In my spare time I like to play-test online games and feel them out for classroom use. I’ve been working through quite a few of games about poverty and hunger and plan to share my thoughts on them here.
Ayiti, The Cost of Life, is one that we have discussed previously on the blog. You play as a family of five in Haiti and make decisions about how each family member should spend their time each season–working, getting an education, or resting. Each member has stats on their health, happiness, and education that you have to monitor, and your success is measured by the number of diplomas you earn over the 16 turns of the game. I’ve played this game maybe 6 or 7 times now and its pretty fun. At the start of the game you choose a focus–happiness, money, health, or education–and it seems like the decision does matter. The one time I chose health, almost my entire family died of cholera or tuberculosis, and I found there was little I could do to stop it. Education works out the best in my experience, which is unsurprising given the goal of the game. Even with that as a choice, it’s difficult to get everybody in the family an adequate education, as health issues can be quite difficult to manage. I’ve found that ‘education’ is the go-to answer for a lot of my students as a way of fixing issues of poverty and human rights, and this game may help them see why its not such an easy answer. As an assignment then, this game can be quite effective as its pretty easy to learn and illustrates a number of challenges with getting out of the poverty cycle. Its also pretty fun and has high re-playability. It would work best either as a homework assignment with questions to answer, maybe linked to a good reading, or as an in-class activity in a computer lab accompanied with a discussion afterwards.
Fun: 3/4 Although the subject matter keeps it from being completely fun, it is an enjoyable game experience.
Ease of Use: 3/4 Its fairly intuitive but does take a while to learn how to move your family members from place to place and to understand all the options.
Polisci Class Application: 3/4 Definitely a good game for understanding the connections between education, poverty, and health.