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Arbitrary Word Count

(Chris McGinty's Column)


March 1st, 2010

Some Thoughts about Farmville (Part Two)

App-arently I had More of These Section Titles in Me

Last week I started the Arbitrary Word Count column, and presented you with my best writing ever that was based on Farmville, and mentioned the population of India. Since I just mentioned the population of India, it sounds like the gauntlet has been thrown down, thus meaning this week’s column will be that much better, or I’m going to type trying. 

I’m curious as to why we play games. Some games are clearly played for social interaction, this is why people will play Monopoly for hours before they decide that they’re bored out of their skull, and if they ain’t nobody going to sell even one property to create a Monopoly then it’s probably time to start charging pieces of clothing to be paid into Free Parking, or it’s time to play another game. 

Beyond social interaction there is what’s known as passing the time. This occurs when we play single player games such as Solitaire, Farmville, and taking an acoustic guitar to a coffee shop. As a society we don’t seem much trained in the art of just sitting, and taking in life without some sort of stimulus. This tends to leads to things like sex, watching TV, and drinking coffee while listening to someone strum an acoustic guitar. And I’m not trying to suggest that the need for stimulus is bad. We may think we go to school and work jobs for the ultimate goal of making money, but the truth is for as bored as we are at these activities, we’d be just as bored if we didn’t have them. 

Finally, I think there is the ability to tell stories. This fits in with almost any stimulus. You go to work or school and you come home with stories about what happened. You hang out with friends, and do dumb stuff, and you come home with stories, and occasionally a hangover if that’s what you do when you’re out. You go to a coffee shop and listen to people playing acoustic guitars, kicking it all folk school, and you don’t really come home with stories as much as an appreciation for the music that you have that doesn’t suck like folk does.

Christmas on Farmville

I think one of the funnier things I’ve said about Farmville probably involves blasphemy that will probably earn me a tense moment or two at the Gates of Heaven. I think it even sort of offended my largely agnostic leaning towards atheist roommate. Or she just didn’t think it was funny. I’ll place this at the bottom of the column with a warning that this is that thing you may not want to read, just in case. 

Meanwhile, we’ll deal with Christmas. When I started playing they were doing Thanksgiving stuff on the farm. I didn’t get a whole lot of this, and I built a Tool Shed to store the couple of things I did got. Then it was Christmas time, and I must say they went all out. There is a lot of symbolism revolving around Christmas, and they managed to hit many of the stops. There were decorations, there were Ornament Trees that “grew” ornaments and took 2 days to harvest, there were reindeer, there were presents which were not the same as gifts because they went under a Christmas tree, and you could cover your farm in snow. 

Become a Fan of “Really? Only 10 Signs? Forget the Chicken Coops, Increase the Sign Limit”

It seems like there are a lot of groups on Facebook, and I’m not sure how many of them are worth joining. The neat difference between My Space groups and Facebook groups is the names. They take their cue from Non-Fiction books and epic emo songs in that they have very long titles. You get things like Become a Fan of “I use my cell phone as a flashlight when it’s dark” and “If Suzanne mentions dating in the next year, smack her” and my fave so far “You’re not a vampire, you’re a sparkly douche in a tree.”

Yes, if you can form a complete sentence, you too can create a Facebook group. That’s why I’m going to create one called “Go!” One of my friends posted a status update that said, “Matt, I’m cutting you off, you’re not allowed to become a fan of anything else today.” I commented saying that she should make a group with that name and see if became a fan. She was pretty sure he would.

As this pertains to Farmville, there are groups for every improvement that anybody could possibly want implemented in the Farmville game. Does it make sense that you can have as many Dairy Farms as you want to hold your cows, but you can only have one Chicken Coop? Well then make a group. If they’re working on an expansion to 24x24, why not just work on an expansion to go up to 30x30 instead? Well then make a group. I don’t join any of these groups, nor do I join any of the groups that promise free Farm Cash (see the section about scams in last week’s column) or any other “cheat” that’s probably too good to be true. But create a group increasing the number of signs I can place around the farm, and I’ll join it in a heartbeat.

