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The Fringe: The Dos and Don'ts of Facebook games

Robin Torres

Welcome to The Fringe, where we totter on the edge of MMOs with a guide for playing Facebook games.

When we asked on the Daily Grind if you played Facebook games, many of you said you did. But Facebook is very polarizing. Some people love the games, while others don't see them as games at all and hate everything having to do with them. It doesn't help that there's so much spam associated with most of the games. But those of us who do play know that there are a wide variety and that many of them include the same gameplay that our favorite MMOs have. We get XP, levels, acquire loot, make avatars, play minigames within the games, quest, trade items and even participate in PvP. The sim games are extremely popular and require quite a bit of strategy for proper allocation of resources. But if you don't like text adventure games or never got into games like old school SimCity, you're not going to get the Facebook versions either.

If you do play these MMO-lite games, there are things you can do to get the most out of your play sessions. And there are things you shouldn't do so that you don't annoy your friends (as much) nor imbalance your life. Those of us who have spent time playing casual games of all kinds know that they can suck you in even more than full-blown MMOs. Most of us can't play WoW at work, but casual games with their low resource consumption and their easy access are tempting when work isn't keeping our full attention. This applies to games like solitaire, but add the comeraderie and variety of Facebook games and we can be even more tempted to play when we shouldn't. So here are some general Dos and Don'ts:

Do create a Games Friends List: Facebook has an excellent friends management system. You can put your friends on multiple lists, so there's no need to fret as to whether your sister who plays Mafia Wars with you is "Family" or "Games". Most developers provide a tab to see all of your friends who play the same game, but for ones who don't, a Games list will prevent you from bothering non-playing friends.

Don't bother nonplaying friends: If you chat with someone and they want to try a game, sure throw him or her an invite. Otherwise, please don't send gifts, challenges, invites, etc. unless they are on your Games List. The rest of us on the fringe will thank you for not increasing the hate we're already getting.

Don't let the game post randomly: Some games will ask your permission for random posting to your feed. "Hey! I'm driving this car! Join me!" Make them ask permission every time they want to post something so that you can be in complete control of your feed.

Do post offers for friends: If the post the game wants to make includes an offer for your friends, such as 100 servings of food or a gift to celebrate an achievement, say yes. Your friends who play those games will be happy for the extra help.

Don't let Facebook games run in the background while you work:
I have fallen prey to this. Even if you are just spending a minute or two every time you check the status of your game, you are greatly reducing your productivity. Trains of thought are derailed. Focus is dispersed. Motivation turns into dissatisfaction. Also, those minutes add up. If you knit, you are intimately aware that each garment is made up of thousands of stitches made one at a time. Each of those stitches takes a second to make but without those individual seconds, your project remains a ball of yarn. And each minute you spend checking on your farm adds up to a huge chunk of your workday not being productive.

Do schedule gaming sessions: Scheduled work breaks are good for checking up on your farms and restaurants -- though a walk would be better for your health. However, it's best to time your dishes and crops to become due during a session when you have more than just 15 minutes to spend tinkering. I do my major Facebook gaming while waiting for The Spawn to settle down at bedtime, before I dive into TV or WoW.

Don't tempt yourself: If you set your dishes in Cafe World to come due in an hour, you'll want to come back to serve them before they rot. Most of the timed items in games are worth more when they take longer in between uses. So set your crops/dishes/whatever to come due in 24 to 48 hours for maximum value and minimum time management issues.

Do open the games you play in multiple tabs: If your system is capable of running an MMO, it's capable of handling many Facebook games at once. For most browsers, if go to your app listing and shift-click each game you want to play during your session, you can play quite a few at the same time -- without any slowdown. Experiment with what your browser and computer can handle. Some flash games won't properly synch between your browser and their servers if they are not the active tab, so you may need to loiter at a loading screen in order for a game to successfully startup.

Do play during your MMO downtime: Facebook games are perfect for alt-tabbing out to during MMO travel or waiting for groups to form or zoning or whatever. But you already know this.

In future weeks, The Fringe will be dedicated to guides for the most popular games. In general, we'll go over multiplayer interactions and gameplay strategies. Country Life is slated for next week and will include leveling tips, profit breakdowns, and crop/gear placement tactics.

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