Friday, December 4, 2009

You're not foolin' me, FarmVille.

If you've got a Facebook account, chances are you've seen the status updates about your friends "working hard in FarmVille," receiving the green thumb award, or a bid to become their friendly neighbor. If you participate in FarmVille already, you know all about it and how to climb the ladder to industrial farming as fast as possible and gain access to those elusive Lily and Asparagus seeds, but for those of you who are reading this on JustSaying and not on Facebook, let me explain.

After "allowing this application," users/players begin with a patch of land upon which they can:

- Plant trees for harvest
- Plow land and cultivate grains, fruits, veggies, etc
- Purchase cows for milk, pigs for truffles, chickens for eggs and so forth
- Build farm houses, fences, picnic tables
- And so on and so forth happy farming fun

In the beginning, most of the items on one's farm have been given as gifts by neighbors and only certain "crops" are available. The more you plant, grow and harvest, the more seeds are available to you thus unlocking more levels and allowing you to raise baby elephants (for circus peanuts), build a dairy farm (that holds 20 of your cows - regular, chocolate, strawberry or green), and expand your acreage! The more you can cram onto your little patch of pixels, the more coins and experience you gain and purchasing power you achieve. Not surprisingly, most farms that I've (virtually) visited have come to look like this:

A virtual CAFO! Seems oddly realistic, right? Well... yes and no. The encouragement for rapid development is spot on but the green fields and animal-friendly pastures are about as realistic as that beautiful agrarian scene on the Land o' Lakes butter container that the film Food, Inc recently debunked. So here are the top ten reasons why I am fed up with this FarmVille foolery:

1.) Real farms are a thing of the past and this game just encourages the disillusioned idea of happy cows. 99.9% of meat (chicken, turkey, pigs, cattle, etc) is grown/created (not "raised") in factory farms. There is no option for your animals to graze. Animals don't get "brushed." Chicken coops don't house 20 happy chickens. Pigs aren't loyal pets out collecting truffles for their owners. There is no place like FarmVille! 0.1% of real farms are like this. That is hardly enough land for 1/1000th of the Facebook nation.

2.) Expansion and overcrowding is encouraged. The more horses and rabbits you have, the more hair you can brush and sell so that you can but that tractor and harvest MORE crops at a FASTER rate!

3.) There is no climate or consequence. You would think that after a few solid months in FarmVille at least one of your neighbors would encounter a bigger problem than raccoons ransacking their crops. Like say... a drought. Or maybe an early frost? Late blight? Beetle infestation? Food borne illness? Nope. At least on the Oregon Trail there was a possibility of a broken axle or death by dysentery.

4.) There are no seasons or regions. Anything grows. Anywhere. Anytime. Or in no time rather. Pattypan Squash: 16 hours. Soybeans: one day. Rice: 12 hours.

5.) If only farms could be so bio-diverse. Crop rotation is a beautiful thing that happens practically no where except in backyard farms and biodynamic ones yet in FarmVille, it's as simple as click, click, plant.

6.) Supergrow: the fertilizer of FarmVille. Not only can you fertilize your own crops (because waiting two whole days for a mere pint-sized pineapple is just plain silly), you can fertilize your neighbors crops! So much for that certified organic rating and seal you worked so hard and paid so much for.

7.) The game refuses to acknowledge the actual yield from these animals. When I first received a baby turkey I was certain he'd be sold to slaughter on Thanksgiving - but the little guy gave me feathers instead. Still does actually. And the only chickens on these farms are layers. No broilers. Okay. Speaking of chicken farms... where have all the padlocks gone?

8.) Avatars wear overalls. Yeah, okay. Again... the happy farmer who wakes up via one happy rooster and milks his dozen cows, each with their name carved into their happy, hay filled space in a bid old barn.

9.) Seed purchase is the only part that is somewhat realistic. You'd think that once you purchase some strawberry seeds you could harvest the crop and re-use seeds from that batch yet, just like on real farms, Facebook has genetically engineered the seeds so that they only produce one batch and you have to purchase the same seed harvest after harvest. How fitting.

10.) For some reason, I am compelled to play it. When I first saw FarmVille I was pretty darn thrilled. A nice educational game for the Facebook tween population! Clearly I feel a tad differently today, and yet, I harvest my crops, pet my goats, and feel guilty when I don't log on in time and my squash withers. I even take pictures of my little farm, like this one that I call, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do."


tomokeefe said...

um, it is just a game! :)
What annoys me the most with this game is that I joined once to check it out and for the longest I get random people working on my farm. I'm not sure if i should thank them or tell them they need to beat it.

Deborah said...

I know it's just a game... I'm JUST SAYING! ;-)

So many of us live in this world of mistaken belief about happy farms where animals live until we eat them and this just encourages that now-obsolete idea.

tomokeefe said...

yeah that's true and a good point.

Rachel said...

I saw your status and I saw it was about Farmville, so I decide to check out your blog. Believe it or not, I read the whole thing and was not bored by it. Good topic choice. And that is true about the farms(my farm looks like that!XD)

Deborah said...

Thank you, Rachel!!! If I can captivate a teenager that makes me feel pretty good :-)

And yeah... I almost used a pic of your farm for the Confined Animal Feeding Operation LOL

Anonymous said...

Can't believe there's such a game! "That'll do Pig" Pic is cute though! L,M

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative information - I enjoyed reading it! I always enjoy this blog. :) Cheers, mother giving birth video