When a game has ninety million players in a few months without even batting an eyelash, that’s something I need to investigate, no matter how inane the concept sounds.
Virtual farming sounds about as exciting as well, virtual farming, but this week, I took the plunge and signed up for Farmville on Facebook, keeping a journal on my progress as I went. How did I feel about it in the end? Read on to find out:
Farmville Journal: Day 1
Discover that I am now the proud owner of six squares of dirt, and an actual “farm” is nowhere to be found. Upon clicking through menus, I find out farm buildings cost over $100,000 in coins. I have $300.
I harvest some strawberries and wait for other stuff to grow. The percentages aren’t moving. Discover it takes days for shit to grow on my farm. Uh, day one over I guess?
My beautiful farm!!!!1!
Farmville Journal: Day 2
Some of my shit grew so I harvest it. Soybeans? Gross, not planting those again. My strawberries are withered. F*CK! I guess I’m supposed to check in every four hours for those, meaning I’m never planting them again.
Plant some eggplant seeds and wander around my farm, which is still not a farm and still six squares of dirt. I am told I unlocked a barrel when I leveled up. After five minutes of searching , I cannot find this mystical barrel. Maybe it’ll appear tomorrow.
Farmville Journal: Day 3
Still no barrel. I assume it’s buried in the store somewhere and costs 10,000 farm coins and does nothing. I’ve discovered the annoying fact that to get anything good in this game, you need to have “neighbors” which involves nagging your friends to join Farmville. Now I understand why I got those annoying invites all the time. Even though I’m doing this for scientific purposes, I will never, ever send out a Farmville request to my friends or publish anything from this game on my newsfeed.
Who the hell does things in this game and is like “yes, I want my friends to know that I’m level fourteen in Farmville and rescued a virtual baby duck and have nothing better to do with my life! I’m going to put this on my wall like it’s an actual accomplishment!”
Anyway, harvested some shit, planted some shit, wandered around. Another riveting day in the life of a virtual farmer.
Ah yes, I love all those monkey/elephant/tiger farms I went to as a kid…
Farmville Journal: Day 4
Arrive at my farm to find out that a guy I haven’t spoken to since fifth grade fertilized my crops for me because I’ve been slacking. Thanks, uh, dude. Let me give you a virtual high five.
Totally discover what the “plow” button is for today. My 2×3 patch of dirt is now a 6×6 patch of dirt. Huzzah! I feel addiction setting already! But seriously, this game is awful.
Plant more shit. Wander around. Find a lonely turtle and help him. Not sure what this lonely turtle does for me. No, I do not want to publish my encounter with the lonely turtle to my newsfeed. Idiots.
Farmville Journal: Day 5
Man my wheat is really getting…tall! Is that was passes for excitement around here?
My 6×6 field looks more like an actual farm now, though I still have no buildings or animals. Why isn’t my lonely turtle hanging around. Is he not grateful for my assistance yesterday???
I’ve planted shit that apparently takes days and days to grow, so I’m stuck wandering around aimlessly again. I’d like to save up to buy some sort of animal that does something, but I think they’re all out of my price range.
When I investigated buying a $300,000 dog, I discover that you have to feed it every day for two weeks or it’ll run away. Are you kidding? If I’m paying $300K for a dog, I want it to be my footstool at my beck and call and sing songs and do my taxes.
Planted a sign on my farm. Sign reads: “Can anyone tell me why this game is fun?“
No responses yet.
Farmville Journal: Day 6
I’m trying to understand the difference between coins and “farm cash” but more importantly, I’m trying to understand why anyone would EVER pay real money for virtual money. I’m familiar with the concept in other MMOs where you can buy gold from Chinese people and that’s bad enough, but here, in Farmville?? You’ve got to be kidding me.
$50? Why that buys you almost 18 virtual baby tigers!
But is a Dairy Cow the equivalent of like a WoW legendary mount for the people who play this game? Do they really get that much satisfaction from meaningless virtual items?
As I “play” (if you can call it that) this game more, I’m starting to realize it’s almost a parody of MMOs. Yes, I’ve been caught up in games like Diablo II where I slaved away for hours to get imaginary items that did nothing outside of look pretty and make me kill faster. The same is true here, where I slave over slow growing crops to earn money to buy imaginary items that do nothing outside of look pretty and make me farm faster.
Farmville drones, maybe we’re not so different…you and I.
Still sleeping in the dirt, because it takes ten years to save up for an actual building.
Farmville Journal: Day 7
Well, that’s a week of Farmville, and my farm currently stands as a 12×12 rice paddy with a few random trees near the edges. I don’t find this particularly fun in the least bit, but I do understand why people play it. It’s an extremely accessible MMO for people who wouldn’t even know how to program a hotkey if their life depended on it.
Using the psychologically addictive game making principle of “click buttons, make money, level up,” Zynga has created something that DOES make you want to come back to it, however lame the game itself may be. Even I find myself caring about my farm a teensy bit at this point, waking up pissed when I find out my crops have withered.
I do take issue with that aspect of the game however, that FORCES players to come back and play, lest they lose everything they’ve worked for thus far. It’s a very unfair way to make players return, as I think most would have been happy to anyways, without the threat of dead crops and lost animals spurring them onward.
I feel like if this was based in a different setting, I might actually legitimately get addicted to it. As it stands, farming just is not interesting, but if they changed it to a medieval or space theme, they might rope in a hefty chunk of nerds like me who would return to train soldiers or build spaceships rather than harvest aloe vera and milk baby tigers. Zynga is the master of rebranding the same game over and over (hence their Mafia Wars, Ninja Wars, World Wars, Kingdom Wars and Pet Wars-type iPhone apps), so I think they should probably look into this if they want to expand their already ridiculously huge player base even further.
It’s dumb and it doesn’t interest me outside of its inherently addictive psychological properties, but I think my mom might like it, and any video game that can claim that honor, deserves to be a success.