Evil Lessons I Learned From FarmVille

FarmVille -- in case you've been sequestered, Facebook-less, and on the run, but sheesh, even Osama bin Laden is on Facebook, without any friends, but he's still there -- is a Facebook "game" about farming. FarmVille players grow crops, raise livestock, gather knickknacks, give gifts to their neighbors, receive gifts from their neighbors, collect virtual money and experience points, and run their lives according to their crop schedule. It is easy to get wrapped up in playing, even to get addicted to it.

As I have played FarmVille (yes, I admit I play FarmVille), I have learned a number of evil lessons about farming. I sincerely hope these lesson only apply to FarmVille and aren't a reflection of how farming happens in the real world.

  1. Neighboring farms are there for your amusement.
    Your neighbors can't stop you from doing whatever the heck you want on their farms. Wanna feed their chickens? Sure, go ahead! Don't worry about how much they've been fed so far today. Want to fertilize Farmer Bob's crops? No problem! Who cares if he's an organic farmer, he can't stop you!

  2. There's no concern about fertilizer use.
    Farmers are encouraged to fling fertilizer about with abandon on their neighbors' farms. There's no thought as to appropriate amounts of fertilizer, no thought to the environmental impact of fertilizer use, no thought to the benefits of organic farming. Splash that fertilizer down and those crops will grow like mutants!

  3. It's okay to steal great things from your neighbors.
    While you're futzing around on your neighbors' farms, you can find all sorts of useful stuff -- spare gas, farm implements, kitschy junk. You can also find some pretty valuable things, too -- gold eggs being foremost.

    What do you do when you find something useful or valuable on a neighbor's farm? No way would you give it to that neighbor; if he really wanted it, he wouldn't have left it lying around in the dirt or in the henhouse. According to FarmVille, the proper thing to do is to get together with some of your other neighbors, knock back some brews, and you pass your ill-gotten gains out to them.

  4. Hobos can be indentured servants.
    You go out to your stable one fine morning. You throw open the door, all set to collect a huge mess of horsehair, and what do you see? You see someone asleep in the hayloft! Most folks would call this person a "hobo", give them a nice, warm meal, and send them on their way.

    Seeing as you're a FarmVille farmer, you have another name for them. You call them an "arborist" or a "farmhand" and you put them to work in the fields. In no time at all, this incredibly hard-working person has picked all your ripe fruit or dealt with all your waiting animals. They've made you a nice sum of money and you didn't have pay them or do a thing yourself!

    Except, you do have one chore... Your farmhand, your arborist, did so much work in so little time that you have worked them to death. Your one remaining task is to dispose of the body. Sink it in the duckpond? Mulch it with your plow? Feed it to your pigs and cows? FarmVille has no sheriff or judicial system, so there's nothing stopping you.

    Besides, your neighbor, Farmer Bob, had 3 farmhands and 5 arborists last week alone, and look how well his crops are doing! You've got to keep up with the neighbors, after all...

  5. There's never a need to give your soil a rest.
    You want to plant the same crop on the same land thousands of times in a row? No problem! It'll grow just as good the thousandth time as it will the first. Better throw some fertilizer at it, just in case! Rather, hope your neighbors will fertilize your crops because you can't fertilize your own crops.

  6. You get credit for your neighbors' work.
    If your neighbors come and feed your chickens and fertilize your crops, you'll reap the benefit of their hard work both monetarily and experientially.

  7. Animal Welfare I: Horses are happy to live in tenements.
    In order to provide a nice, cozy home for 20 of your horses, you can build a stable! You buy a foundation for a stable, then you convince your friends to give you various building materials with which to complete construction. These building materials consist of:

    What the heck kind of stable can you build with that? That's not a stable, that's a shanty! That won't provide shelter for one horse, let alone 20. Those horses are going to be hating life and hating you. Lucky for you all those harnesses are there, since you can use them to restrain the troublemakers. At least no whips were required to build your stable.

  8. Animal Welfare II: Only chickens need to be fed.
    If you stay in the good graces of your neighbors, they'll feed your chickens for you. All your other animals are out of luck. Cows, goats, sheep, horses, reindeer, elephants, porcupines -- they seem to survive quite happily without being fed.

    Maybe they eat each other. I don't keep close count of all my animals, especially my cows. Maybe every few days they have a barbecue.

  9. Animal Welfare III: Animals have no concept of personal space.
    Overcrowding is not an issue with animals. "Free range" is a nonsensical concept since you can cram a huge number of animals together and they don't need any space to wander around.

