I first read about Empire Avenue when Shel Isreal of Good Neighborhoods wrote about it, apologizing for encouraging his readership to participate in the new 'social media stock market' game.
"I ... thought the game would develop. A marketplace of social capital would include, short sellers indicating betrayals between friends and colleagues; authentic and corrupt buy-sideanalysts, trading on inside information, when you knew in advance that your friend was about to be promoted or sacked.
I saw the opportunity for hostile takeovers and online virtual proxy meetings.
In short I saw a game imitating life and that game would show information and teach us something about social media community behavior.
What was I drinking?"
I came upon Empire Avenue again by way of a mention by an out of town friend. So, I decided I would at least try it since I'm admittedly a huge nerd who likes to tinker with new toys, especially social ones.W
"Many of the newly jobless rebrand themselves as consultants. The number of so-called independent contractors is up by more than 1 million since 2005, according to Jeffrey Eisenach, an economist at George Mason University. More than one in five of them work in management, business, or finance."
At first brush I figured I would give the game a decent go. I didn't immediately take to it, but I had the resolve to give it a chance. I was most interested to see, at least from a sociological perspective, that these types of social games are emerging and many of them, at least over time, are poised to mimic the societal conventions we already have in place in 'real life.'
What's interesting about Empire Avenue, besides the rather vain and disturbing notion that relationships people share can be bought and sold as a product, are how the social status icons in our everyday life are also part of this game and available for "purchase." Want to e-keep the McMansion you're about to lose in your functioning life to forclosure? Build up your social stock portfolio and at least you don't have to worry about the bank! (Or, do you?) The only thing that was blatantly missing was to me the Stepford Wife (for only 45,000e!)
Then I looked at the demographics...
It's not droves of unemployed, male, banker-types at all! It's our 34-44 year old, more employed, more educated women! I suspected the same situation was occurring here in Charlotte when I read national news about the primary breadwinner's majority pendulum swinging in favor of the ladies. With Empire Avenue, now we can even see this being played out online, too.
This begs the question of if we are moving towards a new iteration of SecondLife with these types of social games or not. I see an awful lot of digital art, in this form a social network game, imitating life. What are we doing here? What is the point?
I'm going to take it back to the SAT's and say: Uptown professional, childless women are to Myers Park stay-at-home moms as Empire Avenue is to Farmville. Unfortunately, it seems to be extremely labor intensive for those of us who don't fall into that stay-at-home demographic so there's exceptional potential, especially with the Uptown Charlotte set, for Empire Avenue to be a complete flop. What, with all weight of the majority of the housework and real work women are faced with now. Who needs another social media game (and profile, fake life, fake assets, community, connections, lists, etc, etc, etc) to maintain? Not me! My prediction is that this is another flash in the pan social game that will go hyper niche-y then fade out of public conciousness, much like Farmville has.
I think I'll spend my time over at Referral Key. At least then I might get some actual capital out of it.
What do you think? Is Empire Avenue poised for online explosion? Am I taking the game to seriously? What does the future of EA look like to you: is it the next Facebook or another flash in the pan for the glassy eyed validation junkies? Holler in the comments!