The Chinese government seeks a harmonious society. But itâs Facebookâs social games that are cooperative, while Chinaâs closer resemble the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
9x as Competitive as Facebook?
Of Chinaâs top 10 social games, 9 feature competitive actions that hurt other players (see graphic); the one exception is Renren Restaurant, an exact copy of Playfishâs Restaurant City on Facebook. Of Facebookâs top 10 games, only 1 features competitive actions. Chinese players cherish intense competition.
3 Case Studies: Schadenfreude, Stealing, and Status
Case #1: Enslave and Humiliate your Friends
Slave Manor copies the original Facebook game Friends for Sale! but takes the competition to another level. White-collar workers flock to the SNS Kaixin001 to hire their boss as their virtual slaveâupon which they can make him shovel shit or marry an extremely ugly girl. Female slaves can be assigned to different hardships: serving as a âspecial hostessâ or marrying an old black slave. The punishments on the original Facebook game were likely far tamer.
Case #2: Bombs in the Hospital
Nasty game actions at friend's hospital
One might expect a hospital game to be benevolent, but Wonder Hospital (è£å å»é¢)Â has some nasty features. When visiting a friendâs hospital, players can enforce fines, steal patients, throw rubbish, let a dog loose, park a truck to block access, and âmystery mischiefâ indicated by a bomb icon. Home-grown games by smaller developers, like Wonder Hospital, tend to be especially competitive.
Case #3: Looting at the Farm
Mischief Accomplished: worms added
Farm games are tops worldwide: Happy Farm in China, FarmVille on Facebook. A major difference is that Chinese editions feature stealing or âpickingâ from othersâ farms. Many Chinese white-collars log-in religiously to steal and avoid being stolen from. The QQ Farm edition even allows users to add worms and weeds to friendsâ farms.
Facebook users express adamant moral opposition to the addition of a stealing feature in game forums:
âI don't approve of stealing whether in real life or virtual. It's wrong either way. I worked hard to get where I am in life and in Farm Town and I don't want somebody coming in stealing anything that I have worked for. You want itâ¦ you work for it like the rest of us have.â
âI hate stealing etc. these kill the joy from this CHILD FRIENDLY game.Â What would you like to teach the kids who playing this game? Stealing is good? Stealing is fun? Let's do it my son!â
Facebook: A Moral Utopia?
Fiercely competitive games certainly exist on Facebook, but developers and players tend to select more benevolent options. In the Whopper Sacrifice, a marketing campaign by Burger King, users received a coupon for a whopper in exchange for sacrificing 10 Facebook friends. When the campaign gained popularity and attention, Facebook shut it down. Barn Buddy, another farm game on Facebook, offers competitive options, but is far less popular than Zyngaâs FarmVille. With the notable exception of Mafia Wars, the most popular Facebook games are all child friendly.
China: Regulations on the Way
The Chinese government will start to police social games in 2010 for objectionable content. The most competitive game on Facebook, Mafia Wars, is already blocked in China. And Happy Farm recently voluntarily switched terms from stealing to picking crops. The competitive world of Chinese social games may soon be censored, or in government terms âharmonized.â
But for the time being, social games still offer Chinese white-collars relief from their boredom and revenge upon their colleagues.