A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to FarmVille

According to MSNBC.com, the virtual world of FarmVille on Facebook now has over 80 million residents (ref, MSNBC.com). If FarmVille was a sovereign nation, it would be larger than every European nation except Germany and Russia. In fact, it would be the 15th largest nation on Earth (ref, Wikipedia). That’s a lot of virtual farming. And if a nation’s GDP was measured in gold coins or perfect bunches of flowers, I am sure it would be the wealthiest.

Recently I decided to embark on a fact finding mission to FarmVille, to see what all the hype was about. I had noticed many of my Facebook friends’ updates about their agricultural and animal husbandry successes and my curiosity was aroused. However, after a frustrating hour of trying to figure out why it was so much fun, I gave up.

Very quickly, a number of friends reached out requesting I become a FarmVille “neighbor” and they started sending me virtual gifts. I found this both amusing and worrisome. Amusing because I was surprised how many were playing it, and worrisome because I did not want to offend anyone by not responding. So I decided to play along while I developed an exit strategy. But along the way something happened—I started to enjoy it.

As I reached out to other friends to become neighbors, I thought about the fact that many of my Facebook “friends” were people I had never met. I knew them because of online games I’ve played or through Twitter. But I have interacted with many of them enough that I feel I do know them. It still amazes me the ways these sites can bring people together in an often meaningful way.

I was fascinated recently when a discussion started among several of my friends who did not know each other or have any existing relationship other than that they know me. They were commenting on something I posted on Facebook and started talking among themselves via the comments. My separate groups of friends are starting to talk. This is great (I think). And it is beginning to happen more frequently.

I doubt I will stick with FarmVille for long. It is beginning to feel more like work than play—harvesting crops before they wither is stressful (even when they don’t really exist).

But if I pick up a few new relationships from the experience, it will be worth it.