In the beginning, I was perfectly OK with the Mafia Wars Facebook app. But by the middle of my six-month crime spree, I was utterly addicted, even going so far as to download iPhone software just so I could level up in line at the grocery. My infatuation with the game verged on illness.

By the end, however, I felt terrorized. My friends and loved ones had essentially turned into an online gaggle of 13-year old girls, constantly haranguing me with their gifts of shotguns, pestering me with their endless requests for billiard balls. It was with a heavy heart that I retired my character, Gina the Firecracker -- ah! that onetime Decapitator of Dons, that Destroyer of Delis -- sending her to forever sleep with the fishes.

I doubt I'll ever re-attempt Mafia Wars, nor am I likely to commit to anything (anything!) with that kind of grim, psychotic determination ever again. But if I were to -- and I don't mean that I would ever consider it, because I am so totally done, so this is purely hypothetical -- but if I were to, I would model my tactics on Sam Bardelson's own winning strategy, as described at BitMob.

Sam, who fancies himself as something of an MMO prodigy, fashioned an all-new, dummy Facebook account expressly for noodling with the Mafia Wars app. And eventually, several dummy accounts later, he cracked the code.

The real secret to the game, Sam discovered -- besides obnoxiously amassing 500 mafia members, which you would never, ever want to do with a real Facebook account -- is in making sure you select "Fearless" as your character type. The key, after all, is to find ways to level your character without expending any "energy," and on that count, Fearless characters have a secret advantage.

"I leveled past my new friends, who had been playing for months," Sam writes, "and I quickly completed all the available content. People flooded my inbox and my status updates with comments and questions every time I leveled up or completed another batch of jobs."

Sam's experience is proof positive that, with time, elbow grease, and a little ingenuity, any game can be broken -- even a really lame one. (Kidding! Kidding!)

Still. Emergent gameplay really is everywhere. It's weird.

[Breaking Mafia Wars: Casual Gaming Meets Hardcore Gamer]