Why should farm games mirror reality?

I feel the need to address this blog post which criticizes Farmville as being different from reality; the post claims that we need to do farming in real life instead of  in games. I don’t know where to begin, wondering if this is worth refuting at all, because a response would indicate that this is worthy of response. But then, the world is made up of people with diverse ideas and I could do my part in relaying mine, so let me continue.

First of all, yes, games don’t mirror reality. Some do to a certain extent, but a lot don’t. Is that a surprise? You can’t suggest that games should mirror reality– it’s like saying that movies should reflect reality or novels should reflect reality. It becomes a problem when an entertainment media claims to be replicating reality, but otherwise, entertainment media should not be required to be “real.” Even so-called reality shows aren’t about reality, but seeing how hypothetical situations (that would otherwise not happen in reality) play out in reality. And unlike television or novels, which can portray a situation to be hyper-realistic, video games cannot do that because any situation created by the game (even if it is one based on a historical event) is a recreation, and thus, is at its essence, hypothetical.

In Farmville, my turkeys sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, not the other way around. NOT REAL.

I realize that this person is concerned that people playing Farmville will have a skewed idea of what farming is really like, but I don’t think people will think it’s the same. For instance, I’ve already pointed out that Farmville does not reflect butchering, but I still know about it. I don’t think Farmville players think that crops can actually be harvested in a matter of hours or that it is possible to maintain animals without feeding them. The list can go on and on… for instance, Farmville doesn’t have pests (maybe that’s something they could add in the future) nor does it ever rain. You can’t help other farmers harvest their crops, and you can give presents to your friends for free. Plants die, but trees don’t. Yup, not very realistic.

Also, even though elements in Farmville are not equivalent to those of real life, I think that people still learn something about farms. For instance, I thought pineapples grew on trees and when I saw them growing on the ground in Farmville, I was confused and did some research on pineapples. Also, you can’t slaughter animals, but the game makes you very aware of the fact that there are alternative “benefits” that you can harvest from animals, like truffles and pigs. Also, using the machines makes farming easy in the game; I think it has made me more appreciative of food that is grown by hand. And playing Farmville puts a face behind the food. You know that with everything you eat, there’s someone who was responsible for producing it. I’m not saying that’s not something I didn’t know before- but Farmville made me more cognizant of it.

But lets say that you’re not the type that takes away latent morals from games. You’re not a person who sees good in everything. That still is not a good reason to say that the games should mirror reality. Yes, it’s important to make people aware of farming, but games shouldn’t be responsible for not taking on that responsibility. Why should games be blamed for lack of education or activism on part of the actual parties who failed to deliver their message or cause to the right people?

This post also a distorted sense of causality. Just because Farmville taps into the hearts of people who have a desire for a more simple, pastoral life doesn’t mean that Farmville is making people yearn for farm life. And even if that were true, what is the harm in that? Anyone who starts farming after being inspired by Farmville will find on day one that reality is different.

It’s true that entertainment media of any kind influences how people think or feel– there are decades of studies on this. But before blaming games for not being realistic, we should think of more fundamental problems: if people are so gullible as to believe everything in games is true, it reflects a lack of ability to separate fiction from non-fiction to begin with. This inability to distinguish reality is a mental disorder, more influenced by environmental functions, a long laundry list that includes demographics, household environment, personality traits, genes, and so on and so forth

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