If you’ve ever fancied escaping the 9 to 5 and living off the land, then this new simulation game could have been designed especially for you.
But, rather than risking starving or financial ruin if your harvest doesn’t come good, you simply face the demise of your virtual world.
And, while it may seem very sedate in comparison to some of the action and shoot-em-up games on the market, Farming Simulator is really the equivalent to Sunday night television, the ideal relaxation tool before the real working week starts again.
You look after animals, grow crops and make sales, managing a farm just as you would in the real world, but without any of the farm smells. For petrol heads, you also get to control more than a hundred farming vehicles and machines, so if you’ve always wanted to drive a tractor or a combine harvester, now’s your chance.
There’s also more choice of what you raise and grow this time round for the farming game, with new crops including sugar beet and potatoes and new animals including chicken and sheep.
It might all sound fairly mundane, but it’s actually rather satisfying to successfully manage to grow a crop or rear an animal – even in the virtual world. It’s the same sort of feeling which accounts for the success of digital pets Tamagotchis in the 1990s, which have recently been re-released, and the DS game Nintendogs.
Bizarrely, the game is apparently very popular with real-life farmers, who you would assume would be itching to do something completely different with their down time.
Farming Simulator has, so far, been most popular in Europe and, in particular, Germany. But makers Giants are trying to appeal to a wider global market by adding more US-inspired imagery to the game, including big American-style barns in red and white and flatter fields of the like usually seen across huge swathes of the US.
“We tried to give Americans more incentive to play the game,” senior artist Mark Schwegler said. It is hoped the virtual game could also encourage a new generation of farmers with young teens particularly keen on playing the gentle simulation.
Usually published just for the PC, developers have now made it available for console gaming, on PlayStation 3 and Xbox360.
Schwegler said: “It’s very popular with people in the agricultural industry. They are the most vocal audience we have – people who are actually farming. They’re very active on our forums and they’ll tell us if we’re doing something wrong.”
The cult game also has some celebrities hooked, with Mock The Week’s Ed Byrnes recently admitting he was addicted to the farming simulator.
Players start with one farm, deciding which crops to grow in which fields. Once they’ve harvested their wheat, barley, corn, potatoes and sugar beets, they take them to market, trying to make a profit. You can buy more fields and expand your farm with the money you make.
“It’s an endless game,” Schwegler added. “Slow, relaxing games can be good.”