Rog Wood: Playing at farming is a lot easier than the real thing

Rog Wood: Playing at farming is a lot easier than the real thing

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Most young boys growing up on farms will have toy tractors and farm machinery, while some may even have a toy farm complete with plastic models of farm livestock. Toy farms always seemed boring to me – after all, where is the action with a model cow, pig or sheep? They either stand up or lie on their sides as if dead.

Toy tractors and their machinery on the other hand, like toy cars, offer little boys hours of fun moving them backwards and forwards across the floor while making the sounds of an engine accelerating, or decelerating.

Other, more fortunate boys can play outside with plastic pedal tractors, complete with a fore-leader that can be raised and lowered manually, or perhaps a trailer in tow behind.

Mind you, even though playing with toy tractors and their machinery stimulates the imagination more than plastic animals, they still lack the realism of a breakdown when pushing to finish a job before it starts to rain. The vocabulary of most young boys isn’t colourful enough to turn the air as blue as I could when I vented my wrath and frustration at my misfortune when such a situation arose.

I started farming with little money, so had to make-do-and-mend. As my second-hand machinery was mostly well-worn and unreliable, I spent a lot of time in the workshop heating bent metal with oxy-acetylene and then straightening it with a heavy hammer, or welding broken parts back together. One of the painful realities of my early farming days was a series of skinned knuckles from undoing rusted nuts located in awkward, almost inaccessible nooks and crannies of a machine.

Nowadays, there is growing interest by all ages in farming games, and there are literally dozens of them online.

Farming Simulator is one such online game that has grown into a phenomenon since its launch ten years ago and has sold 8 million copies worldwide. It has hardly ever been out of the top 10 list of popular games in the USA and Europe, while in Germany – where chancellor Angela Merkel is allegedly a fan of the game -it’s rarely knocked off of the number one spot.

Farming Simulator is a video game played on games consoles, computers, and mobile devices. The aim is to grow and harvest crops and sell them before using the money to buy more seed and better equipment.

Having tried the game myself I have to admit I enjoyed the simulated machinery that was all shiny, top-of-the-range models that I could never have afforded. Nothing ever seems to go wrong in that perfect, make-believe farming world. Crops never get flattened by torrential rain, livestock never escape onto a busy road late at night, and all that fancy equipment never breaks or gets bogged down in a wet part of the field.

I have heard several folk suggest that a farm board-game along the lines of Monopoly could introduce more risk and reality. For instance as players passed go, instead of collecting £200 they could get their Direct Payment, or rather a 90 per cent loan against it pending the Scottish Government’s flawed IT system calculating the actual amount due at some later date.

As with Monopoly, players would be given the chance to purchase property, but instead of houses it would be farms where players erect modern buildings to enhance the rent. I would keep the existing Monopoly system of charging a fixed, non-negotiable rent for those players who land on a property as that mimics the real world of farming where tenants have little or no room for manoeuvre when setting rents with land agents.

As with Monopoly, landing on a Chance or Community Chest could give players a card with instructions on it that might mimic some of the unexpected pitfalls awaiting farmers – but how do you recreate the stress of an unannounced visit by officials to check cattle ear-tags and relevant paper-work?

There’s nothing more depressing than finding a ewe that had been suckling a young pair of twin lambs lying dead after becoming “couped” on her back. In addition to the loss you have the hassle of catching and rearing those twins on artificial milk.

That’s the problem with farm games – they simply can’t recreate the stresses and pressures real farmers face most of the time as they try to deal with adverse weather conditions, disease and volatile prices for their produce.

Put simply, it seems to me that playing at farming can never compare to the real thing.


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