Social Farming?

I kept hearing both in the real world and the virtual world about Farm Ville. It’s a game that you play through your facebook page that simulates a the life of a farmer. Growing fake crops takes place in real time (although much less than growing real food) so users have to keep logging back in regularly to monitor their fields. I decided to look-up which facebook games were the most popular and was utterly shocked to find FarmVille in the lead. In August 18 million people were playing it, in September 33 million, and this October saw over 50 million people playing it! It is being called the fastest growing game ever.

There are many things that weird me out about FarmVille and its competitor FarmTown who together dominate the ‘farming genre’ of facebook games. For one thing, its completely detached from any notion of reality. This of course is nothing new. After all, people who play Guitar Hero don’t often know anything about playing music. Same goes for all sports video games, you don’t need to know much about the actual sport to be good at the game. That’s the whole idea about video games, it allows you to be something your not.

I’m still processing exactly what this means. 50 million people! That’s a lot of fake veggies. I found this NYTimes article about FarmVille, its an interesting read. Apparently there are FarmVille artists who use their field to make artwork (kinda like a crop circle).Mona Lisa made from planting different crops on FarmVille

It seems like this whole craze is related to the recent trend towards gardening and growing your own food.  Everyone and their mother has become interested in home vegetable gardening within the last couple years and people are using web-technology to train themselves and share what they’ve learned.  I wonder if FarmVille is a product of that cultural undercurrent.  Or maybe, as many have said, the game is just really addictive.  FarmVille fan on YouTube

A ongoing project that I’ve been working on relates to local food and technology.  Although unlike FarmVille it involves real plants and real food growing in real space with real work.
C-U Fruit MapThe above map is a screen-capture of the C-U Fruit Map, a collaborative project to map out trees bearing edible fruit in our community.  Work is currently underway to find and plant more trees in publicly accessible locations.  The overall goal is establishing an edible infrastructure of perennial plants that will become sustainable community assets and getting the information for their use and care as widely distributed as possible.  Imagine free fresh fruit growing on every street corner (cherries growing on Cherry St.).  It might be wishful thinking, but the interest seems to be out there.

One thing about FarmVille that I like (for the record I haven’t played it, I just read the wikipedia entry) is that to succeed you need to work together.  Users are encouraged to visit their friends’ virtual farms and participate in a sort of barter economy for seeds, extra animals, and fertilizer.  This, for some reason, makes me hopeful of the notion that FarmVille might inspire people to turn some of their turf into a vegetable bed.  Or better yet, a fruit tree.

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