Financial Times (That's Right) Article on Farming Sims

All other video games not related to the main farming series - Pokemon, Stardew Valley, My Time at Portia, and other indie-developed games.
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Burning Spear
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They actually cover gaming once or twice a week. I suspect most don't have a subscription, so the full text follows the link. ...

https://www.ft.com/content/e3a2e9d4-319 ... 8da9d4d422

Why shoot baddies when you could tend crops?

The popularity of farming simulators persists with ‘Stardew Valley’ having sold 20mn copies since 2016

By Tom Faber

One of my most precious childhood heirlooms is a yellowing scrap of paper on which is written a
schedule. “6 AM: wake up. collect eggs” it reads, in the careful joined-up handwriting I used at
eight years old. “6.20: water parsnips (unless raining).” My younger brother and I created this
routine to help us run our farm in the 1999 PlayStation game Harvest Moon: Back to Nature.
We whiled away many a happy hour tending to our modest patch of virtual land.

Today, two decades on, we’re at it again. We’ve spent more than 60 hours farming in Stardew
Valley this year. These days our approach differs, though. We dispatch the daily chores with
maximum efficiency, tilling vast tracts of land and planting only the most profitable crops. A
decade of adult life in London has turned our farmer avatars from utopian homesteaders to
hard-nosed agribusiness tycoons.

Of all the curious trends in gaming, the enormous popularity of farming simulators is one of the
strangest. Since the original Harvest Moon was released in 1996, the genre has steadily grown,
peaking with 2016’s Stardew Valley, which has sold 20mn copies despite being largely made by
a single developer. Over the past year we’ve seen fresh variations on the farming genre that
include vampires, witchcraft and robots. Why do so many gamers choose to spend their leisure
time not shooting baddies but ploughing fields?

At the outset of every Stardew Valley day, I feed the animals while my brother waters the plants.
These bitesized tasks are easy to achieve, providing steady doses of satisfaction as you tick them
off the list. While many games only allow you to interact with their world through violence,
pacifist farming sims are a key constituent in the growing stable of “wholesome games”. They
encourage a slower pace of play, eschewing competition and tension. Rather than targeting the
brain’s fight or flight mechanism, they invoke the gentler motivations of “tend and befriend”.

Generally these games don’t just offer a job, they provide a whole vibe. Live a while in a pastoral
idyll where the light is forever honeyed and each fruit from the orchard is perfectly plump.
Beyond the daily chores of the farm, you can engage in activities such as mining, cooking,
fishing, socialising with locals and occasionally some light dungeon-crawling. You are
encouraged to decorate your home with new furniture and landscape your farmland. Express
yourself creatively across your own little patch of heaven — this is the promise that made
pandemic hit Animal Crossing: New Horizons one of the bestselling games of all time.

This opportunity for creative control has been cited by real-life farmers as one of the reasons
they play the ultra-realistic Farming Simulator series, whose latest edition introduced crops
such as grapes, olives and sorghum. Here you don’t simply press A to harvest, but must instead
source the right parts for your plough and cultivate the land inch by painstaking inch. The game
is so popular that some online streamers make their living from viewers’ donations for tending
virtual fields, and the annual esports league offers a prize of €100,000 — more than many real
farmers make in a year. Even Angela Merkel has been spotted playing it.

There is a dark side to the genre. Stardew Valley starts as the tale of a protagonist who leaves
their corporate city job to take over a disused family farm, seeking a slower life and to reconnect
with nature. Yet as you play, new features and objectives encourage you to pursue automation
and maximise profits — not to bond with the landscape, but to subjugate it. This view recalls the
vacuous FarmVille, a popular game originally released in 2009 which offered mindless and
addictive gameplay but achieved massive success. Earlier this year its creator Zynga was bought
by gaming behemoth Take-Two Interactive for $12.7bn.

All farming sims, even the most cynical, peddle the same fantasy, and that dream of returning to
the land is nothing new, stretching back at least as far as Thoreau’s Walden in the mid-19th
century. Some may dismiss it as a nostalgic fantasy of an idealised past, but perhaps it is a
necessary act of self-care. In the light of the climate crisis it’s understandable that younger
players might seek in their digital media a relationship with the earth which is healing and
reciprocal rather than extractive.

Virtual farms may not show the reality of modern agriculture, of automated milking and batteryfarmed hens, but at least they demonstrate that gaming can reward players for being kind and
nurturing, rather than dominant and vengeful. In my family, at least, they have provided an
opportunity for low-impact sibling bonding over decades. No matter where we are in our lives,
we can sit down and take simple pleasure in sowing our cauliflower and strawberry seeds in time for the spring rains.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
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Kikki
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I definitely don't have a subscription to Financial Times. Thanks. :)
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simside
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Thanks so much for posting the article! It was a really good read, and I also don't have a subscription. I kinda laughed at the points about adult farmers maximizing profits and automation, though it's somewhat true. I was also thrilled to see the Farming Simulation series name-dropped, as I really enjoy the realism in those.
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