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Backyard Monsters: Game Theory
by Stan Faryna
Below, David Scott shares his peculiar sense of humor:
You stuck Gold!
In case you missed it, you can read my previous blog post on Backyard Monsters here.
In my previous blog post, I give a little background on the Facebook game, Backyard Monsters. It’s a tower defense game from The Casual Collective – a start up founded by Paul Preece and David Scott. The website features over a dozen, flash-based games and it is considered by some to be one of the top gaming websites out there. As I mentioned elsewhere, Backyard Monsters, The Casual Collective, Paul Preece and David Scott are all interesting to me because I having been dreaming about making a MMORPG for over fifteen years. After gleening some of their story from here and there, I’m rooting for Paul and Dave to succeed.
Because if they can do it, maybe, just maybe…
If you want a walk through of Backyard Monsters, there are reviews out there: IGN, Gamezebo, and others. Google it. Don’t be lazy. The point being I’m not interested in giving a walk through Backyard Monsters. What I’m interested in is what makes a game, good. And, in the case of Backyard Monsters, I’m interested in how to make this game good enough to take Paul and Dave to the top.
Do Facebook Games Suck?
Some say Backyard Monsters is the best game play of the Facebook games. If that’s true, game creators just don’t get it. But they wouldn’t be alone, most Chief Marketing Officers from Fortune 500 companies still don’t get social media. BP, for example. BP’s lack of social media savvy left them wide open to the wildly popular parody of @bpglobalpr and their ironic “BP cares” campaign: destroying the gulf for 81 days <grin> Then, there’s Toyota.
The list is long and , more importantly, the topic here is not social media. More relevant than the common question asked by gamers, Do Facebook Games suck? is the question, Why do they suck so badly?
Perhaps, we can answer that profound question if we pursue the question at hand: How is The Casual Collective going to stick gold? <sic>
Desktop Tower Defense
For me, the genius of Desktop Tower Defense (or any good tower defense game) is that there’s a million ways to almost get it right. Desktop Tower Defense is a 15 minute time-killer that parodies the one dimensional existence of the individual faced with an ever increasing onslaught of challenges and frustrations. Tower defense, generally speaking, is a metaphor for how we get through our day and days. It mirrors the drama of the acting person. And the better tower defense game, better allows you to make mistakes and correct those mistakes with just the right balance of consequence and inconsequence.
Too deep an insight for you?
If the Jungian mythologist Joseph Campbell were alive today, he could explain my insight to you with warm, engaging imagery. He’s not. But Campbell did leave us with some notes. Get yourself a copy of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Amazon has it: here. And others.
Perhaps, the best games (not just tower defense games) exploit our deep and, perhaps, desperate need to clarify our existence and the direction of our conduct. Multiplayer, online games, of course, provide a fantastic stage upon which the human person can attempt to enact and/or simulate a personal monomyth with other persons.
If you think me wrong or consider my insight irrelevant, consider the success of filmmakers including John Boorman, George Miller, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Coppola. They are just the tip of the iceberg. Of those who have successfully applied the story-telling technique of the monomyth – a technique that Campbell explains in his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
George Lucas went as far as to hire Campbell to consult on set for the making of Star Wars. And it was a decidedly good move. The first three Star Wars movies were box office hits and are classics.
Getting back to a better game theory – if telling a monomyth is one thing, empowering the gamer to create a personal monomyth is something else entirely. Or is it?
Can David Scott blend monomythic game play into his arcade-style game design?
June 9, 2010
May 2011 Update
If you want to dominate your neighboring tribes, my new Backyard Monsters cheats are here.
January 2012 Update
Check out my Castleville Guide.
About Stan Faryna
Mr. Faryna is the founder and co-founder of several technology, design and communication companies in the United States and Europe including Faryna & Associates, Inc., Halo Interactive, and others.
Stan Faryna served as a Global Voices author and translator. Global Voices is a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research think-tank focused on the Internet’s impact on society.
His political, scholarly, social and technical opinions have appeared in The Chicago Defender, Jurnalul National, The Washington Times, Sagar, Saptamana Financiara, Social Justice Review, and other publications.
Mr. Faryna also served as editor-in-chief of Black and Right (Praeger Press, 1996), a landmark collection of socio-political essays by important American thinkers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Copyright 1996 to 2012 by Stan Faryna.
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