As academics, aid workers, bloggers and concerned citizens, we all care about the plight of the poor rural farmer. From those who want to douse her with fertilizer to those who’d like to just get her a job at McDonald’s, we also all seem to know what is best way forward.
It’s time to put that knowledge to test. I propose a contest where you step into the shoes of the rural farmer and see how well your assumptions play out against a backdrop of immense scarcity and uncertainty. No, this isn’t some kind of poverty immersion exercise – that would be far too easy. This is simulation.
Unfortunately the Aid Thoughts virtual reality room is currently out of order, so in lieu of something remotely realistic we must turn to our second best option: Third World Farmer.
The unfortunately-titled TWF is an “African farmer simulator” designed to teach people about the difficulties of rural life in developing countries. You are tasked with growing crops, earning money, dealing with the myriad of shocks that come your way, and slowly building up your family’s health and human capital, as well as breaking out of poverty.
TWF isn’t a perfect game (see my original review here) – it is rife with African stereotypes (of the four horsemen variety) and I have a feeling that it hits you over the head a little too often with negative shocks to get its point across, rather than reflect reality. You might find some of the options the game considers a failure to be anything but, such as the option to move to the city for a much higher income.
Despite this – it’s the best we have, and I can think of no better chance, short of an actual cage match, for the experts of the world, bloggers, and development-savvy folk everywhere to go head-to-head.
HOW THE CONTEST WORKS:
- Go to the Third World Farmer website here.
- If you haven’t played it before, give the game a try. You get one play through to get a feel for it, no more.
- When you’re ready, begin your game. Once you’ve started, there’s no turning back.
- Your game is over when either your farm ceases to exist (usually for negative reasons) or you win the game by buying every available item for purchase (these things range from poultry to crop insurance).
- Once the game is over, record your score (take a screenshot using your printscreen key) and your total number of turns and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- On top of the score, I will be recording results for your own personal human development index result, so I will also be needing:
- The average educational attainment of the people living on your farm (education)
- The number of living household members, including the age-at-death of any who passed away (life expectancy)
- The per capita income of the household in the final turn (income)
- As I get your scores, I will create a scoreboard on this website with a ranking, both for high scores and for HDI results.
- A month from now, on May 11th, I will close the competition. The winner with the highest score will receive a special Aid Thoughts edition of Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid, scrawled with critical notes and expletives by Ranil and myself. Now you too can experience the same mind-numbing frustration we felt upon reading it.
- The winner with the highest human development index will receive¬† one full month free of snark or sarcastic criticism from Aid Thoughts.
The prize: Dead Aid, Aid Thoughts annotated edition
Is this contest tasteless, patronizing and a little demeaning? Probably – but here at Aid Thoughts we deal with all all three. So, boot up you laptops, load up Toto’s ‘Africa‘ on iTunes, and start planting those crops.