Game gifts that make you go

Unlocking various items allegedly made available by Farmville may paper up your social account walls with tons of useless posts. Is this all? Perhaps not.


A plot of virtual land, eternal concern about which crop to plant or harvest and freedom from fake gifts for all. This would be a (somehow sorry) attempt at defining virtual farmers’ pledge of allegiance to their social game of choice.

The undisputed success of the virtual farming game (now second only to its city-themed sibling, as visible in the top below) was attributed, among other things, to its very strong viral mechanism: keeping users under heavy “game message” fire (friend made it to level x, new item available, send a gift to your ‘neighbor’, share a virtual animal, etc.).

Due to the recent steps taken by Facebook in order to allow its members to report excessively annoying app messages, the virtual farmers’ newsfeeds as well as their friends’ news feeds are now somewhat clearer. At least theoretically.

The inhabitants of New Spam York, the other city that never sleeps, will still thrive in social network land because not all farmers will go to the trouble of taking any action (hide or report as spam) which would enable the platform to sort out “high quality messages”. If, however, they’re willing to go this extra mile, the players would have to have reached a guru level in point of game change awareness (what does a genuine message look like? what items are unlikely to be made available by my game providers?). Come to think of it, this does take the fight against spam messages down from the platform to the user level, which apparently gives users (at least those who are aware of their selective power) more control, but actually tackles the spam issue from the effect rather than from the cause end.

Is this just another case of paranoid fear of the spam deluge? Let’s go to the facts.

Step 1. Regular player sees game-related message on his/her wall.

Is a rainbow cow credible as a gift? Yes.  Is this official? At least it says so. Any doubts, given that this is a re-release? Well, actually, they’re apologizing, so why not cut them some slack this time? Is this the real thing? “via Farmville” seems credible enough proof.

Note: “re-release” might set the more inquisitive players on the hunt for the info of the first rainbow cow offer gone wrong. If so, then this is the end of this bovine themed trip

Step 2. Regular and (now) excited player clicks to see the wonder.


No cause for concern so far as claim&publish is a familiar mechanism.

Step 3. Trouble right around the corner.

First, the Publish option- optional, by definition- becomes mandatory.

What if, once caught in the clicking frenzy, the player yields and publishes the announcement about the rainbow cow? Enter the never ending quiz/game maze. The master of all gift dispatches says: do this or that to get your cow!

Just say no. It’ll be a waste of your time and a clearly frustrating experience for those who are actually very much into Farmville collectibles.

Harmless as this may all seem, let’s not forget about the post the player has just published on the wall. It’s there for all of his/her friends to see and click. To say nothing of the fact that the maze page may be later on be used for malicious purposes: nicely set up for phishing or as a download page for dangerous programs disguised as useful tools.

P.S. This plant-it-yourself business is gradually spinning its web into reality as well with virtual farmers soon on the way to getting their fingers from virtually green to really green& dirty. Is it just me or this smells like a lot like future phishing trouble (“Hi, in order to claim your cucumber plantation located at 23 Greefingers Road, please send us your bank account details”).

This article is based on the technical information provided courtesy of Tudor Florescu, BitDefender Online Threats Analyst.

All product and company names mentioned herein are for identification purposes only and are the property of, and may be trademarks of, their respective owners.

About the author

Ioana Jelea

Ioana Jelea has a disturbing (according to friendly reports) penchant for the dirty tricks of online socialization and for the pathologically mesmerizing news trivia. From gory, though sometimes fake, death reports to nip slips and other such blush-inducing accidents, her repertoire is an ever-expanding manifesto against any Victorian-like frame of thought that puts a strain on online creativity. She would like to keep things simple, but she never does.