In video games, there is a direct link between food and health: eating food in games is often a way to heal yourself. You’ve probably wondered at some point, “Why does eating a loaf of bread or a bunch of grapes instantly heal my horrible stab wounds?” And that’s a fine question, but what you should have instead been wondering was “Where does all that food come from?” Because, see, food comes from farms, and I played a farming game, and I need an intro paragraph to get started talking about it.
So! To answer the question you didn’t ask, I decided to buy a game called Farming Simulator. And no, I didn’t buy a heavily discounted copy Farming Simulator 2009. Screw Farming Simulator 2009. This is Farming Simulator 2011. Yeah, baby! It’s updated with all the recent farming advances! It’s state of the art farming! This ain’t your grandfather’s farming simulator! (Your grandfather’s farming simulator was a farm.)
Previous Experience: Uh, none? I don’t even have a little farming anecdote to share. I never spent the summer on a farm. I don’t think I’ve ever met a farmer. I don’t go to farmer’s markets. I’ve never even played Farmville. I did try to grow some herbs this year, but that’s more gardening than farming, plus, nothing grew. I am going into farming knowing absolutely nothing about farming.
The Sim: Luckily, for those of me who know nothing about farming, there’s a tutorial. Unluckily, there are also six hundred other tutorials: every single aspect of farming has its own. Driving tractors. Driving harvesters. Plowing fields. Sowing fields. Fertilizing crops. Cultivating crops. Harvesting crops. There’s also several sight-seeing tutorials, where you drive around the massive farm game-world and visit important far-flung locations, like cow pastures, farming stores, distant fields, bridges, rivers, hills, roads, the moon, Mordor… I drive for ages and never hit the edge. This game is not fucking around. It is huge.
After I drive around for an hour visiting places I immediately forget about, I do the field plowing tutorial, where you drive a tractor with a little plow thing attached to the back of it. The idea is to cover 100% of the field with the plow, by driving carefully in straight lines and making slow, precise turns. Going too fast makes the plow thing fall off the tractor, and driving in straight lines is hard for someone who is used to driving at breakneck speeds in video games and not caring if I hit a few lampposts or jump a few curbs.
Eventually, I manage to cover roughly the entire field, with much zigzagging and stopping to reattach the stupid plow. It takes almost a half-hour, and I realize I have no intention of completing the rest of the tutorials. I assume they’re all roughly the same thing: get into some sort of farming vehicle and drive around on farmland and do farming all over it. So, I enter “Career Mode” in hopes of just figuring things out as I go along. Career Mode welcomes me by basically saying, “Since you know so much about farming, smartass, go do some,” so I jump in my tractor, hook up my seed trailer, fill it with seeds, and start driving around a large field near my virtual farmhouse. The field is roughly 7,000 times larger than the one I practiced on in the tutorial, which means 7,000 times more fun, except it really means 7,000 times more driving slowly in a straight line and wishing a meteor would strike my real house just so I have an excuse to stop farming.
Then, I notice an option to “Hire Worker,” and when I select it, the tractor starts driving itself around. Huh! I don’t have to physically sit here doing farming all day? The game will do it for me? Excellent.
I leave my worker to handle the work while I go eat lunch, have a shower, and watch a little Tour De France on TV. This is great. I’m having a fine time farming so far. Gradually, though, it starts to bother me that I paid real life money for a game that is now playing itself in another room while I watch television. I eventually force myself to sit back down at my computer, where I see that my worker has planted half the field but then driven into the scarecrow and is just sitting there, unable to navigate around it. On the plus side, the half of the field he’s planted has already begun to grow.
Annoyed at having to personally play the game I bought, I sigh deeply and drive around planting the rest of the field until I get bored two minutes later. Then I attach my fertilizer sprayer and drive through the corn so it will grow faster, because the faster my corn grows, I figure, the sooner I can stop doing this. When night falls, I try to enter my house, to see if my farmer can watch TV, or maybe at least hire someone to watch TV for him so I can go actually watch TV, but I can’t get into my house. So, I drive around aimlessly on my tractor with the headlights on until morning.
My corn crops have gotten pretty big overnight, so I decide to try to harvest them, though I didn’t take the harvesting tutorial, so I’m not sure how to go about it. I try using my “cutter,” hoping it’s the right thing to do. Do you cut corn? With a cutter? Is that what you do to corn? I don’t know if that’s what you do to corn. At any rate, it doesn’t work. I make another pass with the fertilizer, hoping the corn will grow so much it will gain sentience, evolve limbs, and walk right off the field and into to the Corn Store to sell itself. No luck. With my corn crops starting to turn brown, I finally get desperate and visit the farming supply store down the street. There are a number of things for sale, from the Pottiner AEROSUM 3000 Sowing Machine to the Monsoon TRITON 500 Spritze to the Deutz 5465 H Cutter to the Krone Big X 1000 Forage Harvester.
Of course, I don’t know what any of this stuff is and I have no money for it anyway, so I have to sell a bunch of farming equipment I already own to afford the corn harvesting device I’m not sure is the right one. I do all the things I just said, and I’m told my new “corn header” has appeared on my farm. My corn is looking very brown by this point, and in the midst of frantically trying to attach my corn header to my corn truck (or whatever it’s called), I inadvertently run over a moving car.
Happily, my new corner header works, though I have to drive very slowly, and it fills up very quickly, so I have to drive back to my corn trailer and spray my corn shavings (or whatever) into it before heading back out to the field to cornhead more corn. Each trip takes roughly forever. By the time my corn wagon is filled halfway, I’m so bored I just want to burn the entire virtual farm down and collect the virtual insurance. With my hatred for pretend-farming glowing brightly, I drive off in my tractor, pulling my partially filled trailer of corn molecules. I strikes me that I don’t really know where I’m going or what I’m doing or how to sell my corn. I’m just driving around the streets in a tractor pulling a bunch of goddamn corn dust. All I know is this: if I sell my corn, it will make me money, and if I have more money, I’ll be able to buy more farming things, and if I have more farming things, I’ll be able to do more farming, and I desperately don’t want to do any more farming.
I drive aimlessly for a bit, then stop my tractor in the middle of the street, jump out, and run across a field into a barn. There, hidden and ashamed, I turn off the game forever.
Conclusion: I am not a farmer. Oh God, I am not a farmer. And this isn’t a slam on Farming Simulator 2011. If you have any interest in being a virtual farmer and building a farming empire, this game will scratch that itch six ways to Sunday. There’s even multiplayer, in case you have a friend who also wants to pretend farm with you. That friend will not be me, because, man, I am not a farmer. If anything, I am less of a farmer than I was when I started being a farmer, and when I started being a farmer, I was already so much not a farmer. I am negative two farmers.