Friday, July 30, 2010

Creativity and Art in Farming

Crop Circles, where some force cuts a swathe through ripening grains or other Crops in order to create a symbol or pattern have been the subject of much discussion and even a film or two. Likewise, there are patterns in different locations throughout the world that can be seen only from the air and include both the Crop Circles and Nazca symbols. Ancient chalk figures in England such as the Uffington Horse and Cerne Abbas Giant can be seen from the ground but the best view is to be found from a high hill or from the air.

Oddly enough, it is when playing a farming simulation game that ordinary individuals can construct landscapes or patterns in a similar fashion. A friend of mine who played Rune Factory Frontier declared his intention to plant flowers in every field, including the dungeons, creating a landscape that would be extraordinarily beautiful. I sadly suspect he never had the time to complete this wonderful plan but it captured my imagination even if I never was able to find the time to do it either.

My first personal experience with creativity in gaming was a Level Creator tool in a PC game named Claw. With virtually no expertise in computer programming, I was able to create my own custom levels for the game. One could place bonus coins in any location for the Character, Captain Claw to reach. I loved creating patterns with the gold coins and in fact, wrote 'Freya' in the sky in almost every level I created.

The creation of any custom level was a time-consuming business and I doubt very many people even play Claw now. Nonetheless, I discovered some of the aesthetic pleasure in creating patterns with Crops in Fantasy Kingdoms, Lovely Farm and Farmville.

The Magical Crops in Fantasy Kingdoms are the most stunning and unusual and each has different stages of growth. The appearance of the Seeds when first planted is almost as beautiful as the Crop when it is ready for harveest. What surprised me, however, was the discovery that the Crops in Lovely Farm likewise have a number of different stages and are very beautiful at each stage. The Crops that are available at Level 1 are not the most beautiful on the whole and it is only when players raise their Levels that they can work with a number of different colours, textures and patterns not only in Seeds but in spouting Crops and Crops that are almost ready to be harvested.

I truly enjoy taking the time to plot out patterns on my field in Lovely Farm. In Fantasy Kingdom, I have become more involved in the magnificent buildings and decorations lately but aesthetics rather than cash flow always determine my choice of Crops there as well.

One can create beautiful patterns on the field in Farmville and indeed, some of the Flowers are lovely, but the game drives players to grow Crops in large quantities. The Co-Op Jobs and the Crafting (which requires Bushels that are randomly generated by harvesting a particular Crop) are all geared towards mass farming. It adds strategy to the game but makes it less of a Zen meditation exercise. I enjoy my visits to my Lovely Farm and Fantasy Kingdom far more for the most part, despite the addition of a magical carousel to my Farmville estate.

There are those who rake the sand in a Zen garden each morning and/or evening. For me, creating a beautiful pattern with Crops and Flowers has the same effect.

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