I should clarify what I’m talking about. Farmville has a function that allows you to place signs on your farm and your neighbours’s farms. You get about as many characters as a text message, but that’s fine because it forces you to be brief. The first sign I posted to my farm was “I love apps, I love apps, I love apps.” I didn’t really convince myself, but I tried. The second sign I posted involved the one crop plot that is in the middle of nothing that was sort of placed out of pattern. I commented something to the effect of it was clearly poor planning. The black sheep on my farm claim ownership of that plot now, and I wouldn’t try to take it from them. They’re mean. The first sign a neighbour placed on my farm said, “Telekinetic farming is the way of the future.” If you play the game, you probably get that.

So, when Christmas rolled around I got this idea. There were gift-able Reindeer, and I wanted to get eight of them and post mini bios. I used the name of one of Santa’s reindeer, and then made a funny comment. One of my neighbours read these and said, “I like your reindeer sayings,” and that was enough to make it worthwhile for me.

The problem is that as I set these signs down, I noticed that older ones were disappearing. Apparently, you can only have a total of ten signs on your farm. Lame. One of my favourite functions and it’s horribly limited. I was going to write the first novel using Farmville signs damn it. Now my dreams are crushed.

If you want a point of reference about what I meant in that last paragraph about the novel, go to our daily blog and look up the blog called “Idea Generation” posted February 24, 2010. There is a tree of older titles on the right hand side of the blog page, which shows it as of this writing.

I didn’t get all eight reindeer soon enough anyway. I have them for next year, and I saved the text from the signs, but by the time I got eight this year it was sort of too late, and I had other glitches to deal with, see below.

One more thought about signs at Christmas, and then I’ll list the Reindeer mini-bios below. There were these snow piles separate from the snow cover you could give your farm. They were just these white clumps. Maybe if I’d used the snow cover they would have blended in, but on my green grass, they were just white blobs that I arranged loosely together in a larger white blob. Next to this blob I placed a sign that said, “Yes, it’s the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.” 

Reindeer Mini-Bios and Sex on the Farm

Dasher – The best groomer of Santa’s Elite (oh, did you think the elves were elite) also the fastest, except in the bathroom I the morning.

Dancer – Known as Jo Jo by the other reindeer, Dancer is the second most likely to be found listening to Miley Cyrus and ABBA.

Prancer – Prefers Reindeer of the same sex (just reporting facts.) The most likely to listen to Miley and ABBA, and actually means it.

Vixen – Was introduced to Santa by Richard Marx. Nobody gets that.

Comet – Wrote a book “No Comet: The Year Santa Left Me Behind with a Bad Case of the Reins.” Made it on three worst seller lists.

Cupid – Once a star in the Reindeer Wrestling Federation. His entrance song was “Cherub Rock.” T-shirts read, “I’m with Cupid, stupid!”

Donner – Voted most likely to survive if the sleigh ever crashed in the mountains.

Blitzen – Has been through AA more than is healthy. They finally just compromised that he must stay sober Christmas Eve.

The odd thing about this is that Farmville censored me. They didn’t allow the word “sex.” Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that it keeps people from going to neighbours farms and leaving inappropriate signs asking for sex. But let’s face it; there are many ways that one could go about asking for sex without mentioning sex by name. One of my favourite things to do in life is say things to people that can be construed as dirty, but only if they make the actual leap from what was said, to why it sounds dirty.

My most recent best example of this was while I was playing Scrabble with someone who I know well enough to get away with this, at least I hoped. She had swapped one tile the turn before hoping to get the letter she needed to spell a good word she had. And she got the letter. She related this to me, and I explained that in Magic: The Gathering when there is a card you want or need to draw on your current turn, and you manage to draw that card, it’s called “top decking.” And that maybe for Scrabble we could call it something like, I don’t know, “sack grabbing.” The reaction was something to the effect of, “We will not call it that!!!!” And I just played it off as innocent. *twirls hair* =)

One of my Farmville neighbours related that they (or somebody they knew, can’t remember) had to block one neighbour cos they were spelling dirty words using decorations on their farm, so you see what I’m getting at about censoring what you write in the signs. What it comes down to is that if someone acts inappropriately, you block them. Simple enough.

And besides, Farmville themselves sort of pulled what I’m talking about where you have to make the actual leap from what it says to why it sounds dirty. Needless to say, my brain made the leap. Such a dirty boy. *spanks self* Uh, yeah. *feels a little embarrassed by my recent action* If I was any sort of an editor, I’d totally remove that.

