3rd World Farmer

Emerging Technologies and Edtech June 09, 2014

Country of Origin: Denmark
Languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Brazilian Portuguese, Hungarian
Developer: 3rd World Farmer Team
Publisher: 3rd World Farmer Team
Year Published: 2005
Website: http://www.3rdworldfarmer.com/index.html
Platforms: Web (Flash)
Genre: Simulation, Interactive Narrative
Age Range: 10+
Subjects: Civics, Social Studies

3rd World Farmer puts players in the role of a farmer trying to make a life for himself and his family somewhere in Africa. Players plant crops, tend livestock, manage family affairs and upgrade their farm. For every in-game year that passes, assorted events occur that can drastically change your fate.

Unlike other games that presume that the learning should be embedded into fair gameplay, 3rd World Farmer’s message is that the life of poor, rural farmers is essentially unfair. A drought can destroy your crops or corrupt local politicians can demand a bribe. The game is full of challenges and is quite easy to lose, something not often seen in learning games. But that loss and hardship inspires real discussion as players engage with the unexpected. The game makes it very clear that it’s easy for an entire family to starve and, unlike in the first world, there is no safety net.

Even though it lacks polish and is showing its age, 3rd World Farmer’s combination of simple economics, social consciousness and purposefully unfair gameplay offer a unique window into the overlooked lives of millions of people. The decision to leverage difficult gameplay as a rhetorical technique is a highly original design decision bound to spark conversation.