Line One

By Bill Hudgins


Not long ago, my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe dropped in on his geek cousin, DeWayne, and found him staring into his computer screen at the cartoonish image of a farm.  

“What’s that?” Rufus asked. “I’m playing Farmville on Facebook,” DeWayne replied.

Rufus started to tell DeWayne he could be hoeing weeds out in his momma’s garden instead of pretending to be a farmer online, when DeWayne added, “It’s one of the most popular games on Facebook. Millions of people play it all the time, and the company that created it has made a mint.”

“How’s it work?” Rufus asked.

Reluctantly, DeWayne took a break from milking a virtual cow. He explained that players start out with a virtual farm and then raise and sell crops, acquire more land and farm animals, and generally try to succeed. Although the game uses pretend money to buy and sell things, players can spend real dollars on things that help them get ahead faster. The game’s creator also reaps revenues from advertisers whose ads appear on the game’s pages.

Sensing a way to make a buck, Rufus asked, “Are there a lot of these games? Any of them involve trucking? Can you make one?” Yes, no and sure, DeWayne replied.

And faster than you can say Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours-of-Service Listening Sessions, Sideswipe’s Truck-em-up-ville was born.

In Rufus’ game, everyone in Truck-em-up-ville assumes a role that is somehow related to trucking: drivers; family members; mechanics; law enforcement; shippers and receivers; lumpers; equipment dealers; truck stop waitresses; even rabid public safety advocates and tree-huggers.

The local newspaper (“The Behind Times”) and radio station (WTRK) are run by members of the Truck Writers of North America. There’s a mom-and-pop truck stop on one side of town – Rufus’ Roost – that competes with the big chain – Conglomerate Crossroads – on the other side. Show truck owners can shop at Crazy Charlie’s Chrome Cabinet.

There’s a snooty side of town where bigwigs live – mainly fleet owners and freight brokers. There’s even a city councilman who’s no fan of trucking and who keeps trying to ban truck parking in the city limits and to remove Jake brakes from all trucks. And there’s a lawyer who runs ads all the time for people who want to sue truckers. Needless to say, they only “friend” each other.

Like real-world trucking, players follow all kinds of paths to Truck-em-up-ville success. Everyone starts out as a newbie, but can quickly earn status by passing various skill tests to establish credentials as a driver or mechanic, for instance.

Spouses, family members and significant others earn their places by accomplishing finicky tasks requiring lots of patience and sometimes the ability to repair a leaky faucet using duct tape and pantyhose. There’s even a convenience store that specializes in selling single roses for the tardy trucker to bring home to SweetCakes.

One of the things Rufus loved about Farmville was that the game generated situations – like finding a lost lamb – that automatically sent a request for help to the player’s friends. These hysterical alerts always start with “Oh no!” and Rufus decided to follow suit. The possibilities in trucking for this kind of thing are almost endless:

“GOSH DARN IT! A fly just landed on Jimmy’s newly polished chrome bumper! Can anyone get him a power polisher and 10 bars of rouge to fix it?”

“GOSH DARN IT! Susie needs to slide her tandems! Can anyone tell her when to stop?”

“GOSH DARN IT! Bob’s about to take a load of cheap freight! Can anyone tell him how dumb that is?”

“GOSH DARN IT! Some CB Rambo called Chuck a slow wagon in fast traffic! What should he do – go find him or take the governor off the engine?”

Rufus says he’s going to talk to the folks at Farmville about a partnership. He figures that the farmers need trucks to carry produce and livestock to market, and to deliver things like fence posts and barbed wire. So maybe the two games could run in tandem.

After all, “if you got it, a truck brought it” should apply online, too, right? And as the partnership grows, virtual recruiters can look for new drivers in Farmville. They can earn their CDLs in a couple of days at Sideswipe’s School of Semi Steerage in suburban Truck-em-up-ville.

Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often. LL