As soon as I committed to playing FarmVille, Mom began sending me a steady stream of gifts. She sent all manner of special deliveries, fuel, and other more obscure items that I had no earthly clue what to do with. At first I planted everything she sent, but she performed a very motherly, loving version of a facepalm and told me the best thing to do was sell them for coins, which could be used to purchase more efficient plants. Efficiency is an important part of the game. I would be lying, friends, if I didn't point out the parallels to the min-maxing and optimized builds I had spent time researching in EverQuest, WoW, and countless other RPGs throughout my gaming life.
I gained a couple levels, on my quest to reach level 20, where I could then participate in a co-op farm. At this point, everytime I logged in to Facebook, I was greeted by friend requests from people I had never heard of before. Who were these strangers, and why were they interested in me? They were my mom's FarmVille friends, of course. I was like a new convert who is then watched over by the more established members of the congregation; in this case, folks from all over the world with level 90+ farms were sending me rare goods that it would take me months to find on my own. My mind was boggled: I was being power levelled by my mom's associates. Again, something I had done for others in countless games before.
Greedy with my unearned gains, I maximized my farm in order to gain experience as fast as I possibly could. Every time I logged in, expert farmers would send me new goodies, sometimes even showing up on my farm to fertilize my crops, harvest for me, once even restoring my crops with scarce unwither spray. It was, in a word, glorious. I truly felt like I was part of a team, and we were all working together to level me up.
At this point, FarmVille took a more sinister turn. You see, while my mother's peeps were regularly visiting my farm, I wasn't exactly reciprocating the gesture. I didn't think much of it, especially since I was such a newbie. Why did they need my help? This... displeased my mother. She informed me that being a member of the group held certain responsibilities, and I needed to do my part to help out. She didn't come right out and say it, but the threat was there. These people could stop being my neighbors, and that, my friends, was a BAD THING.
I felt as if I was in a mobster movie, and my mother was the Godfather. "Don't disappoint the family, son," she seemed to be saying, "or you may end up swimming with the fishes." I was terrified; I was in my mid-teens now, my goal so close. I didn't want to jeopardize my chance at being in a co-op, so I stepped it up a notch. I visited all my neighbor's farms, sent special deliveries, and pretty much anything else I could think of to regain standing in "the family".