I tried to grow strawberries initially; my first plants withered away before I even realized the berries were ripe. But with some effort, I’ve since successfully cultivated soybeans, squash, eggplant, artichokes, and even a variety of fruit trees. Did I attack the square foot gardening craze with a vengeance? Nope. The entirety of my gardening experience has been within the pretend land of FarmVille.
In this "simulation game," you plow land, plant seeds, wait for stuff to grow, then harvest and sell your produce to earn money to buy more seeds, livestock, and—if you can afford it—a barn. You don’t learn anything about what it takes to actually grow food or run a farm, except that your crops will die if you don’t tend to them regularly, like a Tamagotchi. I wonder what happens to your chickens if you don’t collect their eggs soon enough? Sounds like an interesting experiment! (Also, it’s really strange collecting eggs or milking a cow with a scythe, which seems to be the only method available.)
Since I never played—much less got addicted to—any of those alter-egotistical games like the Sims or Second Life, FarmVille has been my introduction to inhabiting a virtual persona (well, aside from my Wii Mii). But unlike those other games (or so I assume), FarmVille is rather solitary. You’re encouraged to become neighbors with other players, and you can visit their farms, but at the moment, you never actually encounter anyone else. Your interaction with your farmer friends is limited to posting a sign on their land for them to read later, or leaving messages on your own farm. I suppose instead of socializing, you could look at it as a kind of personality test, comparing one farmer’s approach to his or her homestead with another’s.
I’ve been on the farm for maybe 2 or 3 weeks. Here’s my modest little plot:
As you can see, I’m sort of an easygoing farmer. Once I gained enough cash and “experience points” for the privilege, one of my priorities was to acquire a rest tent, shaded by banana and passionfruit trees, with a couple of hay bales for my visitors to sit on and relax while watching my wheat grow. My animals have plenty of room to wander freely. The duck and the bunny have become inseparable, and since there’s no one to talk to on my farm, I’ve adopted a goat as my pet.
This is my friend Adam’s farm:
He’s only been cultivating his land for a couple of weeks longer than I have, but look how serious his operation is. Not only is it huge, but it’s also super orderly, well diversified, and efficiently laid out for maximum output. He’s an agrinerd.
FarmVille’s developer has been accused of ripping off not only the concept but also the graphic design from an earlier established game called Farm Town, and a Google Images search certainly confirms the two look more or less identical. I’ve never checked out Farm Town, but I gather its advantage is that players have the opportunity to mingle with one another at the local saloon.
It would be nice for my avatar to be able to shoot the shit with my farming buddies over a drink someday. But at the moment, I’m finding the whole experience rather Zen. I don’t claim to get the point of playing. It isn’t clear what the endgame is or whether there is one. Just like life.