Life lessons from playing CityVille

tl;dr – CityVille taught me that the beginning to anything is always frustrating and to use what I have to my advantage.

While I’ve been hiding underneath a rock in the past few months, I still managed to hear about the crazy and seemingly overnight success of Zynga‘s latest social game CityVille. From 0 to 70 million players online within a 30-day launch period is anything but ordinary, so out of curiosity I’ve reluctantly signed up for my first social game experience.

CityVille Loading Screen
CityVille Loading Screen

This isn’t a review for CityVille, but in playing the game for the past two months or so I’ve discovered a couple things that can be served as lessons I can adapt in real life.

The beginning to anything is always frustrating

There’s no getting around it, the beginning of the game sucks. I was so excited to start off the game playing like Sim City but as soon as I was out of Energy Units, I was stuck. Every move I made would consist of 1 Energy Unit, to which each unit would only replenish itself every 5 minutes. On top of that, I needed to collect enough coins in order to build the farms needed so I can collect enough supply to replenish the stores for more coins. The circle of life, circa 2010.

“Come ON, you son of a bitch!” I found myself saying in the first few days. There were so, so much I wanted to do for my city but I couldn’t because I didn’t have enough of anything. I could always spend some real life money for the Energy Units in the game, of course, but there had just got to be a better way.

It wasn’t until at least the second week of playing the game when I had built enough farms and stores did I find myself to be considerably on track. Slowly I had developed a system in harvesting supplies for the stores at certain times and working on building homes and expanding the city at the end of each day. No more, no less.

My City - Week 2
My City – Week 2

The beginning to anything is always frustrating. Looking back, it was probably like that when you were first learning how to ride a bike or when you were learning a new language. It’s often not the motivation you’re lacking, but that you’re so overwhelmed at the new things you just want to do everything at once.

As cliché as it may sound, Rome wasn’t built in a day. No one could ever accomplish everything from day one. The city was tough to build up in the first couple days, and often times I’d close the browser out of anger or forced myself to go for a walk because it was painful to wait for those Energy Units to replenish. It’s even harder when a game like CityVille is made to be addictive so the company can profit from your impatience.

Assess your situation and use what you have to your advantage

By the time my city was somewhat on track, I had already built more than enough farms fields to sustain the few businesses I had. I noticed a lot of my friends had that same issue in the beginning as well, so they began removing the extra farm fields to build more businesses in their towns. However, with a constant surplus of supplies and a shortage of money, instead I began to franchise some of my businesses and sell my supplies via the railway on a daily basis.

The concept of that is simple. I didn’t want to waste any more money in removing the farm fields (protip: unlike Sim City, moving an object is allowed and doesn’t cost you any coins!) or building extra businesses that would ultimately take up valuable space in my city. Both options seemed like a lost cause so instead I wanted to see how I could use what I had to my advantage.

The effect of that was amazing. I was earning a lot more coins and in doing so I was able to buy the expensive homes and businesses much earlier than any of my friends at the same levels. These homes and businesses would also generate more coins than average, and by the end of week six, my city was pretty much smooth sailing and I hadn’t need to worry about coins since.

My City - Week 6
My City – Week 6

The same is true in life. Not only is the beginning to anything is always frustrating, it’s also crucial to learn how you can use what you have to your advantage. I always tell people who are first starting their careers to save up for a rainy day fund. The actual amount of this fund is not important (though financial gurus say the fund should be 6-8 months’ worth of your monthly expenses), but your life will be considerably easier (as well as the invaluable sense of security) should anything unexpected happen in you life somewhere down the road.

But that’s just the beginning! After your rainy day fund is fully saved up, you can then (and only then) save up for another pot of money for investment. Like how I had built the luxury apartments and businesses in order to generate even more coins in CityVille, this pot of money is your golden ticket in potentially generating more income. I won’t go into too much on personal finance (that’s for another time and channel), but it is always good to read or at least think more about that.

So these are just two of many things CityVille has taught (or at the very least reminded) me about life. What about you? Have you noticed or learned anything in particular from playing CityVille, or other games in general?

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