The Way We Live

My head remains too congested for any serious analysis.  Until then, some interesting bits and pieces about the various environmental damages we’ve wrought as unintended consequences of our pursuit of modernity.  Also, a fascinating discussion of FarmVille, the egregiously popular Facebook game in which users obligate themselves to maintaining a virtual farm.

I’ll admit it, I’m not much of a gamer in general, but I particularly do not understand the appeal of FarmVille: in my mind the primary appeal of games to enable the player to enter environments and achieve objectives that are possible only (or mostly only) virtually.  Hence the trippy universe of Mario, or the epic nature of Final Fantasy.  Secondarily there are games, like Wii Sports, that mimic other real-life activities — but if you can’t get yourself and your friends to a bowling alley, Wii Bowling is an adequate substitute.

FarmVille is neither of these things.  It is not an invented world; it is a cheaply rendered cartoon small farm, like something out of a cheesy children’s book.  There is no element of physical skill or dexterity involved in achieving its objectives.  Moreover, the very fact of its ascendance is coincident with the rise in urban agriculture, implying that if FarmVille players were remotely interested in actually growing things, they could just go outside and do it.  (The online resources for urban agriculture — a movement largely spearheaded by young, well-educated, tech-savvy activists — are immense.)  But yet, people… don’t.  Instead, they sit in a chair and play FarmVille.

Obviously, I blog.  I’m an Internet evangelizer; I think, on balance, it has done far more good than harm, and social connections and activities online can be quite valid.  But there are certain things for which the virtual is not, and perhaps never can be, an adequate substitute for the real.  Growing things is one of those activities, and the world might be a better, less air-conditioned place if people with any curiosity about farming simply went outside.

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