Type: Inconclusive. Subject displays characteristics of both EV (Electronic Virus) and IH (Information Hazard) classifications.
Period/location of origin: Mid-2010s, the internet. (See: Additional notes.)
Description: Subject, known in online communities as “That Evil Farming Game,” appears to be — at first glance, at least — a farming simulator video game featuring pixel art released sometime after the year 2000, but before 2015.
Subject’s moniker is drawn from the earliest known description of the game’s content and plot: At the beginning of the game, the player character has a fight with their wife which culminates in the player character murdering the wife. From that point on, the game proceeds as many farming simulators do, with the player character running and constantly improving their farm in order to stay alive; however, unlike typical farming simulators, players are simultaneously tasked with preventing the townsfolk in their community from discovering the murder. Periodically, police arrive at the farm to search the house, requiring players to continually find or create new hiding places in which to keep their victim’s remains out of sight and undiscovered.
[Like what you read? Check out Dangerous Games To Play In The Dark, available from Chronicle Books now!]
However, note that subject is, in fact, not the game itself. Subject is the idea of the game. This distinction is important, as it determines subject’s type, as well as period and location of origin.
Modus operandi: The precise mechanism by which subject’s genesis came about is unknown, but what is known is that subject begins by infiltrating the mind of a single target. This initial target will find themself becoming more and more preoccupied with the possibility of subject’s existence that they will, in time, begin discussing it with others — largely online, but also in the wider world. In this way, subject will worm its way into the minds of successive targets, until each target — or until as many targets as possible — have become so consumed by subject that they can think of nothing else.
Subject’s ultimate goal is unknown.
Perhaps it is simply to exist.
Or to be brought into existence in the first place. (See: Additional notes.)
Containment: Unknown. Perhaps not possible.
Additional notes: Subject’s history on the internet first became notable on April 30, 2016. On this date, Redditor u/sparta213 posted to the r/tipofmyjoystick subreddit inquiring about a specific video game.
The r/tipofmyjoystick subreddit is, functionally, a spinoff of another subreddit, r/tipofmytongue, which helps Redditors locate… things of which they have vague memories, but cannot fully identify. Whereas r/tipofmytongue covers an extremely broad umbrella of things — anything is fair game, from pieces of media to physical objects — r/tipofmyjoystick is focused on video games in particular.
u/sparta213’s post wanted to know if anyone active on the subreddit remembered a game “kind of like Harvest Moon,” but, as previously noted, “with a dark twist.” They described the game as follows (see: Description):
“The game starts out with you and your wife, one night you get in to a fight and you end up stabbing her to death. Now the game revolves around you farming to stay alive while trying to keep the town from finding out about the ‘incident’ that happened. Every now and then the cops come to search your house and you have to hide her corpse.”
In an edit to the original post, they further noted:
“I have no recollection of what console this game was for or when it came out. I know that it was released after 2000. I know this is so vague but it’s really hard to remember something you forgot! Also it had to be before mid-early 2015. Graphics were not 3D. I’m 100% sure it wasn’t a browser game.”
(Note: This Reddit post is not the first time subject ever appeared on the internet. We’ll get there in due time; be patient.)
This post is responsible for inspiring a wild and all-consuming search for “That Evil Farming Game,” as it came to be known. The search spanned roughly five years, spawning both a subreddit and a Discord server focused solely on solving the mystery of what That Evil Farming Game truly was.
Pieces of media proposed and eventually discounted or debunked as the true identity of That Evil Farming Game consisted of major releases, fan-made games, mods and hacks, and even books, movies, and short stories. Titles in this list include Gleaner Heights, Harvester, Moment of Silence, To-Do List, Skyrim, Earl’s Day Off, a large portion of Stephen King’s bibliography, and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
Numerous other theories were presented over the years, including the possibility that u/sparta213 may have actually dreamed up That Evil Farming Game and confused the dream with reality, or that the game never existed in the first place. As it turns out, this last theory — that the game did not exist — turned out to be the truth of the matter. There was, however, an extant thing that seemingly held responsibility for planting the idea of the game — that is, planting subject itself — in u/sparta213’s mind: A comment made by streamer Joel Varg Johansson of Vinesauce, also known as Vargskelethor or Joel Vinesauce.
During a June 6, 2015 livestream of the game Global Defence Force (a title in the Earth Defense Force series), Johansson riffed on the title of another game, the N64 title Body Harvest. He went on to invent the concept of a game titled Body Harvest Moon, which he described as “[sounding] like Harvest Moon, but with, like, corpses. You’re playing as Harvest Moon, but throughout all the gameplay, you’ve gotta hide a dead corpse.” From there, he went on to cook up details that precisely matched what u/sparta213 said they remembered about the supposed Evil Farming Game.
On July 13, 2015, the audio clip featuring Body Harvest Moon was isolated from the original stream and animated by YouTuber Tuskol. Running approximately one minute in length, the short animation features rough sketches of Harvest Moon-style characters set against a plain, white background, with pixel-style text emphasizing specific words and turns of phrase from the audio clip.
After being alerted to this clip by a member of the Evil Farming Game Discord community, AqueousSnake, u/sparta213 viewed the video — and, shortly thereafter came to the conclusion that this was, in fact, what they were likely thinking of. Wrote sparta via Discord:
“So guys I just around to looking at the Vinesauce animated video that someone found and as anticlimactic as it may be, I believe that this is likely the source of the game. It fits everything exactly.”
Ergo: Subject’s period of origin is 2015-2016, and its location of origin is the internet.
All known data about That Evil Farming Game and the timeline of the solving process was eventually compiled into a comprehensive Google Document by Redditor u/SoLegitHS. However, note that although this document does also mark that the mystery has been solved, it does not include the solution itself, nor u/sparta213’s confirmation of the solution. Please see Resources for these pieces of the puzzle.
As pointed out by writer Ari Notis at Kotaku on the occasion of the mystery’s solution, subject may be considered an example of the psychological phenomenon often referred as the “misinformation effect,” “collective false memory,” or the “false memory effect.” Per a 2011 paper published in the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, this phenomenon may be defined as “experimental and real-world instances in which misleading information is incorporated into an account of an historical event.” Notis points to the Mandela Effect, the non-existent film Shazaam, and the question of whether Curious George has ever had a tail as examples of this phenomenon which many may find familiar.
It is also perhaps relevant here to consider the concept of the tulpa — the idea that, if enough people think or believe in a specific thought, the thought may become real, or somehow “come alive,” so to speak.
If we think of subject as a tulpa, we may go some way towards understanding its goal: To will itself into existence.
And, in that sense, it may have succeeded: An independent video game is currently in development inspired by subject, titled The Evil Farming Game: RePlanted. As of April 2022, the game has not yet been released — but it is listed on Steam as arriving “Soon!”
What it may do upon arrival is not known.
Recommendation: Be prepared for anything.
The Evil Farming Game: RePlanted at Steam.
[Photo via scholty1970/Pixabay]