Zynga Rolled Back the Clock 25 Years, and That’s a Good Thing

Dean’s latest DeanBeat is a well-written, sober little piece on Zynga right now. BTW, I don’t say it often enough, but Dean is one of our industry’s journalistic treasures — Dean, please do keep up the great work.

Anyway here’s a money quote:

Plenty of people hated what Zynga became, and they trashed not only Zynga but Facebook and all social companies. To these people, Zynga never did anything right. They never gave it credit for expanding the meaning of being a gamer to hundreds of millions of people. 

This is a point I’ve been trying to make with hardcore gamer and game developer friends for some time now. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely, hands-down, for sure, hate most of Zynga’s games, as do most people I know who have self-identified as a “gamer” for the last 1-2 decades. Particularly the early stuff — all of the Ville games just plain suck for us gamer types who have been playing since the 80’s/90’s.

But take FarmVille and transport it to 1985 and we would have all been fans. Whether a launch title on NES, an arcade game or a PC game with shitty graphics, we would have played it, enjoyed it and perceived it as having real gaming value.

Of course we’re not in 1985, and we’ve had a lot of time to grow up on new and better gaming experiences, advances in design, hardware, play mechanics and so on. We’ve been happily following the evolution of video games with our minds, hearts, fingers and wallets for a while now — and to us Zynga games sputter instead of sparkle. Their game mechanics are very often like Joshua and Tic-Tac-Toe — winning moves are boring and so we just don’t play.

For others — many others, many millions of others — who haven’t grown up on video games like we have, most Zynga games have been a great introduction to gaming. Regardless of their original intent, Zynga ushered in a whole new crop of customers far more interested in playing games than they were just a few years ago. This is a really great thing and the timing was fortunate considering the downward spiral the traditional industry has been in for the last several years.

So thanks, Zynga. My friends and I hate most of your games. But we’re also glad you came to the party and started the clock ticking for millions of new players. We’re hoping you’ll create games in the future that will show all those new folks how much fun and awesome video games can be. And I bet you’ll show our snob-asses a few new tricks. Take all that IPO money and spend it on quality from here on out, won’t you?