Sunday, 18 October 2009

Farmville: A Short History

heather "From breakfast, or noon at the latest, to dinner, I am mostly on horseback, attending to My Farm or other concerns, which I find healthful to my body, mind, and affairs." — Thomas Jefferson

Day 1 — We are sitting around my grandmother's kitchen table when my Aunt Andi begins talking about a new Facebook app called Farmville. She has a melodic, mesmerizing sort of voice, the kind that teachers use when they read books to children, so every story she tells — even if it's about a trip to the mailbox — feels promising, whimsical. She calls it her "little farm" and explains about plowing and planting and harvesting for coins. She says you can give gifts, like pigs, to your Farmville neighbors.

It occurs to me as she's talking that my grandparents grew up on actual little farms. They plowed and planted and harvested for real money. Well, not my grandma. She would get headaches from the sun and my great-grandma would send her into the house to rest.

I go home. I start a farm.

Day 2 — I planted strawberries last night. They wilted.

I G-Chat Andi: My strawberries died in the night!

She replies: Silly, you can't plant strawberries before you go to bed!

Day 4 — I have started a Farmville spreadsheet: cost, harvest time, profit, profit margin, potential profit per day. I email my friend Jeanne to tell her about Farmville. She emails back: "I cannot play Farmville. I am already better than you at Mario Kart, Wii Tennis and Speedminton. I don't want to give you an inferiority complex." I tell her that Farmville is not a competition. She insists, rightly, that I would make it a competition. Besides, she notes, shouldn't I be boning up for my Jane Lynch conference call the next day?

Day 5 — I have the choice of taking a shower before my Jane Lynch interview or playing Farmville for 30 more minutes. I choose Farmville.

Day 6 — I panic because I forgot to factor plowing overhead into my Farmville Cost Accounting spreadsheet. Jennie says I shouldn't run over myself with a tractor or anything because of my mistake. As if I have enough money to buy a tractor!

Day 7 — Abigail joins Farmville. Everything changes.

Day 9 — Kat and Jennie join Farmville. My life is complete.

Day 14 — Standing outside of Taco Bell, waiting for my Fourth Meal, Abigail and I have a Farmville strategy planning session by phone. She's on her way to LAX. She explains about Ribbons, which I had been completely ignoring. She asks, again, if we should really be holding onto our Farmville Dollars so tightly. I tell her we should spend the hell out of our coins, but there's no way to replenish our Farmville dollars once they're gone. I ask her to trust me. She says she will. She tells me what to order at Taco Bell. I trust her too.

Day 16 — I call my sister before sunrise. I tell her I need more Farmville neighbors so I can upgrade to a bigger farm. She tells me she will sign up for Farmville. I tell her that's weaksauce. She updates her Facebook status, asking her friends to friend me and become my Farmville neighbors. They do. I upgrade. Three times.

Day 19 — The Collective is on a Farmville evangelical tour. Our bullying works. We should start a religion.

Day 20 — Abigail and I spend our G-Chat strategy session feeling superior to farmers who plant artichokes: four days, two experience points, 119 coin profit. Worst investment ever.

Day 22 — People keep asking Kat, Jennie, Abigail and I how we adopt ugly ducklings and black sheep so quickly. We demure. The answer: Before any of us post a wayward animal, we Collective Twit it to one another. We are a family of sly overachievers.

Day 23 — My internet goes down ten minutes before I am meant to harvest hundreds of blueberries. It is 11:30 on a Saturday night. I call AT&T. The customer service lady is, as always, polite and apologetic, but it is an area outage and my internet will not be back up until the following day at 9:00 p.m. There are people drowning in actual floods in my state. I slam my fist down on my desk: "My blueberries will wilt!" She says, "Thank you for calling AT&T."

Day 29 — Sometimes I forget to turn off the sound on Farmville. The cows' mooing drives Scout into an absolute frenzy.

Day 30 — "Knock knock," Abigail messages first thing in the morning.

"Who's there?" I respond.

"A whole field of artichokes!" she writes back.

We laugh and laugh.

Day 32 — Abigail emails: "Are these Sweet Seeds sweet potatoes what we've been waiting for?"

I email back: "Oh, so very yes."

We use our coveted Farmville dollars to buy them. Over the next seven days, we rocket four levels each.

Day 33 — During a ridiculous movie in which Jennifer Aniston falls in love with a hotel clerk, Amy looks scornfully down to the end of the couch where I'm sitting with my laptop and says, "Are you harvesting?" I tell her I am. She says, "That clicking is going to get you killed. By me."

Day 35 — We are sitting around my grandmother's kitchen table when I begin talking about Farmville. "So, you start off with a small plot of land, and you plow however you like, and plant seeds according to how much money you have/want, how many experience points you hope to gain, what time you'll be around to harvest. Plus you can buy and adopt animals or gift them to your neighbors. You can purchase different houses and cottages and decorations based on your experience level and how much money you have. There are endless strategical possibilities! I want to live on my farm!"

Amy stands up from the table, under the pretense of getting more dessert, and out of the corner of her mouth sings: "You sound like a kook!"

My dad rolls his eyes at me and says, "So the person with no life is the person with the highest Farmville score?"

My grandma places a comforting hand on my arm, so I don't snap at him for his condescension. I smile at her and she smiles back. She has a Farmville Farm, too. Plowing doesn't give her headaches anymore.

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