Ned Donovan over at The Kernel informs me of something of which I was not aware: there’s a computer game that’s a massive blockbuster in Germany but in no other major market, and it’s a game that sounds to the rest of the world as dull as dirt—literally. The game is Farming Simulator 2013 (or Landwirtschafts-Simulator 2013, as it’s called in Germany). It and its previous versions are mainstays on the top ten list in Germany, whereas in the UK, the country that manufactures it, it’s more likely to be found at rank 243.
Farming Simulator is the David Hasselhoff of the computer game industry.
The Kernel piece is titled “How Germans Do Escapism,” and it’s a worthwhile subject to ponder. Donovan points out that many of the people who enjoy the game are farmers themselves, and even ferrets out this fabulous quotation from GameStar.de: “I am fulfilling my childhood dream.” The kicker, of course, is that the man who offered up that explanation is himself a farmer.
Farming Simulator is made by UK computer game company Excalibur Publishing, which also publishes—I’m not making any of this up—Chemical Spillage Simulation, Airport Ground Crew Simulation, Road Construction Simulator, Camping Manager, Stone Quarry Simulator, and Underground Mining Simulator.
In America we favor GTA 5 and Call of Duty and Red Dead Redemption, violent adventures in which the player is encouraged to “act out.” Donovan points out that Call of Duty in particular is notably unpopular in Germany. Remember, we often make fun of the Germans for being so martial. Maybe we need to rethink our assumptions here.
Here’s what I think. I think Americans like dull games as much as the Germans do. Donovan goes out of his way to present these Excalibur games as being essentially identical to the office life many of its players endure in the daytime, but anyone who has ever gotten addicted to The Sims has surely wondered why it was so important to keep the Sims’ goddamn plants alive even as the actual plant in the actual living room slowly turns brown. Lots of “action” games rely on very repetitive actions, such as reloading weapons, looting corpses for ammo, and the like. I can vividly remember playing Red Dead Redemption and spending untold hours scampering all over Cholla Springs and Tall Trees in search of plants like Hummingbird Sage and Wild Feverfew.
Why? Whether it’s Tetris, Farming Simulator, or Call of Duty, it’s all about the oxytocin hit. We like piling up accomplishments, and we like leveling up, it’s good for one’s self-image. I don’t want to play Farming Simulator, but I can understand its soothing appeal.
For the curious, here’s 24 goddamn minutes of someone baling hay in Farming Simulator 2013 to a driving dubstep-ish soundtrack:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Does ‘Dancing Outlaw’ Jesco White have a cameo in the new Grand Theft Auto?!?