How Does This New Cannabis-Themed Game Depict The Legal Cannabis Industry?

By Maya Novikov. 

So there is no conclusive evidence that cannabis use can lead to addiction, but what about marijuana-themed mobile games? There is a whole bunch of them available at App Store, but the newest one looks the most promising (and addictive) so far.

It is called Bud Farm: Grass Roots, and it is a free-to-play cannabusiness simulator. Its creators claim that Bud Farm is the best bud farming game available on the iOS App Store. That might sound supremely confident, but I have to admit that it is the only 420-themed game that was not deleted from my phone within 24 hours after downloading it.

This post is not a video game review, and I am not going to get into gameplay details. If you have played any of the existing farming simulators, you know what it is all about: allocating limited and scarce resources, purchasing upgrades with game currency, and paying real money for getting the wind of other players. Or, in my case, refusing to pay real money: I prefer to keep the game challenging. Fortunately, Bud Farm is not one of those games that become impossible to play without donations right after you get hooked.

There is something more important to discuss: how are cannabis users and cannapreneurs depicted in this game?

At the very beginning, it looks tasteless and full of stoner stereotypes. Can you guess what kind of car you are supposed to use for weed delivery in Bud Farm? It is not branded, but it suspiciously reminds me of Volkswagen bus, also known as ‘stoner van’ or ‘hippie mobile.’ And of course the player is referred to as ‘man’ or ‘dude,’ as if it was a 1990s stoner comedy available on VHS at your local video rental shop. The characters aren’t any better than that: they are basically a group of dumb stereotypical stoners, sloppy, slow, and unhealthy-looking.

As you gain experience and upgrade your units, it changes. Your first water pumps are ugly, rusty, and have a dead cockroach next to them. Yuck! But by the time you have upgraded them to level 6, they look modern and neat. A jumped up kiosk with the sole strain of weed becomes a nice clean dispensary that sells all sorts of edibles and ten different strains. And the characters evolve, too - their clothes look more like 2016, they talk normal, and they are able to work at your canna-facilities like a bakery or a mill. They want more weed for joining your bud farm, though, and they want some quality stuff.

Does it remind you of something? To me, it looks like history of the industry in a nutshell - from shady and primitive business to legal and technologically advanced entrepreneurship, from hippyish stoners to cannabis-savvy marijuana enthusiasts.

The game definitely has educational value: it gives you some (very basic) understanding of the growing process and the production costs. The strains names are real, from OG Kush to Strawberry Cough. And the multiplayer features are very close to current market situation: there’re lots of cannapreneurs selling weed, but the demand in so high that everyone can stay on the market. There is room for everyone, and everything is sold in seconds.

Bud Farm is a perfect educational tool: you can show your parents or friends just how much has the industry changed in recent years (use with caution: unlike marijuana, mobile gaming is addictive.) And now as I have finished writing this post, I can finally delete this game. I have to mention its downside: it is really time consuming.

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Maya Novikov is a freelance journalist based in New York. She holds a BS degree in Economics and a BS equivalent in Cultural Studies. She recently moved to the U.S. from Russia, and she’s determined to start a new career in the field of legal cannabis. On her free time, she enjoys reading, playing video games, and outdoor sketching. She also runs a Russian-language blog devoted to marijuana industry.

Follow Maya on Twitter.



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