17 September 2010

Of Cabbages and Lonely Gray Horses

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"My artichokes aren't doing well..."

"I just had to go back... my crops were wilting."

"Where can you buy white fences?"

"You can't buy them. Ask someone to gift them..."

International Farmer Conference, Winchester? No, this is a fragment of conversation overheard at the mess table last week. I see my pals running on tight schedules... rise at 2 am to plough the field, wait another two hours to harvest the raspberries, fertilize your neighbour's fields... and I can't help but smile. There must be something seriously wrong in a world where sane people lose sleep, students bunk classes, and employees misuse office internet for an ONLINE FARMING GAME!

Some facts first: Over 1% of the population of the world play Farmville. That's 82.7 million active users and over 22.5 million fans since it was launched in June 2009. Remember we were talking about a game that lets people plant 'virtual' melons and magnolia trees! Why is Farmville such a big hit anyway? Because average people like you and I like to get red ribbons for our efforts, we like showing off our manicured lawns to our friends and the rest of the world. It's harmless, innocent fun, most of the time. But there is a thin line between amusement and addiction. And believe me, it is addiction when all you do is think and chatter about your crops and ducks and hens. Why, I know someone who dreamt he won a grand lottery, where the prizes were all fresh Farmville products...

The problem arises when people start actually spending cash for non-existent stuff. Isn't it plain dumb to spend money to buy virtual cows? And even if you do spend 5 dollars for a 'virtual' tractor, at least you know what you're signing up for. But what about those scams that fool people through dubious promises? For instance, there is one application where you fill up a questionnaire to earn farm credits and they ask you to enter your mobile number at the end. Once you give your number, you're signed up for a 10$ a month service you're unable to cancel. Another case is the Video Professor scam, which promises you a free educational CD (shipping charges only) but actually you are going to get a load of useless CDs AND end up paying 189.95$. But you won't know this unless you bother to read the fine print.

So maybe you're a fan or just another guy bored to death with those spring baskets and neighbour invitations. Well, if you come in the first category, WAKE UP!! Life is too precious to waste away living in a make-believe world. Grab a racquet, start an adda with your 'real-time' friends. Or maybe even try a hand at some real gardening.;)

The final word goes to my despondent friend and Farmville addict: "I thought I'll buy a pond and grow fish... but I don't have the money..."

(Disclaimer: The author has not joined Farmville yet despite innumerous neighbour invites because she does not trust herself not to get addicted... so if you come across her farm some day, please do water the potatoes!)

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