Wait ... Why is This Entertaining?

>> Tuesday, January 12, 2010

With a title like the one above, I could go anywhere ... maybe even start a specialized, "Why" series, right? Like we need another "Why" column. Or maybe we really, really do.

Anyway, I've often wondered why some people (includng me) find somethings entertaining enough to make sacrifices to do them.

Some people like movies (DH). To him, a movie is worth giving up other things so you can use your cash to go to see something on a big screen. To me a movie is nice, but I really think it is an opportunity to realize that I need to get my glasses cleaned, movie popcorn is really good, and every single movie out there is too long for the size soda that comes with the value popcorn deal. In other words, I don't do the Willing Suspension of Disbelief very well. I blame my bladder. I find it hard to be totally engrossed in a shoot out in space when I'm thinking, "When will I miss nothing important so I can go pee?" So, yes, I'll go (for the right movie), but don't count on me giving up much to have the money to do it.

Some people like exercise. I had a great friend in law school who used to go to the gym twice a day. I also had a bit of an odd roommate in college who used to go work out because she was bored and couldn't think of anything to do. Honestly, she once said to me, "I've already worked out three times today. Now what do I do?" Um, crack a book, honey? This is college, you know. Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-exercise. I understand the merits, and I know how essential it is. I even understand liking how it makes you feel when you are fit. But exercise as entertainment? I definitely do not understand that. To me, exercise is work, and the only way I would ever find it an activity to ease my boredom is if someone honestly found a way to actually let me read a book without losing my place while hopping around, and the only way I would be able to turn the page would be to keep going. Now that would be entertaining (on many, many levels, I think).

And then there is FarmVille. Or Farm Town. Or My (lil) Farm. All of these are on Facebook, and any one of them is totally addicting. Having closely examined two of them, I would say that I prefer one over the other, and I don't know much about the third, but the concept is the same. You have your own little digitized person, who owns a farm and plants crops. The crops grow, you harvest them, you sell them, you make money, you plow, you buy more seeds, you plant more crops, and so on and so forth. As you earn more money than you spend, you can buy decorations and buildings to put on your farm. Some buildings to funky things, others just sit there. Some buildings store things, and others can be stored. You can also acquire animals and trees that (depending on which game you are playing), require harvesting, petting, brushing, or watering and may get you more coins (depending on which game you are playing). If you fail to visit your farm often enough, your crops will die, and all that money will be wasted. Got the concept?

I first learned about the addictive power of this game when Darling Husband's brother came to visit while our internet was out. He lamented our internet outage, not because he wanted to look up something, but because his crops would die in Farm Town. I offered him a real live pile of wood to chop and a real life flower garden to weed to help him get his farm fix, but for some reason he didn't think it was quite the same.

I resisted looking at the game for the longest time, as I really didn't need anything that addictive, nor did I really understand the charm. Finally, I gave in and decided to play, and sure enough, I was soon busily brushing virtual animals and harvesting virtual rice paddies. (BTW, these are the only farms in the world where you can grow anything, regardless of climate!) The game is truly addicting.

But why? I first realized there was a real question here when I showed it to my mother, who said, "That looks like fun. What's the point?"

I had no answer.

I told her there was no goal, no endgame, no point. You just grew crops and built stuff. Over and over again.

Wait a minute.

Why is this entertaining? This is starting to sound like work! If I don't log in periodically, I lose ground, and if I do log in, I have to run the little virtual plow all over the place to make sure I get everything, as well as picking virtual fruit off virtual trees and virtual eggs out of virtual chicken coops.

Methinks I'm spending an awful lot of energy on building this virtual world and, unlike a game on my Nintendo (pick your version), at no point will this game ever say, "YOU WON!" and turn off. It goes on forever. At best, if it isn't work, it certainly is life, right?

At this point in time, I am virtually rich!

Sadly, I am still really not rich.

I don't get it. I love the game. It's a lot of fun. I just can't figure out why.

What do you do for entertainment that makes no sense?


ashleypmo January 13, 2010 at 9:27 PM  

I play Webkinz under the guise of earning my daughter points...but face it, I just really freakin' love Eager Beaver Adventure Park....

ASK January 14, 2010 at 12:56 AM  

I cannot think of anything that I do regularly fits your question - perhaps I am missing out ;-) Maybe these games are tapping into a repressed urge to have some tangible results to our daily efforts. So many people have jobs that are important and needed in our society, but at the end of the day their work is not tangible, you cannot touch or see it. By creating this 'farm', virtual as it is, they can do work and seed the fruit of thier efforts be manifest. Just my take.

Karin January 14, 2010 at 8:29 AM  

ashleypmo -- I don't know from Eager Beaver Adventure Park, but I was perilously close to getting addicted to Disney's Toontown before I realized what I was doing. Of course, I only logged on for the points I got the first time ...

ASK -- methinks you should write a philosophy blog. Oh, right! You DO write a philosophy blog! Good thing!

ASK January 15, 2010 at 9:57 PM  

In the immortal words of Jill: 'Well, there is that.' Thank you for again confirming why you are my friend. :-)

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