Would someone please explain the appeal of Farmville?


What does the success of Farmville – Facebook's most popular game application, with 75.2 million active users – tell us? That with no danger of back sprain or dirty fingernails, virtual farming is more appealing than the real thing?  Maybe that people are looking for games that aren't about warfare?

I clearly don't get it but I know some of our readers are Farmvillers (I'm looking at you, Craig) and I'm hoping they'll enlighten us about this phenomenon.


  1. I don’t play it, and it is very irritating to have my facebook friends always asking me to buy them a cow or fertilize their crops or whatever.

  2. My one sister in law has embraced facebook. She is a friend on my daughter’s page and keeps me posted. She loves this farm game. She is the most non-outdoor, non-garden, non-plant person I know. I think you got it right when you said it is a non-war game. Whole market out there of potential gamesters if they offered something besides bang bang shoot’em up.

  3. Actually, the appeal has absolutely nothing to do with growing anything – it’s all about the sharing and helping family and friends to advance in the game levels, ribbons and collections. There’s also that tiny touch of competition. The fact that it’s a ‘farm’ setting is completely inconsequential.

  4. If the Facebook clutter bothers you, you can block Farmville and other Facebook games: http://www.ehow.com/how_5639438_block-other-games-facebook-feed.html

    What’s the attraction? I liked playing with Legos as a kid. So for me, Farmville is kind of like online Legos for gardeners.

    Lord knows the lines in my real garden will never be that straight, nor will the color of my bulbs match the color of my trees. But I can make that happen in Farmville.

    I also play along with some family members. We have a little friendly competition going. Some folks I know are more into the social aspects, and have struck up friendships with people around the world who they met through Farmville. (I can always use more neighbors. Friend me.)

    I harvest my crops and manage my ‘farm’ while I watch the news at night. It beats the heck out playing solitaire, keeps me off the streets and out of trouble, and provides a little distraction and diversion to get me through the winter.

    A educator friend of mine lamented the other day, “I do wish kids could actually learn something about farming by playing Farmville.”

    That’s a legitimate complaint. But it would probably make the game way too complicated to have mass appeal. Play SimFarm (if that’s still around) if that’s what you’re looking for.

    But one thing the game does teach is delayed gratification — which is probably one of the most important traits to foster in future gardeners. You plant crops but have to wait hours or days to harvest them. You visit well-developed farms of your ‘neighbors’ and know that you can gradually build your farm to their level if you’re persistent.

    The game can also be a creative outlet. Sure, most of the farms are pretty boring. But some folks arrange their farms to form quilt patterns or create 3-D effects.

    I’ll add a picture of my farm over at Ellis Hollow later this morning (it’s been neglected lately) if you’re curious.

  5. It is just a game that I “play” with friends-many of whom are avid gardeners. I know we will all stop as soon as the snow melts! Last winter I played Plant Tycoon-this winter Farmville. On my “farm” I’ve made a garden nursery and plant, harvest and rearrange flowers while I wait for my real seed order to come in.

  6. I love farmville, it helps me keep in touch with relatives across the country in a fun way. I agree with Tina’s remarks above, although I have to say that farmville satisfies my gardening urges during this frigid weather(northeast) when I can’t grow anything outside until Spring. Also, I can have things on my farmville farm that I can’t have in real life- My RN sister says it can be a great stress reliever as well.

  7. I started out playing Farm Town (It’s predecessor) and built up quite the plantation, but got to the point it took an hour a day to keep it up. I wasn’t getting that much time on my real garden/farm. The last thing I needed was cyber-guilt from from my cyber-farm. I’ve got plenty to do and a great creative outlet right outside of my window, and the tomatoes it produces taste much better.

  8. My neighbors and I have a running competition on Facebook with Bejeweled Blitz but have never played Farmville. I find the announcements irritating.

  9. My son had that on his i-touch. He was having a fun time with it. I don’t see the interest in it, myself.

  10. Thanks for the link to erase Farmville announcements, Craig! I could not fathom why anyone would play it, though I have many friends and family members who are always offering me a free pig or kitten. One cousin plays some cooking thing. Personally, I find the graphics rather hideous, so haven’t been attracted. I can confess to enjoying other non-online games with better graphics, though I have to uninstall them for long periods of time during most of my year in order not to become a game blob in front of the computer. Beats alcoholism as an addiction, I guess, but still a massive brain suck habit that I aim to kick when I become a better person.

