The war in Facebook

by Evans Yonson

(Note: This blog came out online on 3 April 2009 in my Facebook account.)

Barcelona – One of the many things that I have been hooked online lately is Facebook’s Mafia Wars. As the game’s name suggests it is all about having a family. The bigger the family (or the more gang members) that you have, the more chances of being a successful Mafioso. The rule of the game is very simple. You start alone but along the way come your family (or gang) members. Members are your Facebook buddies.

What is a family? Who comprises a family? What does one benefit from having a family?

Coming from a family of five siblings and growing up with our mother was good enough to say that I grew up in a family. Albeit my father’s absence for a while, I think I grew up in a family myself. Family, for me, is defined first and foremost having blood relations. It could be brothers and sisters by both parents. It could be siblings by having the same father and different mothers. Or it could be the other way around and it depends on who among the two parents are more promiscuous. For sure, my father was. While growing in a small city, it was not very hard to be in constant contact with your siblings. You go to the same school. You shop in the same stores. Or you even go to the same disco on weekends. Family, in sociological terms, is the basic unit of society. Society would not function without the presence of families.

In Facebook’s Mafia Wars, family is simply defined by inviting friends to be part of your Mafia. This concept of family comes into operation when one is exposed beyond the confines of the familial grounds. In school, you create your own set of friends. In the community, you form your own company. But these families that you begin to belong to, share a certain quality or value or even objective that is in consonance with your own values or objectives in life. Whatever that maybe, those values or objective become the factor that binds the family closer together and stronger. In Facebook, the main objective is not only having a big family, which I believe is big plus in overpowering other families, but going to the top with a little (or a lot of) help from your family. Each Mafioso has his/her own health, energy and stamina. The beginner is given a certain point for each. While these features are self-explanatory, they are all somehow connected to the Bank. If you don’t have enough health, you go to the Bank for hospitalization. The higher the energy you got, the more you able to get points from the various jobs available for being a Street Thug, or a Consigliere, or a Capo, or a Hitman. Each job has corresponding remuneration and possible loots of arms and ammunitions. Stamina is needed for every attack (attacking, killing, or robbing another) that you do against a Mafioso.

The Mafia Wars’ family could reach only up to 501 members, which is quite large from the point-of-view of a Filipino. Each Mafia member has also his/her own family. too This typology of family then creates a whole social network of families, where one depends on his/her family for support. The support that you get varies from financial to defense and even gift-giving of certain precious items like gems and horses. In everyday life, family support is very important. Families provide support in times of need and even in times of merriment. Each member has his/her own identity and personality. You could either be a Fearless one, or a Mogul, or the self-serving Maniac. The Fearless is one who attacks everyone who is up against his Mafia. The Mogul is the business-minded Mafioso, who invests in properties and inventories of guns and ammunitions. The Maniac is a combination of both Fearless and Maniac.

Families stick with you through thick and thin. Loyalty is one value that members learn from early on. You attack others with your family. When somebody attacks you, your family is there for you. Families even give gifts/tokens to you and you are expected to do the same to them. When you attack another Mafioso your family is there for you. All these things are done in the name of family. When you are all alone in a big city not your own, Facebook’s game becomes your family online. They may be your friends from home or from somewhere else but it does not fill up so much for the real thing. It provides an escape from the boredom and homesickness that the makers of Mafia Wars (Zygna) thought of in the first place. When your family is not there for you, there is always Mafia Wars. But when your wifi connection is free and very unpredictable, your online family suddenly becomes useless. There is simply no replacing for the real one these days.