Step One: Admit you have a problem.
(Remember, I try not to judge you, so don't judge me, wink)
About two years ago, my sister Wendy asked me if I would start playing Farmville, by Zynga, with her. It was a simple game where you could grow crops, rear cute farm animals, and receive or get help on your farm from the neighbors you make.
The game is based through Facebook, where you post and share items from your farm with your neighbors on your 'wall' through it. Zynga has several games like Cafe World and Mafia Wars, and you may have seen player posts for them as well (and should block them if you don't play).
She soon had me, our Mom in Peoria, and our Dad in Colorado and some cousins all playing along and lending a hand when one was needed.
The animals were cute. The trees were simple and fun. All in all, it was a unique way to stay in touch with each other, and my kids loved playing too.
Then one day... the game began to subtly change. New and funky trees became available and could be 'bred' in an orchard, but you needed to collect watering cans from friends or your facebook wall in order to grow them. Quests began, where your neighbors help by sending you specific items needed to complete them. You were then rewarded with a new animal, coins, XP or maybe a tree.
My sister and Mom soon had enough and quit, as the game had changed too much.
My Dad & I stayed.
Soon you could master animals and trees, making you want to come onto the game to harvest and earn those mastery points. When you acheived it, there was actually a sense of completion felt.
It wasn't all a game, there were philanthropic events where we grew certain crops and money would actually be paid out to the Hatian earthquake victims; a school was even adopted there by Zynga and the players.
More animals were released, like a kangaroo. One day, a new farm arrived. It was a cute, pristine English Countryside with olde English buildings. OK, I set up a new farm there. Soon another farm arrived, and today there's your home farm, the English Countryside, Winter Wonderland, Lighthouse Cove, a Hawaiian island and the latest- my last straw: Jade Falls, a Japanese themed island.
You populate these islands with themed buildings, trees and animals. Each island takes time to harvest everything, so you spend even more time on the game itself. Genius, really.
Every morning, I would wake up and grab my mobile device just to see what was posted on my Facebook wall. There would be trees I could claim, quests to help with, animal feed to raise more animals, and those watering cans. I could also plant and harvest crops that way. It was like Christmas every morning. I would get a little 'high' from all the gear I could get off my wall. It's kinda funny to say that getting a new tree was like getting a fix, but that was exactly what it was.
I was addicted.
Holy crap, I have to quit.
I messaged my neighbors to let them know I was no longer playing. They expressed sorrow at my leaving, (we'd communicate everyday, yet many were people I've never even met). I found it interesting that several told me they wished they could quit too.
That instant gratification and promise of new and exotic trees and animals is a surprisingly powerful draw, and yes, I realize how silly that sounds.
In writing this, I found myself visiting all my farms so I could get the farm names right. It had been a week "on the wagon", and I fell off. I even mastered two trees while I was on.
I need to stop.