CityVille And Other Facebook/Social Games Need A New Genre: The MOMCOT

Posted by on April 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm
A burgeoning Terrantropolis!

CityVille is a MOMCOT.

With the rise of Facebook and other social games, mostly strategy titles, like CityVille, War Commander, and Cafe World, we’ve encountered a new breed of game that’s never existed before, one that pines for your dollars in ways never before seen or lets you live with waiting hours for a vital resource to recharge so you can continue to play the game. We’ve come up with so many different ways to brand them, but nothing so distinctive as to accurately pinpoint what kind of a game they are until you’ve already invested far too much time – or potentially given out your credit card number. From the same guy who brought you the November Release Death Schedule – or NeRDS – to describe the onslaught of games during the holiday comes MOMCOT, the new name for what we commonly call Zynga-likes.

What’s A MOMCOT?

MOMCOT, or Multiplayer Online Manipulation of Currency Or Time, is the term to describe a game that requires either extended or periodic moments of gameplay or a large amount of currency to play. In a traditional game, you grab a controller, mouse, or joystick and simply play until you’re bored or something distracts you. With the rise of Facebook and smartphones, game publishers needed to come up with a new formula to make make revenues. Selling $15-$40 games may have worked on Nintendo’s handhelds, but it’s simply out of the question for most people when it comes to gaming on their phone. Further, people don’t usually want to spend a lot of time playing on their phones at a time. The result? A dash of the free-to-play MMO and some devilish lack of concern for the player’s well-being.

The emphasis here is on the manipulation of your time or your currency. These games are multiplayer so that you can send invites and perpetuate the cycle amongst your friends and encourage growth, so they’ll also be online. These games, even if they’re something you play often, always feel like a short-change at some level, a kind of malicious experience, a knife in your back during an otherwise enjoyable experience. A game like CityVille requires you to simply stop playing if you’re not willing to pay Zynga as the game is designed to be self-limiting in how much enjoyment you derive from it in a sitting. Instead, playing it requires more studious scheduling and optimal planning. The game stops being fun, manipulating you to its own whims. Likewise, the amount of money one can throw at a MOMCOT is limitless, but with unlimited funds, the game simply becomes a pushover, a challenge-free experience that exposes its origami-like construction to manipulate you for cash. Playing like this can’t be sustained, so rather than buying a lot of the game’s virtual currency at a time, you buy it in small amounts, just enough to get you past this particular challenge or complete this particular task.

MOMCOTs aren’t necessarily strategy games, either. Jellyvision’s clever trivia game You Don’t Know Jack is a MOMCOT. Playing the game’s “shows” requires you to use the game’s conservatively distributed coins, allowing you to play at least one episode a day. You can acquire more coins by waiting a period of twenty-four hours until the coins are made available again, performing well in the shows or by whipping out your wallet.

What Isn’t A MOMCOT?

There are games similar to this formula and while you’re reading this, you may be thinking of every game you’ve ever played that might be a MOMCOT, but there are some that aren’t. When I was devising the term, I originally described it as a manipulation of time and currency, but that would imply any game that featured IAPs (In-App Purchases), which wasn’t the point of the definition.

The closest relative to a MOMCOT is a game like Tiny Tower, or a score of other mobile, browser, and other non-social games, is the SOMCOT, or Single-player Online Manipulation of Currency Or Time. Here, you’re still pressured to purchase coins to accelerate gameplay that would otherwise take hours or days, but you’re not tethered to your friends or Facebook to do so.

Another game that isn’t a MOMCOT is Draw Something. While the game requires you to purchase coins or play the game to acquire new color palettes, these aren’t required to play and therefore do not fulfill the “time” manipulation requirement of the MOMCOT. On the flipside, EVE Online is also not a MOMCOT. While it can definitely be argued whether or not the calendar-based skill advancement infringes on your progress and enjoyment of the game, it’s actually not required to play. On the flipside, there’s no currency to aid your character’s development, either. You cannot buy your way to becoming a Titan captain. This makes EVE Online a cruel game, but not a manipulative one.

Spread the word!

The industry – nay, the world! – needs to know the nature of the MOMCOT. Whether the MOMCOT should be stopped is outside of the scope of this article, but that’s entirely on you. Post your favorite (or least favorite) MOMCOTs below and tell your friends right away!

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