David Thier delivered the most grandiose proclamation
ever seen for a social game in The Atlantic today, writing that "Farmville
is a savage metaphor for the death of the small family farm to the grinding wheels of mechanized capitalism." And you know it's not just big talk, since Thier spent over a year to reach this shining truth, having realized the parallels from writing an earlier piece, The Strange Appeal of Virtual Farming
When you log into the game, Farmville shows you a random picture of one idyllic farm or another--a bountiful field of pineapples, flowers, and wheat next to a little cottage, maybe, or perhaps an autumn scene of maple syrup and bright red trees. The reality, however, is that in order to afford such decorations you must either pay US dollars or plant endless fields of cash crops. Maybe I'm thinking about this too much, but for a simplistic videogame, Farmville offers a curious model for juxtaposing pastoral fantasy with the industrial realities of modern farming. The parallel isn't perfect: I'm pretty sure an alien cow on a real farm would fetch way more than 120 coins.
Now, he riffs this realization into a beautiful story of him being a FarmVille farmer
that is cheeky in its pretension, but elegiac and entirely surreal:
It became too much. I let the fields go fallow and began playing another Zynga game, CityVille. I see those other farmers still on their land, planted hedgerow to hedgerow, scouring their coops in hopes of golden eggs and waiting for the fat cats at Zynga to bless them with some new piece of machinery so they can click their lives away just to scrounge together enough coins to eke a few more levels toward what I assume is the American Dream. Poor bastards.
Thier isn't exactly John Steinbeck, but if you've been hankering for some The Grapes of Wrath
à la FarmVille, this is as close as it gets. The only thing that can get even closer is if this proposal of FarmVille subsidies
comes to pass.