Farmville introduced “Lonely Bulls” to the farm mix, which was fine except that “lone” means one, and I now have twenty-something of these lonely bulls. What it said was that if you put a bull in your Dairy Farm that something special might happen. The something they were talking about was that when you collected from the Dairy Farm, you might find a baby calf. Yep, these bulls aren’t shooting blanks.

Now when you collected from the bulls that weren’t in the Dairy Farms, the drop down menu said “Brush Bull” because that’s the default for any animals that doesn’t produce milk or eggs or wool or feathers. Or ice cubes, no really. You just brush them and collect their hair. Recently, though they changed it from “Brush Bull” to “Calm Bull.” Ummm. I’m not sure if I’m ok with this. They already have a “Pet” function so, I’m not just calming them by rubbing their heads. And I notice that the meter claims that I’m still “collecting” from the bulls. Ewwwwww. 

Present-Palooza

One day I signed into Farmbook, or whatever, and I found a Christmas Tree in my Gift Box. There was an explanation as to how this Christmas Tree worked. Step One: Place the tree on your farm somewhere. Step Two: Realize that your farm is a mess, and you really have no room for the tree. Step Three: Clean up your farm. Step Four: Go to the Gifts screen and send your neighbours “presents” and wait for them to send them back. Step Five: When you get a present in your Gift Box put it under your tree. Step Six would come on Christmas Eve, when you would open the presents.

This went in a couple of stages. Initially, you could only have 60 Presents under your tree, but Virtual Farmers are insane, and most people had the tree filled quickly. They moved the limit up to 100, and the Present swap started again. They also dropped in news feed items to publish to your wall that triggered every 20 presents to say, “Hey I’m progressing in presents!” And as an added bonus your friends could get a present for their tree. This meant that at five times as you put presents under your tree your friends would get this bonus, and no more than that, because no one could open presents yet.

The problem, if you want to call it a problem, is that when we started opening presents, many of us had extras sitting in our Gift Box, and we realized upon replacing the presents that we opened that we would still get the wall post that gave a bonus to our friends. This meant that you could open one present, put another present under the tree, and post up a bonus.

My roommate and I sat up for four hours doing this. That first night, some of the presents were fuel refills, which were in short supply up until that point. I still have over 400 “gallons” from that, and “Fuel Week” which will have to be dealt with in Part Three. They never turned off the bonus presents, but after that first day, there were no more fuel refills. I told my roommate that it only counts as a “cheat” if you read it elsewhere. If you discover it on your own, it’s legit. Don’t know if that’s true or not, but whatever. Maybe I can deal with some of the “cheats” in Part Three too. I’ve sort of avoided it, because I wanted my articles to have content that wasn’t all over the internet anyway, even if mine wasn’t quite as useful. 

Concerning Part Three

The first two parts of this have been a long time in the planning. I would make notes about things I found funny or just interesting enough, and when I had a lot of these notes I figured it would be a good time to start writing them out. I do still have a few notes, but I doubt they’re enough to write a full column. I’ll start writing though, and when I have enough I’ll post it up. I hope you have enjoyed these first two installments though. I’ve enjoyed writing them. I should probably post the link to them sometime soon. I kind of spaced it out.

 This is that Thing You May Not Want to Read

If you’re not familiar with Farmville game mechanics, you plant crops and place trees and animals on the farm. The crops grow for a set amount of time ranging from 2 hours to 4 days. It literally takes that long in real life too. The animals become ready to collect from, and the trees become ready to harvest, ranging from 1 day to 5 days, again in real time. In order to collect or harvest, you click and select “Harvest” or “Collect Milk” or something similar. My thought was that around Easter they could create a Jesus crop that you plant in front of the Romans for a few days until he fully pisses them off. At which point you click on the Christ and choose “Crucify” from the drop down menu. He goes onto the cross until he’s fully dead, and you choose “Seal in Tomb.” Then after 3 days he’s alive again, and you choose “Resurrect” from the drop down menu. My defense is that Christians read this story every year around Easter, and it’s just as morbid. Somehow it would be offensive in Farmville. That and India makes up one sixth of the Earth’s population and only about 2.3 % of them might be offended by this. China makes up another one-sixth of the Earth’s population and only 4 % of them might be offended. Meanwhile, here in the US we don’t even half billion status yet. Just saying.

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