Fiction vs. Reality: Farmville vs. SimCity

This article was meant to be the start of a series I’d have called “Fiction vs. Reality”, where I would take a hyper-realistic game and compare it to a game with a similar theme but rife with fantasy elements.  Of course, that never came into being–but maybe I’ll resurrect the idea here, on this blog.

The best part hands-down was the comment I received about five years ago, at the bottom of the article by someone calling herself “some chick”:

you need to calm the eff down about farming. the point of the sim is that it ISN’T real, and i’m sure the people of facebook are aware of that. sheesh

Obviously, someone didn’t get the joke.

Originally published at on November 25, 2009.

Facebook has recently suffered a boom of simulation games, or “sims“–and by “boom”, I mean “an atomic bomb just exploded in your house, sucked all the air out of it for ten minutes, and has left so much radiation behind that you, your family, and your descendants will suffer horrifically painful mutations that will put you at odds with the rest of humanity for what will likely be the rest of time”. And what do I mean by that? Well, whereas past simulation games were so realistic as to be almost hyper-realistic, these Facebook sims are unsettlingly unrealistic. To illustrate my point, I present you with the Facebook sim known as Farmville and the sim classic known as SimCity.

First, allow me to introduce you to Farmville. As you may have guessed by the title, this game allows you to farm. You plow land by clicking on it with your mouse, you buy seed for various vegetables with in-game coins, plant the seed by clicking on the freshly plowed plot of land, and wait for anywhere from three hours to several days. When the seed has grown into corn, eggplant, or whatever it is you may have purchased (it truly doesn’t matter), you harvest the vegetables by clicking on them, watch your character stand still as a green progress bar counts down until your harvesting is complete, and then watch as your in-game coin count grows because apparently “harvesting” also means “selling your produce at market”. Occasionally, you might earn enough coins to purchase an animal that will grow to maturity in about three years (real time), at which point you can click on the animal, watch another progress bar, and assume that the animal has, like the plants, been sold at market.  And that’s about it.

Actually, this is probably an accurate portrayal of how plowing happens in real farming–green progress bar included.

See what I mean?

The game doesn’t even come remotely close to resembling a real farming experience.  For one, there’s no actual animal slaughter! How does one become a farmer without slaughtering animals in the most grotesque and inhumane ways ever conceived by a human being? Also, there’s no suffocating fear of one’s family farm becoming the property of some soulless corporation, ultimately resulting in one’s inevitable (yet tragic) suicide! And where’s the “city folk’s” perception of farmers as nothing more than sexual deviants involved with incest and bestiality? The people who programmed this game obviously don’t understand what farming is all about. It’s about PETA’s accusations of animal cruelty, among which is cited a true farmer’s ability to stuff twenty-eight live chickens in a wooden crate that’s no bigger than one cubic foot. It’s about large government subsidies that allow true farmers to sit on their duffs and drink moonshine. It’s about “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” and the children of the sleepy little farm town who kill all of the adults (and any unwary outlanders) in the his name. It’s about a true farmer driving a lonely country road at night with his wife after they’ve tried in vain for years to conceive a child, only to witness a meteor crash in a nearby field which, upon investigation, contains a child whom they adopt and, sometime later, who the farmer hits accidentally with his tractor only to discover that, while the child was unharmed, the tractor has been decimated and, upon noticing this, also discovers that his son will one day fight for truth, justice, and the American Way. I mean, a game like this can’t be taken seriously if a mere city boy like me just schooled its programmers in what real farming is all about.

Well, now that we’ve seen the unrealistic end of the spectrum, let’s take a look at the realistic side of sims!

In the hyper-realistic SimCity for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the player becomes the mayor of a nameless city.  Sounds boring, right? I bet you think that there’s nothing more to being a mayor than the ho-hum job of explaining to the public how a derelict coke fiend could kill eleven women and stuff them in every nook and cranny of his house without the police noticing until about five years after his spree had begun, or answering the District Attorney’s questions on how you’re related to the corruption charges levied against the County Administrator’s Office.

Well, you’re wrong. 

As SimCity teaches us, being a mayor is roughly synonymous with godhood.  Howso?  In SimCity, the mayor has the power to build cities, generate revenue, and, most shocking of all, create disasters. That’s right, folks, the mayor gets to decide who lives, who dies, and who is worthy to serve under him. According to SimCity, all of one’s megalomaniacal dreams can be achieved by becoming a mayor. Why, a mayor can create tornadoes and hurricanes, call upon fire and flood, cause numerous plane crashes and nuclear meltdowns, and summon UFOs and monsters (such as Bowser, the main antagonist of the Super Mario Bros. series) to level the city that once praised him.

See?  Being a mayor isn’t so boring, after all!

Interesting note: In the PC version of SimCity, it is Godzilla, not Bowser, who is summoned.

So, what have we learned today, dear reader? In addition to learning how to kill a few moments here-and-there, we’ve learned that SimCity is possibly the most realistic sim every created. As for Farmville, well, Farmville could stand to learn something about farming by watching Smallville–namely that farming is less about harvesting vegetables and more about freak-of-the-week super-villains attacking the local high school, only to be stopped by an old farmer’s adopted alien super-powered son. Now that’s what I call farming.

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