When I was a kid, toys and games were pretty basic. No electronics — the odd battery-powered gizmo — but mostly dolls, building blocks, the Slinky, air rifles, the Easy-Bake Oven, etc., etc. Lite Brite and Etch-a-Sketch were probably as high tech and mysterious as it got back then. So, I used to invent toys in my head that I thought would be really fun to play with.
One of my most successful “inventions” (as in, it was actually produced at some point) was the Barbie Styling Head. I hadn’t thought of it as particularly a Barbie, but I did always think it would be great just to have a big doll head to mess around with – to style the hair, apply make-up, etc. When it finally hit the toy store shelves, I was too old to appreciate it. I never did get any royalties, either.
But of all my inventions, the one I went back to time and time again (in imagination land) was my little “automatic” town. The town was big enough to cover a kitchen table – complete with little houses, shops, a school, a park, people, cars, animals. Lights would go on and off depending on the time of day. People would sleep, get up, eat meals, leave their homes, drive places – just go through their regular routines. There would be seasons and holiday, accidents, fires – a whole little world that somehow functioned automatically. My role would be as observer/manipulator. If nothing fun was happening automatically, I could make stuff happen – like snow or someone’s child getting kidnapped.
I understand that the Sims computer game is a little like this. I’ve never played Sims, but a couple of weeks ago a certain someone who shall remain nameless sucked me into a Facebook game called Farm Town.
In Farm Town, you create a little farmer avatar and you get a plot of land. You plant stuff, it grows, you sell your harvest at the market and make some money. Then you go to the store and buy a house and animals and trees and seeds to plant more stuff. If you need more money you can work other people’s farms and get paid in Farm Town coins. To find jobs you hang around the market and beg for someone to hire you. The more active you are on your farm and other farms the more “levels” you acquire. The higher your levels, the more stuff you’re allowed to buy.
I don’t spend as much time on the game as a lot of people seem to, but I do check in a few times a week. It’s the closest thing to my automatic town that I’ve been inclined to involve myself with. I don’t know if I have the patience or interest to keep it up for long, but it’s kind of fun at the moment.
However … when I set up my Farm Town game, I picked a male avatar. I made him handsome and friendly — just because that seemed like a more fun character than a middle-aged, scowling, grey-haired woman. Also, Farm Town already seems to be overpopulated by females, so I thought it could use a bit of virtual testosterone.
What never even entered my mind at the time is that some people use Farm Town as a place to meet actual people. My avatar is wildly popular. He gets picked a lot to go harvest the farmer ladies’ crops and plow the ladies’ fields.
And the farmer ladies like to chat to my farmer guy while he’s trying to work. They want to know where he lives, what he does, if they can be his real-life Facebook buddy, and so on. I’ve never actually been a guy, so it took me a while to realize that these women (and a couple of guys) were flirting with my farmer dude.
So, then I didn’t know what to do.
So I stayed away from the market for a while. But then I wanted to buy a little house and needed some fast cash so I went back one morning and got enough jobs in less than an hour to buy a house.
And then I figured, what-the-heck and started responding to the lady farmer avatars’ conversations while I was plucking their plums, reaping their wheat and harvesting their melons.
And I found out women are frighteningly aggressive in pursuing males. And forward. And not too subtle. And they will go to great lengths to hold the male’s attention.
Frankly, I was a little shocked. I mean, here I was, a well-meaning little farmer guy just trying to make a buck and here are all these women wanting his email address so they can “buddy’ him and be his real-life Facebook friend and maybe “get together” some time.
What are these women thinking?
So then I started to feel a little guilty and just a little scared.
My farmer always makes a point of telling them all that he lives really far from wherever they instantly volunteer their home town to be, so there are no expectations… though I think some of them are ready to move. It’s all extremely weird.
To me, Farm Town is just a game. I wasn’t even thinking about the actual people behind the avatars. Am I wrong? Why do I feel bad about accepting the lady farmers’ jobs and making lots of Farm Town coins from them because they are hiring me just because they think I’m a guy? Should I change my avatar? Or should I keep the current one, but stop him from being so damned smooth, suave and amusing?
Do actual men have these problems in real life?