Planting Pixels: An exploration of tutorials in selected farming simulator games
Hicklen, Taylor Thomas
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Simulator games hold wide appeal for tapping into experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible to consumers. For some players, information about agricultural practices and equipment is transmitted through farming simulator games. The purpose of this study was to perform a qualitative content analysis using an aesthetic lens on the tutorials of two farming simulation game titles—Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning and Farming Simulator 2013: Titanium Edition. The research 1) described the setting and time period portrayed in the farming simulator tutorials, 2) identified the player’s demographic characteristic and physical appearance customization options, 3) identified algorithm-controlled elements, such as pre-scripted events, actions, and characters, 4) described the graphic design of visual elements, 5) classified the available options for farming equipment, crops, and livestock through in-game graphics and interface, and 6) described activities the player has direct control over within the tutorials. Research found that the selected titles took very different approaches to gameplay and narrative, and these approaches had direct implications for how characters, tools, and settings were depicted. Farming Simulator 2013: Titanium Edition depicted agriculture as a modernized system of actions performed by a lone individual, while Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning portrayed agricultural practices as rural and outdated, but with an interlocking system of people and activities. Recommendations for future research and practice are provided.