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From Small Beginnings
by Graeme Kapono Urlich

Farmville is an online game that I have been playing for the last eight months on Facebook. It starts out with a small farm with six plots in which you can plant a number of crops to grow. You earn coins if you successfully harvest the crops but if you leave them too long they wither and die.

In the market there are various animals, trees, buildings and decorations that you can buy to enhance your farm as you earn coins. You can buy additional coins or farm cash and many of the items in the market can only be purchased with farm cash. This is how the game authors make their income but you can play for free if you do without a few things.

The game has a reputation for becoming addictive and judging by some of the farms I have seen some people spend considerable time and money on it. After a little while I began to see parallels with real life in it and that it could be used as a tool, a ritual with visual queues, to help reprogram my subconscious mind in the areas of wealth, goal setting and time management.

Part of the game involves adding neighbours and helping out on their farms to chase away crows, clear weeds and fertilize their crops etc. Lately they have introduced co-ops where players can collaborate on earning extra prizes. Ribbons are awarded for certain milestones along the way as well.

Most people play these sorts of games as a distraction or entertainment. Some even use them as an escape, an excuse not to deal with their lives. The overall purpose for me was to play the game to help install healthier thinking about wealth in my subconscious and I found it interesting to watch my priorities change as I achieved each goal along the way.

For example one ribbon was for harvesting trees so I worked out which trees matured the fastest and planted a lot of those so I earned the ribbons faster but this meant other things went slower. Once I got the tree ribbon my priority shifted. I found focusing on one main goal at a time made things seem to go faster which made it more interesting and kept the motivation up.

My main priority within the game, being achievement driven, was to earn experience points as fast as I could. Being a bit competitive it was fun to race against neighbours to get to the next level first. My wife on the other hand decided that making her farm as pretty as she could, collecting sets of animals and building theme areas on her farm was far more interesting than just earning points as fast as possible.

It has also been interesting looking at the different styles of farms and trying to figure out what type of personality the farmers had. Some had all of the trees and animals grouped into orderly rows in their respective species while others had wildly disorganised farms. Some farmers tried to squeeze every last productive square out of their farms while others concentrated on aesthetic qualities with a whole range of variations along that spectrum.

Along the way there were bursts of enthusiasm for new features and goals that were added from time to time while at other stages I was just going along out of habit without any real attention to details. For a long time it was important to always have crops growing and I would calculate which crop produced the best financial gain in the time I calculated I would be able to harvest next. Now as I feel I have achieved my goals with Farmville I am just pottering along with it not worried if the ground lays fallow and growing crops I like the look of more than for their value in the game.

At times some of the medals seemed to have unimaginably high targets to achieve and I wondered if it was worthwhile even going for them. As this was just a game and not real life I figured “Why not? There’s no risk.” I was often pleasantly surprised when a screen would pop up out-of-the-blue to tell me I had attained a new level.

From small beginnings and what seemed like unachievable objectives I:

Earned 1086876 experience points
Befriended 98 Neighbours
Helped them 10,342 times
Earned 53,985,615 coins
Planted 260,430 crops
Harvested 15,992 trees
Harvested 38,292 animals
Planted 38,842 flower crops
And more…

Many people in life don’t take on challenges because the time and effort involved seem too great but if we can start out small and just keep chipping away at things the cumulative benefits build up and we gain momentum along the way. Just as it became easier to gain points faster as I moved up the levels in the game life gets easier and we make faster progress in the direction we want to go if we stay focused and take it one step at a time.

Did I achieve my overall goal of instilling better habits in my real life? Yes I did. By observing the way I tended to think about money in the game and to hoard resources for a rainy day it helped me to free up my thinking in real life and today my finances are substantially stronger and I am gaining ground even though there is still a global recession.

Playing the game became a ritual performed for the specific purpose of improving my finances and success overall. Each time I played I reminded myself of this purpose. Paying attention to how I could be more successful in the game translated to feeling more successful and being more successful in real life.

DISCLAIMER: The author takes no responsibility for anyone getting addicted to the game subsequent to reading this article.

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