In the past, the “simulator” game genre much like Farming Simulator 2015 was pretty much exclusively made for people who were more into what the simulator was about, rather than gaming. These experiences were less about games, rather more about ways for people to get a small glimpse at jobs and hobbies that might be too imposing for amateur enthusiasts. For instance, flight sims were less for people interested in video games; more to capture the audience of airplane lovers. These titles gave you simple scenarios, but with more realistic controls.
There have been more widespread sim games, such as Sim City from Maxis. However, these “sim” products were more strategy than a true simulator. Recently we have had an interesting trend with games that consider themselves to be simulators. A few European-developed titles try to bring the simulator experience to a wider audience. With the help of digital distributors like Steam, this was a little easier. These games (including Farming Simulator) eased up on the rigorous controls of a true sim and made it a bit more accessible to a common audience.
At least one game in particular from this new practice took off tremendously and became the poster child for this genre. However, Farming Simulator 2015 is not that game. Although Farming Simulator 2015 does a lot to make itself seem inviting to curious newcomers, it still struggles with being accessible to people uninterested in the farming lifestyle. It turns out that farming is a pretty tedious and repetitive job, and Farming Simulator 2015 does not shy away from that at all.
Starting off you’re given three plots of land to farm, one of which already has fully grown wheat. You’re taught how to harvest the wheat, sell it and plant new seeds. That’s all. Get going, and good luck. So you do that…and it takes forever. Seriously, it can take upwards of an hour to do just one of those jobs, depending on how slow you are at it. In addition to that, there are a billion other things you can do. You can buy animals and keep them. You can buy a chainsaw to cut down trees if you wish. If you want to sell your wheat to the train station instead of the grain depository, you can do that too. The game doesn’t tell you the benefits of either. All it gives are a few cryptic graphs and charts that may lead to figuring out the overall economy. There is also a day/night cycle in the game, but I never quite figured out what it was for. You don’t sleep or eat, you just rigorously toil away in the dirt ’til you make enough money to rigorously toil away somewhere else. I feel the nights are just there to mock you; to remind you that you’ve been working nonstop for a week just to plow and sow one field.
Each day that passes you may learn something new. Not because the game tells you but just from slowly looking at the ever-fluctuating numbers and formulas the game presents. I bought some chickens because I had no idea what else to spend my money on. I sold the wheat and barley from my plots but made less than 10,000 euros. I checked out what I could buy for that and realized that even the most basic piece of hay-bailing machinery cost at least five times that amount. The chickens were cheap so I bought a few. Now I have the task of figuring out how to collect and sell the eggs. This game doesn’t place you into a world where you’re a farmer, but rather into a farming purgatory where the only thing you can do is more farming. It taunts you with NPCs who vacantly wander or drive around. Any sort of interaction was met with them phasing through you or stopping until you got out of their way.
The game is a wild labyrinth of possibilities and vague, unknowable ideas. Endless farming…dear God, the endless farming. I’m almost positive that deep within this game are the whispers of some eldritch truth, only found through the maddening turmoil of its futile discovery. This game is abstract. This game is tedium stretched to its very outer celestial limits. This game is filled with ancient pirate treasure. I don’t want to play anymore. I really don’t. But I’m forced to, driven by my own insane desire to plant one more goddamn crop. Also, it helps if you play while listening to a podcast.
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