This weekend, I discovered something I don’t understand about myself: I want to kill vampires on Facebook. I also want to be a vampire slayer, and a werewolf, and a zombie, and to kill my friends on Facebook who are also zombies, and werewolves and vampires and vampire slayers.
This all takes place as part of a game on Facebook that’s simple, yet very addictive. On the game, I maintain four characters, one of each type, each of which can “fight” against similar characters maintained by my friends. These “fights” aren’t viewed graphically. They’re really just the equivalent of rolls of the dice in a role playing game such as Dungeons and Dragons. Only, the game is actually not as intricate as D&D, in that I’m not given a chance to actually create a role. My characters only progress, generically, from level to level, with a new graphic for my character as I progress from level to level. I also get little rewards as I progress such as the ability to go on new “quests” – but the “quests” don’t consist of anything more than me clicking on a button to go to a new page.
It’s pretty lame, right? There’s not much action, and I don’t get anything practical out of participating in the game. I don’t make the world a better place, and I don’t even get a strong feeling of escape into any kind of alternate reality.
Here’s the thing I don’t understand: Even as I’m aware that the game is aesthetically unpleasing, and practically unrewarding, I’m finding it difficult to stop playing.
1) Why does this game keep my attention so successfully?
2) How could this psychological dynamic be used to get people involved in something more worthwhile, like political activism?