‘Cause I got a brand new combine harvester and I’ll give you the key,
Come on now, let’s get together in perfect harmony.
I got 20 acres and you got 43,
Now I got a brand new combine harvester and I’ll give you the key.’
As I awoke in a daze, those words echoed through my head, familiar but distant. The sun’s glare, once a warm companion, now beat upon me like a tireless slave driver. As I rose to my feet I took in my surroundings; a quaint farmhouse, a dripping fountain, a corn field on the near horizon. Welcome to Farming Simulator, I was told. Welcome to where crop is king. Welcome to your prison.
Staggering over to the nearest field, I became aware that the corn was already grown (possibly having been worked by the previous owners, or perhaps previous clone of me?) and was ready for harvest. Of course, there was no indication of how to do so, or which of the three battered vehicles I found was the right tool for the job. I remembered the words of the song once again, and a fleeting childhood memory of a farm visitation so many years before gave me a blurry outline of what a ‘combine harvester’ might be. I picked the red one that seemed to be some cruel splicing of a wood chipper and a grotesquely overgrown lawn mower.
It was only upon driving the mechanical beast to the field that the drudgery turned to horror. I lowered the arms and teeth of the machine and began to reap the sown seeds of my masters, but after a couple of lengths of the field I noticed a prompt to press H. ‘Hire worker’. I was cautious; looking at my inventory I could see I was low on cash and such luxuries could surely only come at a price. But in desperation, I took the jump. Nothing seemed to happen at first – certainly not on the money front, seemingly human slavery is just an accepted part of the Farming Simulator world. Then, as I exited the vehicle and looked back at the driver’s seat, a bolt of pure terror tore through me. An identical copy of myself, in the same dungarees and lumberjack shirt and with a cold, broken stare at the field ahead, was now at the wheel.
I can’t account for what happened in the next few minutes, whether I blacked out from shock or was under Farming Simulator’s hypnosis is anybody’s guess, but I found myself back at the barns where I had found the harvester. I had little idea of what to do next, but I remembered a trail of what could have been discarded straw or corn seeds left behind the harvester, and knew something had to be done about it. If I could just do what Farming Simulator wanted me to do, perhaps I could be free of it. Perhaps. I grabbed a green tractor with some kind of implementation attached to its bumper… I could hardly think straight about what I was doing. Anything was worth a shot.
This time, I hardly thought twice about hiring another clone slave — such is our lot in this world. I sent him on his way with the green tractor, and wondered if I’d be able to free him too when, or if, I escaped. I also saw the harvester had stopped, and was given a prompt that I needed to a fill a trailer with the harvested corn. Yes, sir. Immediately, sir.
Back to the barn, onto another tractor, back to the field; the repetition was numbing. The harvester emptied its belly onto the trailer, and upon my return to the barn, I was able to sell the product. A light glistened, then shone, at the end of the tunnel. Suddenly it all became clear, the simulator’s systems all clicked together, and my quest was laid out before me. The price of buying another field was another ten thousand dollars, so just a few more runs on the field and progression was in sight! I hit ‘sell’. A couple of hundred dollars popped out. Chump change. I collapsed at my desk.
What did I learn from this ordeal? Well, Farming Simulator is pretty great at doing what the title suggests – exactly what the title suggests. In video games, we are taught to expect that work results in reward, and progression equals more fun. Far from the cushy, delightful RPG world of Euro Truck Simulator 2, Farming Simulator is uncompromising in representing the thankless task of agriculture, and if nothing else you will come away with a grizzled admiration for farmers. One job done means another hundred to get to work on if you want to eat this winter. If that’s the kind of horror you’re ready for, then dive in. If not, the mere sight of a tractor may cause terrible flashbacks for the rest of your life. You’ve been warned.