Packrat: Game Creates Ripples on Facebook

17 09 2008

Techcrunch highlighted Facebook app Packrat on Monday, which seems to be causing a bit of a disturbance there. In a piece titled “Facebook Isn’t A Social Network. And Stop Trying to Make New Friends There”, Michael Arrington writes:

A big part of the game is “stealing” cards from friends, and so a lot of users add other users as friends so that their cards can be obtained. The application’s popularity has also led some users to create Facebook accounts for the sole purpose of playing the game.

Some of those accounts are now being disabled by Facebook, according to this discussion forum on the application site.

What’s curious is the email sent from Facebook to one deleted user, which states that Facebook isn’t a social network (it’s a “social utility”) and isn’t meant to build large groups of new friends. Instead, Facebook is meant to reinforce “pre-existing” social connections

The game revolves around collecting, earning money and stealing inventory items. A continual stream of new and fairly slickly produced new content perpetually plugs into the old framework, while old content expires and becomes irrelevant, unless you can collect it fast enough.

I tried it out a few weeks ago, and it really does reach the heights of grind and tedium usually reserved for MMOs. As such, there’s something weirdly compelling about it, so much so that Facebook have evidently performed some contortions around their terms of service to nip a potential and unintended community in the bud.

Packrat had the potential to become a trojan MMO, embedded in Facebook and incurring loads on their servers. Games are a very strange behavioural tool, and I think Packrat shows we only have a very superficial understanding so far.

(CC image by SCO)

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