertheless, you may not republish or translate the entire article without my written permission. Send your request for permission by inmail through Linkedin. Or tweet me up me on Twitter.


One Response to Social City: Cheats, Bugs or Bust 1.1

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