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New Nintendo Game Simulates Milking, But It's Nothing Like The Real Thing

Howard Weiss-Tisman
Tyler Catterall, right, from Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, tries his hand at the Nintendo "Milk" game. Catterall lost to a gamer from Nintendo.

When gamers enter a virtual world, they're typically in a futuristic battlefield, or maybe behind the wheel of a race car — not in a barn.

But game on Nintendo's new Switch console Nintendo lets players compete in a virtual milking contest. It's played on a wireless, hand-held controller that simulates the action of pulling down on an udder. Whoever fills up the most milk buckets wins.

Gamers from the West Coast were in Vermont this week to see how they'd do competing against dairy farmers who spend every day with their hands on the real thing.

Tom Remp works at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, and he had his doubts when he heard there was a new game that simulates the exhilarating world of a milking parlor.

"I looked at this thing and I said, 'These guys don't know anything about milking, what are they doing?'" Remp says.

Remp's not a gamer. He grew up playing Nintendo, but he says he's kind of grown out of it.

He sent an email out to the Nintendo offices on the West Coast, challenging their hipster gamers to a milk-off, in a Vermont barn, against real dairy farmers.

"You know, this isn't a milking simulator or anything. This is entertainment," Remp says. "And we're happy to bridge that divide, but I think what's most important is that people who aren't as familiar with Vermont in general, and agriculture, sort of have an opportunity to find out, it is fun and it is lively, and it's more than you think."

A crew from Nintendo flew out to Vermont for the challenge.

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
The cows at Billings Farm didn't seem too interested in their virtual sisters.

Billings Farm has about 30 Jersey Cows that are milked twice a day, and the computer game was set up in the barn.

The players face each other, and the hand-held controllers vibrate and virtually release milk, on the computer screen, in reaction to the pulling-down motion of the player. For this game, the virtual cows are to be milked by hand, not by machine.

The group played two games, and the Nintendo crew pretty much crushed the dairy workers.

That was fine with farm manager Alayna Perkins.

"We're farmers, you know. I don't play video games," she says, laughing. "Yesterday was the first time I ever played a video game before in my life."

She says the hand-held controller kind of felt like a teat, but milking a real cow is a lot different.

"Real milking is kind of like a war zone in comparison to the game," she says. "Because you have tails coming at you, and feet sometimes, you're dodging manure and urine. And not everybody is happy all the time. You're working with a living creature. With the game you just kind of sit there, and it's very easy in comparison."

David Young, from Nintendo, gets up close and personal with an engorged udder at Billings Farm in Woodstock.

One of the Nintendo gamers did take a crack at the real thing, and he was able to get some milk flowing out of a cow named Miss Brie.

He noticed how his clothes smelt different — more so, he said, than when he milked a virtual cow in a virtual barn.

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