What exactly is it that we’re doing when we play YoVille, FarmVille, FarmTown, Roller Coaster Kingdom, and the myriad other similar applications available on Facebook? We take elements and put them together and make a picture. We may be presented with an empty field on which we can place crops, buildings, trees, and animals. There is a character in the midst of all of this, the avatar. That’s the little person or animal who’s always in the way when we’re trying to place an item somewhere. Whatever we create is endlessly changeable. We actually don’t have anything in the picture that no one else can have, but we can arrange the virtual items in our own designs. It’s not an art, but it’s almost a craft. When we get tired of the picture we create, we can move everything around or add more items. Happily, we don’t make a mess of our surroundings while creating.
Remember Colorforms? It’s reassuring to know that Colorforms are still around after 59 years. You can actually buy a reproduction of the original shapes set for around $30 and new sets continue to be released. As an experienced person (sounds better than old), I still remember my four favorite sets: the original shapes, Miss Cookie’s Kitchen, Miss Cookie’s Space Age Kitchen, and Popeye the Weather Man. Oh, I had plenty of others (Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Bugs Bunny, for example), but nothing could compare to Miss Cookie’s cabinets that actually opened and closed or creating rain for Popeye and his young friend. Colorforms offered a netbook-sized box of virtual fun. The pleasure that we get when we play our virtual games must be akin to the joy of Colorforms. And nothing is lost in the translation; just as we sometimes lost Colorforms pieces never to find them again, so the great Internet hiccups and swallows up parts of our farms and cities, parts that will never again be seen.
Often when I’m at the computer, Chip (who still owns his original Bugs Bunny set) asks if I’m blogging. I probably strike the keys often enough in a day to produce a new War and Peace. Usually, though, I’m not writing. I tell him, “No, I’m playing with Colorforms.” That’s an answer that satisfies us both.