    This is most of my FarmVille farm:

    See that wide stripe of brown and white? Those are my cows. I don't know how many cows I have now, but it's at least 700. (I'd have more, but FarmVille stopped letting me buy cows.) If FarmVille farmers had to be concerned about animal welfare, there's no way on Earth that I'd be allowed to cram so many cows in such a small place.

  10. Animal Welfare IV: Baby animals need no protection.
    There is absolutely no oversight on who can adopt baby animals. All you have to do is speak up faster than anyone. Can your farm support more animals? Are you going to feed that baby elephant to your herd of piranhas? Don't know, don't care, just take it away from my farm.

  11. Animal Welfare V: Animals are secondary to plant crops.
    Animals are content to wait as long as you want before you "harvest" them. Those cows and goats can wait weeks and months with full udders. That can't be healthy. Those kitties, lambs, and reindeer can wait for years before you brush them. Your planted crops, though, you'd better take care of them pretty quickly or they'll wither where they're planted. Oddly enough, tree fruit can stay ripe forever, same as animals. Crops are king, in FarmVille.

    I'm beginning to wonder if FarmVille is trying to convert us into vegetarians. Milk and eggs are the only edible animal products, so I guess FarmVille is pushing us to ovo-lacto vegetarianism.

  12. FarmVille farms are built on old landfills.
    There's all kinds of crap lying around in your farm land -- spigots, spare tools, salt shakers. It's hard to walk across a plot of land without tripping over something that shouldn't be there.

    It could be worse. It could be an old burial ground.

  13. Convenience trumps crop safety.
    Beyond the landfill issue, FarmVille farmers apparently store their spare gas in their fields, among their crops. I guess maybe this is a matter of convenience. If you're out in the fields and your harvester runs out of gas, you don't have to go far for a refill. It doesn't seem too good for the crops and animals though.

  14. FarmVille farmers must deal with greedy bankers.
    FarmVille farmers must deal with two parallel economies. When selling crops and animal products, you get paid in Farm Coins. When you buy seeds, some animals, and some things for your farm, you pay in Farm Coins.

    Other animals and other stuff must be paid for with Farm Cash. You get one unit of Farm Cash whenever you go up a level. Other Farm Cash must be purchased -- using real-world money -- from the bank. For lack of a better term, we'll call it the Bank of Zynga, or BoZynga.

    You can buy Farm Coins from BoZynga, but why bother? Jump into a quick plant/harvest cycle and over the course of a few days you'll have the Farm Coins you need. But Farm Cash is different. If you don't buy Farm Cash from BoZynga, you've got to go the slow plodding way of gaining levels. It'll take forever to earn 50 Farm Cash, but give the bank some of you real-world cash and you've got those 50 Farm Cash, nice and easy.

  15. The really cool stuff is only available through the bank.
    This is a corollary to the previous lesson. Sure, you can buy stuff with your piddly old Farm Coins. But if you want something really spiffy, really cool, something none of the other FarmVille farmers have, then you'd better pony up the real money -- trot out your wad of Farm Cash!

    What's that? You don't have enough Farm Cash? Off to BoZynga, loser, and get some Farm Cash!

  16. Milk is a terribly undervalued product.
    Cows, back when you could buy them, cost 300 Farm Coins. The milk they produce every day is worth only 6 Farm Coins. Brushing a foal gets you 80 Farm Coins per day. Brushing a kitty gets you 90 Farm Coins, though you can only do that once every three days. You can get 45 Farm Coins by collecting ice cubes from a penguin, though again that's only every three days. While I do see the attraction of collecting ice cubes from a penguin, are they really that much more better than milk? And it's ludicrous to think that brushing a kitty is 10 times more valuable than milk.

  17. There's no free market.
    You want to sell your milk at a higher -- or lower -- price than your neighbors? Tough luck, you've got to sell it at a price set by someone else.

    Oh, wait. That's how it is in real life, too.

  18. Your friends only love you when you give them stuff.
    Okay, this isn't something FarmVille taught me; it's just an irrational fear I have.

  19. Farming is a no-risk business.
    You may lose a crop here or there, but it's only if you're inattentive and forget to harvest in time. No worries about destructive pests, violent weather, drought, disease, or bank foreclosures. Your farm will always make money and be profitable.

I know. FarmVille is a game. It is not a simulation, It is not modeling real life. However, I can't help analyzing it. I can't help looking for lessons in the game. The lessons I've discerned from FarmVille leave me a bit troubled.

Text and image are copyright 2010 by Wayne Morrison (tewok@storm-monkeys.com), all rights reserved.

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