Aaron R. Davis
I really have tried to stay off of a lot of the social networks. And I’ve nearly always given in. I like to think it has something to do with extreme boredom, but I’m not above saying it also has something to do with my need for attention vs. my need to limit contact with other human beings in physical form.
Recently, I got onto Facebook because, apparently, every other member of my family made an agreement that Facebook is how everyone was going to stay in touch from now on and forgot to tell me about it. And believe me, for a while the silence was serene and fulfilling. But, eventually, I had to get on Facebook to find out that my sister got engaged (she lives in Australia, where apparently they don’t have telephones … wow, I sound old), but I tried to use Facebook the absolute minimum I could to get the basic information on people and then slink off to … well, other social networks.
The problem is, my wife has also recently succumbed to the Facebook scourge.
Now, I know that your first thought was probably something along the lines of “Jesus Christ, somebody actually married you?” Well, yes, so there is hope for you, too. But your second thought was probably “You see her all the time, why would you need to get on Facebook to interact with each other?”
The answer, sir or madam, is the games. The damnable games.
One moment, I was teasing my wife for joining a social network beloved by the elderly that she promised she’d never join, wondering aloud if she would get as sad when her virtual Fish Museum fish inevitably die as she did when her stupid neopet died back in the nineties, and the next minute she was enticing me to play Farmville.
And now I’m on Farmville.
All the time.
I don’t know how I got addicted to virtual farming, but I just can not stop doing it.
I’ve played other Facebook games before, but now I don’t even want to play them, because I just want to play Farmville. I want to sit for hours and arrange my fences and try to find more animals and put hay bales around and make it look as pretty as possible. I want to go to friends’ farms and fertilize their crops and feed their chickens and find Mystery Eggs so I can get materials to finish building my beehive.
See, at first I thought this was just because the game was automatically more fun because my wife was playing. But now I’m starting to suspect that there’s something more to it than that. Because I actually care about my farm now. I care more about my farm than I do with keeping in touch with members of my own family. It’s like Facebook has now become little more than a delivery system for Farmville. I’m actively worried that I met let my crops go for too long, and they’ll wither and die, and I’ll be out some money. And not just any kind of money: virtual money. Money that doesn’t even exist.
That’s what’s so weird about this game. Nothing is actually at stake here. I don’t pay to play it. My animals aren’t real. No nation depends on my crops for sustenance or fuel. But I’m playing this game as though lives are hanging in the balance. I’m actually jealous of my wife because she bought a barn and I can’t afford one yet. I mean, that just sounds sick.
You don’t understand: even as I’m writing this column, I’ve checked my farm three times because my eggplant crops were 99 percent grown and I wanted — needed — to harvest them before they withered.
Can this thing be made an educational program somehow? If kids could get as obsessed over Farmville as I can, they should just try and make school a virtual real-time gaming experience online. They have to learn lessons and demonstrate mastery over various levels of math, science, literature, etc. to advance to other levels and earn coins to buy … I don’t know, stuff to decorate a virtual mansion or something. And the time they play should be limited so they can get up and go waddle around or work out problems or read the classics so they can pass tests and level up.
They can keep doing this at more and more advanced stages as they grow up, and the things you can earn or buy or gift become more and more sophisticated. Before, inevitably, you graduate and the crashing realization comes that you’ll never be able to get any of the virtual stuff in real life because you spent your whole youth learning on Schoolville and have no idea what you want to do as a career now.
(Which, frankly, isn’t that much different from just going to high school, except there’s no on around to constantly cripple your fragile self-esteem.)
See? Farmville just helped me to come up with a bold new educational model.
Or it just helped me to come up with a massive justification for the enormous time hole that I am currently sinking my entire life into.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been farming all day and I need to get up and waddle around before my flesh fuses to this chair permanently.
Right after I check my crops.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at email@example.com.