To read Dave Thier's previous article about Farmville, published on TheAtlantic.com in November 2009, click here.
I trusted Farmville. A bucolic, summer idyll all year long on Facebook—it seemed so real I could almost tweet it. But it was a lie.
For those that don't know, Farmville is game company Zynga's Facebook phenomenon that in June 2009 gave rise to a new era in social gaming as millions of people around the world signed in daily to tend virtual crops and spend real money on fake animals, trees, duck ponds, and the like.
As it turns out, it's also a savage metaphor for the death of the small family farm to the grinding wheels of mechanized capitalism. Who knew?
In the beginning it was all so simple. There was a pleasing, jazzy tune, and my little character walked around planting tomatoes with a self-satisfied little smile. Just a few clicks and I had planted a field of eggplants—it seemed like all that mattered in the world was saving up enough money to buy a house, maybe a couple of banana trees and an elephant.
To supplement my income, I got a couple of cows, some chickens, and some pigs that somehow made money without dying. Life was good.
But I wanted more. There was always more in the market, it looked so nice. But to get that villa, I was going to need to do some serious clicking—clicks to plant, clicks to harvest, clicks to plow. Always clicking.