What Does FrontierVille Teach You About Running a Small Business?

by Gil Zeimer on March 30, 2011

When you first log on to Facebook.com/Frontierville from Zynga, the San Francisco digital game giant, the welcome message reads: “Howdy Pardner! Come join us on the frontier, where you’ll carve out a home in the wilderness and raise a family. There may be bears and snakes, but there’s gold too, and your fellow pioneers are there to help!”

So how does chopping down trees, harvesting crops, feeding chickens, buying horseshoes, and earning free gifts to send to friends actually help you become a better businessperson? Or is playing a game like this just another waste of time?

To answer these questions, we asked Ambere St. Denis, a licensed Commercial Insurance Broker at Ice Insurance Agency in San Francisco.

ISBB: How does playing FrontierVille help you run a small business?

St. Denis: I started with another Zynga game, Farmville, and played for at least a year. I don’t smoke so it has become my version of a cigarette break. A way to take a mental break before switching to a new task. I don’t play video games, so it’s surprising that I got so into this game. But the reward system is particularly motivating for me. The rewards rack up and you use them to increase the size of your farm’s business as well as post onto Facebook for your neighbors to reap rewards as well.

Then, a friend of mine who works for Zynga told me about FrontierVille as a new game, so I’m now an addicted player.

What I prefer about FrontierVille (FV) is the collaborative component that is built in. You not only receive rewards for active play, you need to help neighbors and need the help of neighbors to progress levels. It is a very social game in that respect. And when I see my friends and FrontierVille “neighbors” in person, it is a bonding topic of conversation.

How often do you play?

I play routinely. Typically I log in several times a day for 5 or 10 minutes. That’s the addiction part, crop harvesting means you have to come back to play more often.

What do you get out of playing?

FV is a fun, low stress activity that keeps me sane when dealing with the bustle of my schedule.

How does it help you sell more insurance or network with other professionals?

I wouldn’t say that playing FV gets me any more business per se (although it has). That is certainly not how I got into playing nor why I continue. I would say that it helps keep me productive because I need small breaks in the day to keep me motivated and task oriented.

The caveat is that it can certainly become a major distraction as well. I hate to admit it, but I have arranged my schedule to be able to harvest crops!

It has also, however, served as a networking tool. FV comes up in random conversations. Typically someone who doesn’t play complains about how many posts their friends make! But then I get the names of those friends and we add each other for the sole purpose of being FV “neighbors!” FV is a social networking game in this respect. Plus I meet new people since we share our “addiction” in an open forum.