If you haven’t played Farmville yet, you’ve been warned! Don’t start! It’s totally addicting. 
I initially started playing to learn more about how the folks at Zynga (the company behind the franchise) were so good at being “sticky.” That’s what we call it when an online application does a good job of bringing people back over and over again. Farmville is very sticky – from handing out Valentines to gold for St Patrick’s Day to the promise of dogs – they keep users coming back.
And now, they have sucked in the fifth graders in Santa Cruz County.
Since there’s money involved, I am thinking is a great home school opportunity to talk economics. In Farmville, you earn coins based on behaviors and  the choices you make. In fact, it costs money to make money. This was a hard concept for Katie to grasp.
Katie figured planting crops should be free, but that’s not the case. It cost money to till the soil and buy the seeds. You earn money if you let your crops grow and you can also earn money by helping your neighbors farm (like fertilizing their crops). And different crops earn more or less money based on the amount of time it takes for them to grow (thereby rewarding a little delayed gratification. Watermelons take forever in kid hours – four days – but boy do they pay!).
Experience points are coveted; they ultimately get you ahead.
You earn experience points by doing things like buying animals, building houses, and decorating your farm (all of which cost coins). Katie is all over this. In fact, she’s a very good shopper but was a little slow to learn the overall strategic value to keeping the farm planted, visiting her friend’s farms to work, or building up her bank account.
There is one kind of “money” available in Farmville it is based on cold hard cash. Farmville Cash is purchased with a parent’s credit card and therefore is VERY hard to get in our household. Sure, the people a Zynga games aren’t stupid; the best stuff needs FV Cash.
This makes my daughter crazy.
I agreed to give her a small allowance. I spent $20 on FV Cash and told her that was it. It had to last. Thankfully she understood the limit but I am still paying for the decision because every time she thinks she wants to spend the FV Cash, I have to listen to her weight the pros and cons, vacillating back and forth as she decides if it’s really, really worth it.
The best thing she’s purchased so far was a limited edition (yeah, another way to be sticky), a limited edition geyser that is actually quite impressive. It’s been a month and she still squeals with delight every time the darn thing erupts.
Unfortunately, she still hasn’t really grasped the idea of saving for the really big things. To expand her farm, which would ultimately make more money for her, she has to save a fairly sizeable amount of money. But so far, she just can’t do it. There are too many new things she has to have and so, her farm stays small. Her earning is limited. And I am left of wonder if she’ll ever get tired of Farmville.
Yet I hold out hope she’s learning some lessons…
When I get the chance, we talk about saving. We’ll also review the concept of delayed gratification – I can compare it to our saving for Hawaii slated for 2012. In the meantime, it’s fun to watch her budget, plant, think, and hopefully…strategize!
Now the Fun Part: Haven’t played yet? It’s easy, just a click away on Facebook.
You really, truly don’t have to spend a dime of real money to play. Also, beware the many Farmville offers that come through promising free stuff. They are all bogus aimed at getting your information to sell to marketers.
Important Tip: when you first start playing, post a Status Update warning your friends who don’t want to see Lonely Bulls posted to their FB wall. Anyone can block FV posts with a simple “Hide Farmville” on a FV post. It’s on the upper right of the post and they don’t have to hide you – just the application.
When you play, you  might gain some insight into your friends! Here are a few classic Farmville Archetypes…
The Grouser: They are playing often and tend to post requests for more stuff on their wall (as opposed to sharing things you might want).
The Socialite: Focused on rapid growth, this player will friend anyone to gain critical mass. One of the ways you get ahead is having a lot of friends and socialites are masters. They move up fast because they access to so many farms and so many posts for free things from those friends.
The Collector: There are a lot of transactions in Farmville and almost all of them revolve around “stuff.” Most game players keep some and sell the rest. But there are a few who keep every trinket. Having more stuff requires a large farm and can help you earn money faster.
The Control Freak: This seems to be a trend among the moms who feel relatively unable to control their “real” world so Farmville gives them a chance to act out their hidden desire to have everything in its place. You’ll notice tidy fences around their similarly grouped animals and structure, structure, structure among their crops. Did I mention I have one foot in this camp?
The Designer: The designer is focused on creating an “experience”. This is a farm you would actually want to visit in the real world. My girlfriend has done this so well I think she should charge money to visit her farm. It is a thing of pure beauty. I aspire to design as well as she does!
The Player: Bored quickly with the pace of Farmville, this gamer moves on to other Zynga games (like Yoville!, PetVille and Cafe World) – keeping as many irons in the fire as possible.