It's true, I love Farmville. For those of you lucky enough not to be addicted (or should that be interested?), Farmville is a virtual farming game which is accessed through the online social networking phenomenon - Facebook.
In short - it's the biggest time waster I have ever been caught up with. Forget teenage trysts with drink, drugs and no good boys, never before in my life have I wasted as much time on something so unproductive and pointless as Farmville. I can play it for hours and hours and bizarrely feel satisfaction from it, as if I really have done good for the day by milking my cows, harvesting my crops, plowing my land and collecting my hen's eggs. I can even perform more than one good deed for the day by helping as many of my Farmville neighbours as I have time for by fertilising their crops, banishing pesky crop-munching gophers, and ridding their land of weeds.
Community spirit is high, and there is respect amongst fellow-Farmvillers. You get to know who sends the gifts, and therefore who to send them back to. It sounds very 'give to receive' and it kind of is, but in a good way (after all why would I waste even more of my time by sending chickens and elephant-shaped topiaries to Level 1'ers who set up a Farm by accident?). It seems I'm not alone. At last count there were 82,848,181 active monthly users of the application, and 44 of them are my real life friends!
Community spirit aside, there is a corporate element to the game. Just through game play, you will earn Farmville coins and cash. This sounds like the same thing, but coins are easy and quick to earn, for example by collecting bananas from a banana tree you can add 75 coins to the kitty. Farmville cash however is accumulated much more slowly, and items in the 'Farmville Market' which can only be purchased with Farmville cash are normally priced highly, making it near impossable to earn a notable cash amount through even very regular game play. Creators - Zynga obviously want to make a buck or two if they can - which I suppose is fair enough (though nigglingly irksome nonetheless). I'm pleased to say that I draw the line at using my real life credit/debit card to buy virtual money to buy virtual 'things'. Well done me.
I am however quite embarrassed to admit that the 217,215 currently in my Farmville Farmer's bank account does make me happy. I have little disposable income in real life, so the idea that I can grow something and harvest it at a tidy profit thus building a sum of virtual money which I can spend willy nilly on some slightly bonkers things at the Market, is a fine one indeed.
The more experience accumulated means the more levels you unlock. This allows you to purchase new seeds and gifts for your neighbours. The last vegetable seed to unlock is asparagus, and you can only buy and sow that once you reach level 37. There appear to be no other levels after this point, which worries me. It worries me because I am a level 35'er, and my addiction is so that the mere thought of a Farmville rut is a depressing one. Nothing new to unlock, nowhere to go - the equivalent of a farming Groundhog Day. This may be the push I need, the clean break from the virtual farming community which forces me to go and tend to my very own 65 foot 'farm'. This will be anything but a bad thing, though a one time gardening budget of £217,215 would sure be nice.