Facebook's Mafia Wars is sort of a compulsive disorder
I'm a recent convert to Facebook and was invited to join Mafia Wars - an online game - by one of my pals on the social networking site.
According to the Facebook Mafia War fan page, there are seven million people who want to pretend to be Mafiosi. I guess out of an Internet population of a couple of billion, that's not too many psychopaths for the rest of the world to have to deal with.
So how do you play Mafia Wars? You start off as an itsy-bitsy Street Thug, with a certain amount of "health", "energy", "stamina" and cash and you have to do very unpleasant things to gain experience and money such as mugging, holding up corner stores, robbing warehouses, stealing cars, beating up rival gangsters, robbing pimps and "collecting on loans".
By behaving like a gangster, you accumulate cash and experience because you need both to acquire weapons, vehicles and defenses to beat off others who might want to "off you".
You can also start "collections" - these include such things as a diamond flush collection, a poker chip collection, a boxing collection, a cigar collection, a tie collection, a cufflink collection and a great race horse collection - Arkle, Eclipse, you name them. You get a whole raft of these and you gain a "vault" bonus.
If you want to "fight" on Mafia Wars, it really is useful to have a heap of friends so you can gang up on lesser creatures and off them for more experience.
Fighting is one of the least interesting things in this online game. There's no point fighting anyone that's got as many mafiosi as you, and it's suicidal to try - you lose experience. It's also just so not real time. Go to bed and you might wake up in the morning to find you've been offed without so much as a by your leave.
You can "travel" to other places such as Bangkok, Cuba and Moscow, where you can pit your "wits" against the mafiosi hanging out there.
The game is compulsive, but it's for compulsive people. So far I've reached level 145 - categorized as "boss", where the so-called rewards are greater but essentially you're just doing the same all over again, over and over and over again, offing people and building up your so-called "money" in the laundering bank.
I have $12,465,732,775 in the Mafia Wars bank - as a result of plundering and taking rent on my "properties". This money is useless when you really need it, that is to up your energy, health etc. Sure, you can buy any amount of rottweilers and machine guns but that's no help in the OCD game.
And here's the clever thing for compulsive Mafia War players. You can buy the stuff you really really need using your Paypal account, or your credit card, or by signing up to various payment providers. This, we guess, is how the Mafia Wars folk make their money.
This is no MUD, but it's popular, and it's compulsive. You could always play other games from the same folks such as FarmVille, Vampire Wars, or FishVille. There's one born every minute, or is it seconds these days?