Right click to harvest your crops in FarmVille
On Facebook, the online farming game FarmVille has millions planting, rotating crops, and raising livestock without the cleanup or the smell.
Even while calling Chicago home, Laura Hawkins Grimes is a country bumpkin. Her scenic rural spread has three dairy farms, two ponds and a log cabin, all skirted by a white picket fence as scarecrows stand sentry over her blackberries.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
And the best part is the 40-year-old sex therapist never has to leave her computer to tend to it all.
She's one of tens of millions of occupants of FarmVille, a near-utopian, wildly popular online fantasy game where folks rush to another neighbor's aid, ribbons readily come as rewards, plants don't get diseased, and there's never a calamitous frost, flood, or drought.
Since its launch last summer, the cartoonish simulation game has become a Facebook phenomenon, luring in everyone from urbanites like Grimes to actual farmers while gently nudging people to think more about where their food comes from.
"It's kind of what you don't see every day," Ms. Grimes says of FarmVille by Zynga, a San Francisco-based developer of games widely played at online hangouts such as Facebook. "I have to say, living in Chicago, what appeals to me about FarmVille is it's not urban."
FarmVille — with more than 72 million monthly users worldwide, the most talked-about application in Facebook status updates — heads a growing stable of simulated agriculture that also includes SlashKey's Farm Town on Facebook and PlayMesh's recently launched iFarm for the iPhone.
Purposely simplistic, FarmVille lets players build and trick out their farms, starting with a tiny parcel they till and seed with a range of crops including berries, eggplant, wheat, soybeans, artichokes, and pumpkins. Players can add pigs, cows, and chickens and accouterments such as barns, chicken coops, windmills, and greenhouses.
As is the case on real farmland, attentiveness in FarmVille is vital. Players who diligently tend to their crops see their farms flourish and their bank balances balloon. Those late with their harvests may see their crops — and their investment — shrivel and die.
Neighbors get rewarded with points and gold for scaring away pests, fertilizing, or feeding chickens on another player's spread.
"One thing we feel we got right is it has extremely broad appeal," says Bill Mooney, Zynga's vice president and general manager. "Everybody likes farming, whether you're a gardener, whether you grew up on a farm or your grandparents did. It's literally something everyone can relate with."
And with FarmVille, "there's an appeal that's just cute, with the amazing ways people take the farms and develop them out as their own."
In the end, he hopes, "people will see this as a fun little escape."
Grimes sure has. The transplanted Oklahoman who detests video games and has no farm background razzed her FarmVille-loving friends before her sister successfully prodded her to join.
Now, she admits, "I'm a total FarmVille freak."