Thursday 25 September 2014

5 video games that make you want to go back to nature... and why they probably shouldn't

5. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

Skyrim: a land of majestic forests, breathtaking vistas and untrammelled wildlife. As you wander through the land hunting, picking ingredients and waylaying passing legionnaries to steal their boots, it's almost impossible not to wish for a simpler, purer existence.

Yeah, but no. Skyrim is no place for subsistence agriculture. Between dragons, bastard adventurers with an interest in burning beehives and an ongoing conflict between a bunch of racists and some equally hateful expansionist fascists, the average smallholder's odds of surviving the harvest, let alone getting in a decent crop, seem vanishingly small.

See this? That's your farm, mate. (Source: Wikia)
Essentially, you'd be better off packing in the farming and going into the second-hand, slightly-bloodstained armour business. Assuming you enjoy staring down the business end of a Nordic sword.

4. Plants vs Zombies

"Oh, hey, look at those happy little sunflowers! They're adorable! Oh, and check out those peashooters. Heh, those little guys are pretty potent. OH GODS! NO! What IS that rider thing? WHY IS THAT BUNGEE ZOMBIE STEALING MY SNOW PEAS!?!?!"

Gardening is exactly like this. (Screenshot credit: Robin Burkinshaw)

What the game doesn't tell you is that, as well as having to deal with horrible, slimy monsters, your long-suffering plants will have to cope with the cannibalistic attentions of their own kind. Mulch early, mulch often.

3. SimFarm

Before Maxis' Sim franchise jumped the shark with its virtual person torturing simulator, The Sims, one the many surprisingly detailed simulation-cum-strategy games it trotted out was SimFarm. Now only available as abandonware, this 1993 DOS-era game put you in charge of  a small farm with the potential to grow into an agricultural empire.

It really is remarkably detailed, with different ideal growing seasons, irrigation levels and even a bit of animal husbandry thrown in for good measure. As well as keeping an eye on your growing cycle, you have to build an infrastructure of irrigation ditches, roads and fences, and even nurture the growth of a local agricultural village.

It's okay. My farm vacillates between floodplain and arid wasteland, too
What isn't immediately apparent is that SimFarm is a mercilessly growth-oriented look at agro-business at its worst. You've no choice but to intensively use pesticides, herbicides and industrial-grade fertilisers to combat the consequences of keeping your fields in constant use. And if you don't? The ever-present shadow of the bank looms large as your withered crops and dying cattle send you spiralling further and further into debt.

Sure, it might look like an easy-going proto-casual game, but SimFarm is really a harsh insight into a world of profit-at-all-costs agriculture. Just be glad they opted not to include factory farmed chickens.

2. Goat Simulator

No look at the world of back-to-the-earth gaming would be complete without the award-winning Goat Simulator. Experience the joy of hand-rearing a playful, friendly creature that will reward you with affection, milk, and, if you're that way inclined, its tasty (ethically reared) flesh. Oh, wait, hang on... I mean that other thing.

Be a goat. Fuck shit up.
Unmitigated destruction and mayhem. That one.

1. Minecraft

While mining is the headline activity in Minecraft, every right-thinking person will doubtless agree that the heart of the gameplay is in painstaking growing crops, luring animals into fenced-off caves in the hope that they pop out a minature animal, and running around beating pigs to death with a pork chop. (We once ran an entirely vegetarian Minecraft server. That's what happens when a Steve snaps. Pork chop death.)

Oh hell, no. Source: Gamepedia
The only downside to this agrarian utopia of waterways and papyrus fields? Creepers, hell-bent on detroying all your hard work. "But surely," you ask, "Creepers are nothing you have to worry about in the real world?" Yeah, right.

This used to be a wall.

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