Bought The Farm: Episode 1
I recently read that over 1% of the world’s population play FarmVille. That’s kind of insane when you think about it. World Of Warcraft is often hailed as the most significant and successful video game of all time, but Blizzard’s 10 million or so subscribers pale in comparison to Zynga’s 82 million, paying or not. There’s no accounting for taste of course; a lot of stupid people have done a lot of stupid things in the history of the human race.
You might be detecting a derisive tone. Like many core gamers, I’m guilty of the assumption that all casual browser games are the gaming equivalent of fast food, nutritionless lunch hour snacks that fulfill a base desire to click buttons and make things happen. Whilst there’s a feeling that these brainless timesinks sap valuable hours away from playing ‘real’ games, the greater fear is discovering that we might actually like them and join the undiscerning masses.
In all honesty, I can’t make a qualitative assessment of FarmVille because I know very little about it; I haven’t played it myself, and contrary to its monstrous player base, don’t know anyone else who does. Though I’m very interested in understanding how Zynga has successfully leveraged the viral nature of social networking sites to propagate the popularity of FarmVille, I haven’t had any compulsion to actually play their game.
It’s often necessary for journalists to do dangerous things in the name of their field, whether it’s traveling to the front lines of Afghanistan or befriending the inner circle of a terrorist cell. Thankfully, games coverage rarely gets riskier than wandering into Akihabara’s Club Sega and playing the locals at Guilty Gear X2 (don’t ask), so my decision to play FarmVille isn’t likely to get me maimed, killed, or landed in a Thai prison. If it’s good enough for disgraced Bulgarian officials, it’s good enough for me.
I’d be lying if I said that my desire to play FarmVille was purely for the purposes of research; I’m a sucker for any game that features levelling and a sense of persistence. Seeing as my sporadically activated World of Warcraft account lies dormant at the moment, I’m hoping that my rustic adventure will go some way in filling this hole in my gaming diet. Given that I’m used to reading every little piece of information related to upcoming titles that I have a passing interest in, diving headlong into a game that I know virtually nothing about seems oddly appealing, too.
That being said, I’m no stranger to the bucolic pleasures of harvesting crops and tending livestock. In a previous life, I was briefly infatuated with Natsume’s Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life for the GameCube and would often spend all day watering my tomatoes and engineering hybrid fruit. Therefore, this experiment can go one of two ways; I’ll denounce the game as trash and leave my virtual farm to fallow as quickly as it was constructed, or you’ll find me joining the Facebook fan page to discuss the merits of organic pesticides and gibbering about the price of kumquats. Regardless of the outcome, you can expect to find periodic updates of my agricultural adventure here on the site. This leaves me with just one more admission to make.
My name is Josh, and I am a FarmVille player.