Here’s my Aha! Moment Popup, courtsy of FarmTown on Facebook.
I do not want to tell my Facebook friends that I have spent six months building this beautiful farm to reach the lever where I can buy Junk Cars and Hay Piles. If I tell people on Facebook that I play FarmTown, they will either swiftly remove me from their friends of worst off, talk to me about it!
Now that doesn’t look very appealing and neither of these thing do anything. These are in the “Decoration” tab of the General Store. For now I’m not a Chrystal Meth addict so I will pass on the Junk Car and the Hay Pile… But I am addicted to Farm Town and I play it about 45 minutes a week. I am also quite fond of how my farm looks… It’s pretty, in a Martha Stewart kind of way. It might be one of the prettiest farms in FarmTown. But I used to make real things that required actual skills and now I wonder if I am wasting 45 minutes every week or learning something useful.
What I am about to tell you is important so pay attention!
According to Facebook on February 21, 2010, 11,735,237 people play FarmTown and 81,125,786 people play Zynga’s FarmVille, the most popular game on Facebook tallying three times the amount of users of the next most popular social game Zynga’s Cafe World with 30,592,937 users. These players access the applications at least once a month, however, due to the ‘tending’ nature of the games it’s not possible to play only once a month. User must return at least every 3-4 days or their crops will go to waste. I am not a typical Facebook game player having only accrued time on FarmTown and Poker but I have been paying attention to business of Facebook games just like I have been paying attention to how people socialize online for 20 years. But I’ll talk about the economics of Facebook another time because today as a Facebook Application ideator and developer, I am looking at the multiple layers of IRONY.
We cannot know how many weekly minutes each player spends in the game but if you take 92,261,023 people playing 45 minutes a week, you can calculate that the full time workforce of farm gaming is 1,835,806 people. The U.S. Federal Government employs about 2 million civilians.
But there is more…
Over 92 million people are converging to play a silly, albeit addictive, game of growing and harvesting crops. And yet one of the most pressing problem in the world is the complete breakdown of the world’s food chain which includes the disappearance of this exact kind of agriculture… the traditional multi-purpose farm.
You can find out more about this pressing problem in the documentary Food, Inc. And you might cry a bit once you get to the part about Joel Salatin of Virginia’s Polyface Farms, one of the few farmers in the US who is sticking to the traditional multi-purpose farm model by operating it as a novel business in concert with God and nature. But don’t get too optimistic about the prospects of eating healthy and happy animals because Big Agra is doing its best to make sure farmers cannot afford to build such a business and remain in business very long. Michael Pollan, who appears throughout Food, Inc. is also featured in another fascinating documentary on PBS called The Botany of Desire. This beautiful documentary, which you can watch online for free in breath taking HD, touches on our short historical memory as we move into mono-culture, the agricultural mishap that decimated a quarter of the Irish population in the mid nineteenth century.
Enter Jane McGonigal, the Director of Game Research & Development at The Institute For The Future. Jane’s “goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games.” This woman is absolutely brills!
What we have learned in the past few years is that Six-Sigma professionals with fancy Monte Carlo models running in Oracle Crystal Ball cannot predict squat. Could they predict that :
questionable credit practices X massive widget-hungry population X ever-moving success yardstick
would result in a credit crunch the likes that we have never seen. I could… I did… and I based my information on paying attention to how regular teenagers use newfangled social media and play games and looking at what their moms buy online.
So I am absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jane is on to something great and we must all look at how people use social media and social games because never before have they been telling us how things work within society from their point of view.
But now I will Google Guayaba Trees because I have never heard of such a thing and I have lots of cash to spend on them in FarmTown.