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My First Mob Hit

A couple years ago I finally joined Facebook, hoping to track down some long-lost friends, and with one very sad exception, I’ve managed to do that.

I’ve also — entirely by accident — gotten a lot closer with other distant friends and my extended family in the process. I’ve made a couple business connections, and even learned a thing or two about the friends I hang out with every Friday night.

I quickly learned that Facebook had some real value. Oh, and one more thing: Games.

One of those friends from high school invited me to join his mob in Mob Wars. How could I resist? I started playing, flew through the tutorial, and then discovered the game’s whole gimmick was to make you spam all your friends to join so you could bolster your mob’s size.

I didn’t do that. I invited a select few who I thought would really enjoy it, but that was all, and it left me in a tight spot. I enjoyed the game enough that I didn’t want to quit, but with such a small mob at my disposal I also found myself with few opportunities to progress.

The big exception to that was money. One of the leaderboards for the game is Total Wealth, so I knew if I could accumulate enough money, I could essentially grab a High Score even with a pathetic little mob. I just needed to make smart financial decisions.

See, one of the game elements is the purchase of real estate. You can buy any of a number of properties (from abandoned lots all the way up to glitzy casinos) which generate constant revenue. The thing is, they’re expensive to buy, and the cost increases over time (while the payout remains the same).

I spent a long time thinking about that game dynamic, and I was pretty sure it could generate some powerful wealth for someone with a good head for numbers. That’s not me. So I turned to one of my very best friends for help: Google.

I started a Google Docs Spreadsheet. I entered the starting costs of every piece of property. I figured out the rate at which those costs increased, and the payout per hour for each property, and my total hourly income across all properties, and how long it would take me to save up for each different property, and (ultimately) how much faster that investment would get me up to leaderboard-level wealth.

I spent hours figuring out the math and designing the spreadsheet — way more than I ever spent playing the game. Once I had the spreadsheet perfected, though, I didn’t need to play the game. I’d check the spreadsheet, log in, buy the properties my equations recommended, update my holdings, and I was done. I got rich, quick. It was pretty fun.

Then one day someone told me about Farmville — a humble Facebook game that was, all by itself, more popular than the entire Twitter service. That caught my attention. I just had to find out what was so special about that game.

And it featured some of the same dynamics — investment, hourly yield, wealth collection, the ability to progress through various levels and gain access to new resources. At first, all I had were strawberries. Strawberries. What a step down from running a notorious New York City crime family!

I did what I had to do, though. I planted Strawberries. And soon enough I was level two, and I could plant Eggplant (which was a little more expensive), and Squash, and Wheat, and each one had a slightly different yield or maturation, and soon enough I realized I needed a spreadsheet for this game, too.

So I made one, at level 4, with half a dozen plants available to me now, and I ran the numbers to see what would make the most profitable plant for me to fill my little garden with.

The answer? Strawberries. None of these newer plants offered any advantage at all. They were, without question, worse. So I set those aside, planted more strawberries, and kept leveling up looking for something better. Surely, someday, there would be something better than the first plant I ever put in the ground.

Spoiler alert! There’s not. And if you’re curious, I’ve got the spreadsheet to prove it.

Photo credit me (with considerable help from Adobe Photoshop).

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