Module 4: Third World Farmer

http://www.arcadetown.com/3rdworldfarmer/gameonline.asp

Third World Farmer is a game that makes use of Indigenous knowledge and teaches gamers about the struggles of a farmer in a developing nation.  The game bridges technology and IK in many layers.  The first layer is that of the actual game design–it is a game on a computer, but the rules of the game are dictated by environmental and social factors that influence the livelihood of an African farmer, and to overcome the difficulties, the gamer must discover the Indigenous knowledge to be successful.  Within the game IK and technology are also linked.  When the gamer starts, all she has is her family and a bit of money.  She must research the various crops and decide how best to spend her money.  Through trial and error, the gamer develops a very rudimentary form of Indigenous knowledge.  As the gamer makes more money, she can buy various technologies that will make her life easier and help her yield better crops and thus make more money.

Some of the criticisms I have of this game are that the fact that it is a game may trivialize the plight of the third world farmer.  There is not a lot of education going on to really inform the gamer of the social implications of the GAME itself.  There is infomation about the severity of the situation in Africa, and a critical thinker would understand the message, but the average gamer would not see that while he or she may have just lost their entire family to a plague, the actual farmer the character represents can’t escape this reality.  Another criticism is that the issues behind the struggles are not very well articulated.  It does show that these farmers are being forced to work with in the confines of mechanization, but it doesn’t reveal that the increase in length, frequencey and severity of droughts is caused by industrialization and capitalism.  You also can’t save your game and pick up where you left off later.  This is frustrating from a game point of view, but also from a learning point of view.  To get the full effect of the game, several hours are required, which I’d like to expend over a few weeks, but because I can’t save the game, I have to start over each time, but I also don’t have the stamina (or time or patience) to spend 7 consecutive hours playing the same game.

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