It all started after I treated myself to a new Android tablet, a Sony Xperia (highly recommended).
Firstly, a normally reliable friend of mine introduced me to Candy Crush, a pointless game which kept me occupied for too many hours over a couple of months. If your idea of fun is matching liquorice allsorts whilst battling against spreading chocolate then this is for you.
But the novelty wore off. I went in search of a new free-to-play game that might be a bit more challenging. And there, in the Google Play Store was Hay Day.
Six months later and a huge chunk of my life has disappeared without trace.
If you are not familiar with Hay Day it is your chance to play at farming, starting with a couple of patches of field, some wheat seeds and a vast overgrown area of trees that you will eventually develop. Not only into a thriving farm with chickens, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, a dairy and a farm shop, but also a separate fishing area and a town. As you expand you will join a farming co-op, open a sushi bar, coffee shop, a mine, a soup kitchen, spa, cinema… You get the idea.
And it is highly addictive. And it doesn’t cost a penny – unless you want to take short cuts.
The graphics and programming are exceptional and you can interact live online with any of a million or more other real life players with whom you trade.
The first hour of my day involves setting up my farm and town for the day; then I return all too often. Meanwhile my other half (also an addict) is up several times throughout the night to send out her farm boy for scarce supplies. OK, I’ve also had a few sessions in the small hours, and I’m not talking about those sorts of sessions!
But it could also be a serious educational tool. Calling it a realistic business simulation would be overdoing it, but as a schoolroom activity it would teach basic business disciplines – margins (and arithmetic), rudimentary stock control, cash flow and supply chain management. Teachers take note: this will better prepare your pupils for life than reciting Shakespeare or learning about the Ancient Greeks.
But mainly it is great fun, and you don’t have to kill a single alien. Try it, but beware – you may find that your social life is sacrificed for red eyes, and that you become obsessed because your greedy pet goat eats its way through your stock of virtual carrots.
Anyway, enough of this. I’ve got chickens to milk.