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The Virtual Vegetable: Colorforms

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Are you a virtual vegetable? I am. A virtual vegetable is akin to a couch potato, but instead of spending too much time parked in front of a television set, a virtual vegetable spends too much time parked in front of a computer. We virtual veggies do not agree with that definition, of course, and insist, “Define ‘too much.’”

You know when someone is in an advanced virtual vegetative state when they keep a laptop under the bed. The last thing done at night is wishing the laptop “pleasant dreams”; the first thing in the morning is wishing it a merry good morning (as in, “Good morning, where’s my mail?”). Die-hard virtual veggies can spend days in bed with a laptop, rising only for brb’s (bathroom breaks) and sustenance (junk food which, once acquired, is brought back to the bed for consumption). Virtual veggies also have keyboard keys that require extra pressure due to the crumbs embedded under them. Because the Internet offers such variety, double-v’s don’t get bored. They merrily skip between You Tube and Facebook, My Space and Amazon. Their idea of taking a break is playing some free on-line games. And they can always justify being on the computer.

I, for one, must spend so much time at the keyboard because I write a blaaaahg, and I have a responsibility to my readers. I can’t even imagine their disappointment when they must go a day without some Miss-Bob-centric essay or review. I am quite sure that there are thousands, if not millions, of people out there who hang on my every keystroke. But pity poor me—inspiration isn’t an eternal flame, you know. Sometimes I have to wait for it to come, and we always meet at the keyboard, so while I’m here I’ve got to find something else to do until it shows up.

Like many double-v’s, I pass the time working on artistic masterpieces. The materials are provided as apps on sites like Facebook and have names like Petville, Superpoke Pets, L’il Farmlife, My Town, Pet Society, and Youtopia. These “games” allow the user to create an environment, such as a farm or town or island, to populate it with various animals and plants, and to decorate it however unconventionally one desires. Then, when you get tired of looking at it, you can recreate the environment, moving “pieces” around, putting some away, bringing different ones out. Why they are called games, I don’t know. Like solitaire you play them alone, but unlike every game I have ever played, you don’t win or lose. If you’re interesting in winning or losing though, quite a few of them contain mini-games.

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.

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About Miss Bob Etier

  • And, another great benefit is that you aren’t standing in the checkout lines at Frank’s Corner Store for hours and hours!