FarmVille, the farming simulator developed by Zynga in 2009, was a zeitgeist among Facebook users. During my high-school years, you were judged heavily by the crops you planted and how many cows you had. It’s a pretty excellent metric for how stupid high-school is.
As far as video games go, FarmVille was pretty standard for what we know as mobile games today. It’s free-to-play with a ton of different currencies to help expedite your tasks as a farmhand. However, mobile gaming wasn’t much of a thing back then. In fact, for my generation, only a few of us had smartphones. I was still rocking a Samsung Alias at the time, so Farmville was a mobile game because I played it on my laptop.
Going over a friend’s house to hang out, and someone would say, “oh, I have to check on my crops” was par for the course. It’s easy to look on those days with fondness. Not a smartphone in sight, just people vibing.
It’s been over ten years since I last stepped on that freshly tilled soil. When I heard that Farmville would officially close on December 31, 2020, I quickly logged back on to say goodbye.
First off, you can no longer just access the game right through your Facebook browser. You have to download the Facebook Gaming application to your computer. Once I loaded up Farmville, I felt excited, nervous, and a little terrified to see the shape my farm was in.
Weirdly enough, the farm was exactly how I assumed my 14-year-old self left it a decade ago. My green and pink cows all in a nice line behind a black fence. All of my geese behind them with the stray chicken or horse milling around the virtual pasture. I even had a banana tree hanging out in the corner. Not sure what my farm’s aesthetic was, but it was laid out efficiently.
It dawned on me that even back in 2010, It wasn’t about just enjoying the game, but it was about being the most efficient farmer of your friends. Facebook integration was much more than ease of use function. It promoted competition and acted as a barometer of how much better (or worse) you were than your friends.
I suddenly recalled all of the moments in class. We would talk about the best crop to harvest (it’s grapes if you’re wondering). People would yell at others for spending real money on the game, citing “just take your time, you’re cheating” as their response.
Vivid memories of playing Halo 3 or Call of Duty while people had their laptops open exclaiming, “I just need a minute to check on my farm.”
Now, as I stand in an abandoned farm that used to be teeming with life, I look at the bottom row on my screen. What used to be propagated with a bustling activity feed of friends and family working on their farm is empty. It’s sad, but it’s been ten years. I’m not sure what I was expecting.
Every click on the screen ends up popping up a new advertisement for a different Facebook game. Almost like the game is shouting to do something else, anything else. Farmville is at peace with its demise, and it’s telling me to feel the same.
I walk around my farm a little more, milking the alien cows that I got during a limited-time event and checking to see if the chickens laid any eggs. These animals don’t know their life is coming to an end, and I don’t have the heart to tell them, so I simply go about my farmhand tasks and reunite with old animal companions.
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I don’t know if I will return to FarmVille again before it shuts down, but who knows. Maybe I’ll spend New Year’s Eve with my farm, one last time.