The irony of cubicle-bound office drones obsessing over their pixelated Farmville plots always seemed sweet to us. For the uninitiated, the Farmville game lets Facebook users preside over a virtual farm. However, over at The Atlantic, David Thier casts game designer Zynga's sensation in a harsh light:

“[I]n June 2009… millions of people around the world signed in daily to tend virtual crops and spend real money on fake animals, trees, duck ponds, and the like. As it turns out, it's also a savage metaphor for the death of the small family farm to the grinding wheels of mechanized capitalism. Who knew?”

Thier describes how his approach shifted–from satisfaction, tickled with his wee wholesome avatar's tomato-planting prowess, to hunger–for a more profitable operation and a larger mansion. To make more money, he crammed blinking, big-eyed cows in small spaces, dropped lots of coin on fancy farm gear, mercilessly sprayed his crops, and started an ill-advised wine-making venture. And still, Thier explains, even as he wasted energy and abused his livestock, the avatar kept flashing “the same self-satisfied little smile” as he bopped around the grounds, oblivious to his lapses. Finally, Thier writes, he abandoned the game and let his fields go fallow:

“I looked at my farm again recently– it looks the same, so inviting and green, but I know that dream was a lie. The cows are still smiling in their little CAFOs, but they haven't been fed for months. I'm guessing they just died that way.”

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