Image by sabrina.dent/Flickr CC
Farmville, a Facebook farming simulation, put a survey to its 60 million plus users the other week: "What kind of farmer are you?" Some farmers strive after aesthetics, some after accolades, and some are just about the bottom line. It might seem to mirror reality. I first found the game after a friend of mine gave me a horse, I clicked "accept," and all of a sudden I had a small farm with some strawberries growing. I wondered, what kind of virtual farmer would I be?
Farmville, the most popular game on Facebook, is in many ways a descendant of the classic Harvest Moon series, a still-running franchise begun on the Super Nintendo. In 1996, Harvest Moon boldly said, "Not very much is going to happen in this game. And you're going to be okay with that." The game consisted mostly of simple, repetitive tasks and a lot of waiting. For some reason, gamers really wanted to do this.
Maxis, the developer behind Sim City and The Sims tried their hand at farming with the more realistic Sim Farm a few years earlier, in 1993. In Sim Farm, players managed a large industrial farm with crop dusters, pestilence, nitrogen-based fertilizers and heavy machinery. It was more realistic, but realism is rarely why people play videogames. Nobody plays Call of Duty for the chance to get shot in the leg and spend six months in an army hospital.