  11. Wow, glad I asked and thanks for the illuminating answers.
    Esp. Craig – coz I love the image of families and friends playing virtual games together. Brings back memories of playing cards and board games as a family when I was a kid.

    You’ve turned me into a huge fan of Farmville (though not a playa).

  12. I wonder if there is a particular age range associated with FarmVille users? Primarily 20 to 30? 30 to 40? Do a lot of 40 to 50 year olds play? I’d never heard of FarmVille until this post, but then I don’t use Facebook.

  13. Well said, Craig. I don’t play Farmville, but I do play another FB game. The attractions: it’s all about having a fun way to connect with family when we are spread out all over the continent. There’s only so many times you can phone and ask a young niece or nephew that you hardly ever get to spend time with “how’s school?” or whatever. Playing and IMing over a FB game provides opportunity to connect and have real fun with a kid decades younger than yourself.

  14. There’s actually a lot of farm type board game out right now.

    Settlers of Catan
    Puerto Rico

    All have a land/farm/defend set up. They are all fun. I don’t know why the flavor of the game has to be farming. Flavor is kind of a geeky word used to discribe the story drive for the game. It could be space aliens or barbi dream houses or WWII (think Risk) but for whatever reason the flavor of right now is farming and country life. I’m sure it’s some sort of reflection on society.

  15. I can’t explain the appeal of FarmVille to me but I’ll bet Stuart Brown who spoke at TED
    would be able to.
    Whew! The internet can wear you out if you give it a chance. I was googling around and came across a lot of writings about the difference between “game” and “play” and about the psychological & anthropological & historical study of play & games. I liked this: …”when we win or attain something, the pleasure centre in the brain (the nucleus accumbens) releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is chemically similar to cocaine.” And this: “humans are among the very few animals that play as adults. What the evidence adds up to is this: we are most human when we play—and just because we play.” Oh and one more: “For some time, game designers have known how to apply the work of the behaviourist B.F. Skinner to videogame design, creating reward schedules….”

  16. I had thought this internet/digital/computer revolution was supposed to save the world by creating less waste, saving us valuable time in our lives etc. I think what it has created is a massive waste… of time. All these digital time saving applications has allowed us to …. spend more time in front of the computer? I think people would be better served if they walked out their door and met their neighbors instead. Save the computer for looking up some valuable information on websites or blogs…. you know, information that might allow you to exit your house and grow better veggies in your garden.

  17. I got into Farmtown last summer, but it’s pretty pointless. It was a huge waste of time, just as Farmville is, but my wife plays it every day. I suppose it’s nice to do something mundane, but I’d prefer REAL mundane with less eye strain!

  18. I ditto Nancy, it’s a quick way to forward your garden interests in the bleak winter light. I’m in my early 30’s, not afraid of the computer, and currently training to be a Master Gardener with a local University. It does seem to set people on polar opposites, however, you either hate it and think you must be looser to play any game on the computer; or it’s just another currency of our culture. I make real friends at parties admitting to FV, then enjoy getting a gift from them later.

  19. Currently, it’s wet. And chilly. I’ve done my first forking-over of my garden, but other than wandering around checking bulbs for signs of life, there’s not much doing in my garden. FarmVille (and just starting my Master Gardener’s class!) helps take the edge off until springtime. Well, that and mooning over seed catalogs and clematis websites and here.

  20. OK, I freely admit to being a Farmviller. But I skip the postings to my Facebook page, so no one is bothered by the messages. Why do I like it? There’s the social aspect as many have mentioned, but it also appeals to my childhood. Not only did I play with Legos like Craig, but I loved playing with my dollhouse and Farmville reminds me of that. It’s a quick mental break from hours of online work. And I don’t know about you, but once I go outside to garden it might be hours before I come back in.

  21. It’s a silly little game that helps snowbound upper Midwesterners pass the time till the tundra thaws. You should see my orchard! 😉

    (by the way, you can “hide” any application you don’t want to see, on Facebook, without hiding those playing it.)

  22. It’s cute and it’s kind of funny to call each other farmers when in reality we are stuck at school doing homework. Great procrastination tool.

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