Stealing Vegetables in China

December 18, 2009by

A story, via Marketplace, combining the amoral nature of disembodied presence and the fun of online games.

The latest craze in China is online farming games. This is no joke. These games are so popular and addictive that the Chinese government had to issue a decree to stop “Stealing Vegetables.”

There are several versions, but in most of the games, players plant veggies, raise animals and sell on the market to make money. If they make enough money, they can buy houses and other luxuries. But other people playing the game can steal from them. In fact, one game is called Stealing Vegetables, or it was until the Ministry of Culture demanded the name be changed:

“In response to the ministry’s demand, two SNS sites, renren. com and have changed Stealing Vegetables into Pick…

Some game players questioned the ministry’s authority to do so, but an official from the Ministry of Culture told the Legal Mirror that this comes under the ministry’s direct administration.”

I believe it’s a law that goes back centuries. Online farming games are under direct supervision of the Ministry of Culture.

The stealing aspect of these games is apparently the most addictive. More from Venture Beat:

“This key addictive feature has created news stories of business executives “obsessed” with stealing vegetables and broken relationships over vegetables stolen on the night shift. The game is so addictive — with players setting alarm clocks at all hours of the night to check crops — that it 
”destroys jobs and relationships.””

Yikes. But the companies that created the games are Happy Farmers:

“While many see China as a copycat country, social farm games may be a good example of home-grown innovation. “Happy Farm is most definitely the first SNS farming game in the world,” said Season Xu, co-founder and chief operating officer of Five Minutes. “A Japanese farm console game inspired us.””

In China, litters of copycats have since arisen, including Sunshine Farm, Happy Farmer, Happy Fishpond, and Happy Pig Farm.

Thanks to our Shanghai correspondent Scott Tong for pointing out this story.