Born to farm(ville)

Farmville (Virginia, USA) had a population of 6,845 people in the year 2000. The Wikipedia article about the small and relatively unknown town of Farmville says “In 2009, the Cormier Honors Program at Longwood University created a community garden near the corner of Griffin Blvd. and High Street. This piece of land was not being used by the community or the university and the Honor Program saw it as ripe with possibilities.”

Zynga too identified an unused piece of land which was ripe with possibilities! Since Farmville‘s launch in June 2009, this Facebook simulation game has attracted a community of almost 70.5 million farms. Some of them (if brought out of the virtual world) would probably be as big as the 18sq km that makes Farmville (Virginia). I am admittedly not a keen Facebook farmer and my very humble patch of land looks like this… It’s got the basic farmland of 6 squares and two trees, two water-fountains and a goat… all donated to me as “gifts” by friendly farmers! I recently even received a holiday tree.

The player controls the game through an avatar that can be personalised to resemble the player :)  Land, buildings, tools, seeds, ornaments etc… can be purchased with Farmville money which is earned by putting effort into growing crops and rearing animals on one’s farm. Land and resources, for those that cannot afford the time, is also available for hard cash at 10$ for a wad of 55 Farm cash. This much would get you a good start in the agri-business (a hundred times bigger than mine!) consisting of a “big family farm” with 18×18 squares and a “plantation” of 20×20 squares. Discounts are available every now and again… then a wad of 240 Farm cash is slashed from $40 to $32 and the 55Fc for 8$ (instead of $10)!

The concept of Farmville is not new. I am old enough to have played Simcity 2000 ( in 1993/4) and vaguely remember its precursor Simcity on Commodore 64. Farmville followed myFarm and Farmtown, both farm-simulation games for Facebook. About a month ago, Zynga followed the success of Farmville with another simulation game… now called Fishville. The interface is very similar to Farmville, making it fairly easy for Zynga to make of it another quick winner.

I will close this post with some interesting numbers: The Holiday Tree was announced by Farmville admin on the 04 Dec. At the time of writing this post, over 46,000 people had “Liked” this and over 50,000 left a comment!

Does all this have any relevance when looking at engaging people in truly creating better societies? (instead of just playing at farmers and building imaginary aquariums!!)