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3rd World Farmer Game Explores Poverty in Africa

If you think the Harvest Moon series could benefit from a bit more death, misery, and an all-encompassing sense of hopelessness, then this 2005 student project from the IT University of Copenhagen is right up your alley.

3rd World Farmer challenges players to keep themselves and their families alive while managing a farm in poverty and conflict-stricken Africa. Make every dollar count as you plant your crops for the year and hope for a good harvest. If fortune smiles upon you, maybe you'll have earned enough money to buy a shovel but don't get too cocky, since the word "stability" isn't even in the dictionary where you live. Droughts can destroy your crops, disease can kill your livestock, civil wars can expose your farm to plundering from both sides, and falling market prices can render your goods worthless.

Monetary opportunities do occasionally present themselves. For instance, a Western chemical company may offer you a nice sum to lease a few of your acres to store a couple of their 'harmless" barrels. Take the offer and a family member might die from exposure to toxic materials. Refuse and they might die from starvation because you couldn't afford food that year.

Your choice.

So, how do you win at 3rd World Farmer?

You don't. Eventually, the yearly hardships and frequent agricultural, economic, and civil disasters will wipe out your entire family. It's not fair and it's not fun but perhaps that is the point. "We aim at making the player 'experience' the injustices, rather than being told about them, so as to stimulate a deeper and more personal reflection on the topics," say the game's creators.

"We think the game has the potential to be an eye-opener to people who have become accustomed to the ordinary means of communicating Third World desperation. Our aim is to have everybody play the game, reflect, discuss and act on it. The game is well suited to start off discussions about Third World issues, so we also encourage teachers to use it in their classes."

While the current version of the game is finished and playable, development continues and future updates are expected. For more info, check out 3rd World Farmer's forums where "discussions arise and solutions to real-world problems are suggested."

Many thanks to Cynthia Tidball for bringing our attention to this game.

-Reporting from San Diego, GP Correspondent Andrew Eisen has a renewed appreciation for his overpriced, 400-square foot studio apartment

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Tags: 3rd world farmer, games for change, serious games, university of copenhagen
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