How Pure Farming 2018 taught me to respect rice and strange machinery

This is me in my normal human house in Montana, where I have a large farm. I grow potatoes on this farm, which I plan to sell so I can purchase cows. I plan to feed the cows until they produce milk. I will collect this milk and sell it to purchase a farm in Japan. I do not know how much a farm in Japan costs, but it is every normal human farmer's dream to own and operate a farm in Japan. Or Colombia. Or Italy. I can have farms in all of these locations in Pure Farming 2018, the new farmer on the block that wants to take simulations global, though I worry it's only because it can't match the depth or fidelity of Farming Simulator 17. That's OK though, because now I know where rice comes from. 

I roleplayed a normal human farmer in the free farming mode, but didn't come away with a very good idea of what Pure Farming 2018 is other than a competent farming simulator. I mean, I planted some potatoes and tended to them and hours later I was still doing that, which seems realistic. To get a better idea of the true breadth of Pure Farming 2018, I played through a few Farming Challenges, scenarios in which you need to perform specific tasks, like harvesting olives or coffee or repairing 10 vehicles in a short amount of time. 

I dig (farmer joke) that there's a way for me to skip right to my favorite parts of the process, which will be an inviting feature to those without the time to dedicate hundreds of hours to a potato empire. So to satisfy my own ballooning potato itch, I started with the scenario titled 'Potato Campaign.' And no, I'm not talking about a Call of Duty game (regular human joke).  

Here I am planting potatoes. 

I think the environment artists might have mixed up mountains with very large rocks. 

To plant them, I must first drive my tractor, a Zetor Crystal 160. It is powerful and detailed and real, based on an actual model and brand like every vehicle in the game. I drive my tractor in reverse and connect it to an Akpil Powerplant which is not a tiny power generating medium but a tractor attachment that shoves potato bulbs into the earth. It rips and tears into the earth and deposits my bulbs. I drive back and forth, engaging my tractor in work mode by pressing a key that corresponds to a work command when I'm over the perfect, freshly tilled soil. As I drive back and forth depositing my bulbs I feel calm and alert. These feelings become one, a new emotion that I do not know the name of. Soon, I think, I will water the potatoes and potatoes will sprout. This is good for me, a normal human farmer.

Here I am planting rice in a water field, a field that exists underwater, though it could be reasoned that the water is part of the field. 

These are the questions we normal human farmers grapple with each and every day. I drive back and forth across the water field / field beneath the water and consider whether the water is considered part of the field. Again, I feel calm and alert. Farming has so far proved to be quite boring and thrilling at once. Why do I farm? Why do I farm inside the computer? I do it because this rice planting machine is nothing like I've ever seen, and I didn't know how to farm rice before. I knew it came in big bags that cost very little.

I've peered beyond the veil of abstract labor, and though this virtual labor is still quite abstract with its ugly environments, I appreciate rice more now. Plus, the machine looks like a bicycle and a creature that exists in dimension outside the rules of linear time and space had a child. I can never remember which is the front and which is the back. It is forbidden to remember.

Now I am harvesting the rice.  

This implies time has passed. My trick is that I'm playing a different scenario where the rice has already grown. I could grow it, I just don't feel like it. I harvest by driving a Redlands Combine Harvester TR 22. Notice how top-heavy it looks. Don't take this beaut of any big jumps. But after driving back and forth for 30 minutes to harvest my Montana potatoes, I decide that driving back and forth to harvest the rice is not challenging or entertaining enough, so I make erratic patterns in my path. I think about drawing something lewd, but I do not. Soon, I harvest so much rice that my TR 22 can carry no more and my creation is left unfinished.

I'm not mad, I'm just beginning to realize that harvesting takes the same skills required to determine the most efficient way to mow a lawn. I did a lot of that as a teen, and I don't want to feel like a teen anymore. So instead, I start playing with the TR 22's controls and looking at it up close. This is honestly enough for me. These machines are so damn cool, though I don't expect the masses to agree. Onto another scenario.

Here's me, a normal human farmer, taking a break from harvesting fresh coffee beans. 

I'm using a Skybury Coffee Combine Harvester to do it, and I'm told Skybury is like the Starbucks of Australia. I realize this makes me a hack farmer, working beneath the bootheel of a massive corporation. Coffee beans might not be harvested to chow down on, sure, but I feel bad about it, like I've betrayed the farmer code. But as a real human farmer, what choice do I have? Work for the man and get a steady paycheck or live in a shack and work for myself? These are the moral-ethical quandaries human farmers face day to day. I look forward to a future where a farming simulator addresses this problem, due props to Stardew Valley. 

I think this is my boss. I do not want to anger him. 

Still, check it out. This thing chews and spews, baby. There's a grim satisfaction in harvesting these bushes, driving over them with my steel shed on two legs, a bridge of gnashing teeth between them. 

No bean will be spared today. I do not feel sorry for the beans. I love my big machines too much to feel otherwise. The act of farming is a horrific agreement with nature that requires patience and planning, something a capitalist baby like myself cannot learn to appreciate overnight, but I'm getting there. I realize I call myself a normal human farmer and that it is a lie.

At least Pure Farming 2018 is capable of letting me live the fantasy of a normal human farmer, with a few caveats. It's not a pretty game and not too exciting, except for the lovely machines. They're so detailed and unique, illuminating industries and labor practices from all over the world I was totally unaware of. And on a simpler level, they're just fun to pilot around, like complex Tonka trucks in agriculture sandboxes. 

An early preview build isn't enough to see if it is a more capable, interesting sim than Farming Simulator 17, but the ability to open farms globally and to play with the included toys and crops is an appealing novelty. Most of my enjoyment came from discovering how goods I'm familiar with are planted and processed rather than the management minutiae, though I'm sure there's a stressful Stardew Valley in there waiting to plugged into a spreadsheet.