What is the role of negative events in a game? Looking at the massively successful Farmville, there's not much to learn, as negative events are indeed a very marginal part of the experience.
It has been pointed out that it is a distorted fairytale-like environment, perhaps fostering bad education about serious issues, but I argue that the lack of negative events finds its main reason in the necessity of being a low-impact, low-involvement game and thus allowing casual gaming (despite the purported cases of addictive gameplay) with low and, even more importantly, unpredictable frequency of gaming sessions. More than being cute and avoiding bad experiences: after all, there are many immensely successful games that come aplenty with negative, infelicitous events.
Moreover, as real money can be spent in Farmville in order to accelerate growth, the event of losing something would be perceived as being deprived of something we have bought and paid for. In other words, it would stop being a game. Does this mean that real value is incompatible with casual gameplay? I wouldn't say so, but there is a delicate balance between adding strong motivations for being a successful player and, at the same time, keep the "sandbox" effect intact.
[previous posts: Adventures in Farmville – Introduction]