Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Have any of you ever played the game 3rd World Farmer? Its a little game someone made "to make you think". In it, you play a poor African family with a few bucks, a barren patch of land, and four options for what to grow (not counting livestock). Your goal is to get "educated", buy off a politician, make money, get a cell phone, and buy a bunch of machines and livestock.

And "make you think". Thats why they made the game. Want to know what I think?

What a f-ing joke.

I can't stand that game, even though I've played it all the way through a dozen times and feel dirty each time. The gamer in me can't stand leaving a challenge unbeaten; the rest of me just rankles at every disgusting assumption they make.

For starters, the paternalistic concept. "3rd World" is a BS term from the Cold War.

Its an anachronism. Calling a country "3rd World" is like calling the Czech Republic or Armenia the USSR. Its not accurate, and even back when they were a part of it, they didn't like it and would have rather NOT been called it.

It also implies that we in the "1st World" somehow know better. That because of our gaudy lifestyles, we're happier, or at least have a higher "standard of living".

The wh*** concept behind 3rd World Farmer is BS. We Westerners look at "poor" subsistence farmers and think we're so superior. Because we've figured out a trick of mother nature, how we can squeeze a few years of unbelievable crop yields out of genetically violated seeds grown with petrochemical fertilizers and systemic poisons. But at what cost? It murders the topsoil, mutilates the genetic biodiversity, and kills off birds, bees, and beneficial insects. We end up with weaker ecosystems, fewer farmers, less options in the store.

So instead of a game that implies the best thing farmers can do is imitate the dying breed of industrial farmers, why not create a game that rediscovers the way that people worked the land around the world in sustainable ways. How is it that the Chinampas and Milpas of Mexico were continuously cultivated for thousands of years with a diverse group of plants and never lost fertility? How were the Inca and Q'ero and Wari and Tiwanaku cultures able to feed more people with more variety of food 500 to 1000 years ago ON THE SAME LAND where they struggle to eke an existence out today with modern agricultural methods? How do rice paddies in China and Japan use closed loop, indigenous technology to stay productive year after year, century after century...?

What traditional crops are in danger of being lost as generations cut off from their ancestral wisdom opt to play the losing, insulting game of "3rd World Farmer", either in real life, or online?

We need a game that provides a real way to win, not just for the players, but for farmers worldwide.

Views: 574

Comment by Samiran Roy on May 15, 2010 at 9:02am
The game becomes perfectly fine, if you change the name from "Third World Farmer" to "Third Rate Farmer" :)

This game needs to change in two basic ways(maybe more)

1. Take into account the Ecological losses from using "industrial" techniques, like the condition of the top soil and associate something negative to it. Karma points maybe? Or lower the yield by a percentage. Whatever, just make them suffer.

2. Create a balance between buying new equipment and uncovering indigenous farming techniques for the crops chosen(Which can be done in many ways).

I haven't played the game, I am just guessing that this will make the game so much better ^_^
Comment by Nick Heyming on May 15, 2010 at 9:09am
Good points Samiran. You could play it, its free.

Another sad part of the game is that you almost have to grow opium to keep your family alive and then get bombed by the US. But its ok, you can always just marry off your daughter to replace the son that died in the blast...
Comment by ob1 on May 15, 2010 at 9:40am
I played the game after reading your and Chris' talk about it in Chris' blog post... it took me just 3 minutes to get sick about it. I completely agree with you. It seems almost the same Farmville's bs... At best, I can imagine it was meant to make the player "reflect" on such "3rd World"'s life conditions... but it lost the chance to give the opportunity to be active in imagining solutions... mah...
Comment by Samiran Roy on May 15, 2010 at 10:17am
I played It lol
What a stupid game, I was imagining something much better
I agree it has no means for us to imagine solutions
And family members are just treated like another resource
Comment by Samiran Roy on May 15, 2010 at 10:21am
Can't even take loans
Comment by Chris Ke Sihai on May 15, 2010 at 11:18am
I never said it was great, in fact I think we're identifying a gap in the market for educational tools.

All the same, for a class of 16-yr olds who have never had a job or needed to bduget, it's a good starting point in a 1-2 hour class. It's fine to criticise it, but what is the alternative? Back to crappy text books written by professors of linguistics in western countries who have never needed to try and motivate someone from a very different culture to become proficient in a language they hate?

I should have clarified that I use it to teach language, not economics or social innovation.
Comment by Nick Heyming on May 15, 2010 at 3:21pm
I didn't mean to denigrate your teaching methods Chris, sorry for coming across that way. I think the game could be useful for the reasons you state, I just think for people interested in actually helping, or, more importantly, learning from farmers in developing countries, there's a need for something better....


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