Monday, July 20, 2009

Farmtown is Evil--Just Add Hallucinogens!

I must own up to a recent addiction. There is a game on Facebook called Farmtown and I can't quit playing it. It is much like SimCity in tone. You start with a plot of land and a self-decorated avatar that represents you as the farmer. You plant and harvest crops, which gains you money. You cultivate neighbors within your coterie of Facebook friends, and send each other gifts that you use to decorate your farm. You can also meet other Facebook folks who are also Farmtownees and add them as work buddies.

I have been working on my ever increasing plot assiduously and carefully building on it. I now have a house, a barn, a corral for my beasts (cows, horses, goats, pigs, etc.), a poultry pen, a windmill, and a few other goodies. I am saving up for a big pond and a greenhouse. I arrange everything to my liking, trying to maximize space and arrange things both practically and aesthetically.

Over the last few weeks, I have had this creeping feeling of deja vu regarding Farmtown. This feeling began when a long time buddy of mine observed once while we were playing, "Wow! Look at this--those avatars are US!". Well, I have finally realized what the cold grue was for me: I am living the novel "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" by Philip K. Dick. Minus the Can-D and Chew-Z, fortunately.

I read this novel when I was a freshman in college and it has been one of those books that has stuck with me all these years. It is chock full of twisted PKD weirdness--odd, surreal images and a picture of future civilization as a very disturbing place. In this case, 21st Century life focuses on living recreational life through dolls Perky Pat and her boyfriend Walt--and-ins for Barbie and Ken), and spending money on "layouts"--elaborate dollhouses with detailed accessories. Through hallucinogenic drugs, you become Pat or Walt and live the beautiful life, which is a diversion from the fact the the world (or in this case worlds, since there are various plantary colonies)is a wretched, messed up place.

OK, maybe I am overstating this whole concept a bit, but I see my avatar that represents me in her little purple overalls, my tidy farm, and plan for sowings and harvests, I start to wonder. Am I living through the hallucinogenic experience of the internet, nurturing this fake farm, interacting with other farmers across the globe? I once harvested the fields of a person claiming to be a Filipina living in Dubai. It was a surreal moment--me at 6 PM home from work on Farmtown and her at 5 AM before work on Farmtown 8000 miles away from where I was. It was weird, but I played on anyway.

And really, what can I say? I LIKE Farmtown and I'll likely play on--that is, until I start seeing characters with robotic hands and steel teeth. Gotta go--my onions are ready to harvest!!

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