Friday, February 12, 2010

Farmville as an Enterprise Learning Tool

Don't laugh, think about it.

How many thousands of online simulation games are there, lots of which surround the idea of running a business or a city or a lifestyle and staying afloat while you do it?

The thought crossed my mind as I was on Facebook recently; a lot of my friends play Farmville so I thought I'd give it a whirl. It's not too taxing on the brain, gets boring after a while yes but it's still a bit of fun.

Whatever about the money making motivations of the developers, I think the application has its merits. It teaches young would-be entrepreneurs about buying and selling, tending a project to make sure it doesn't wither, working a few areas at once to ensure maximum return as quickly as possible... Game Points are ranked on 2 levels - Experience and Coins. There's cash too, but that's more for the developers as it takes real-life cash to get some Farmville cash. Which is a pain because there's no return on the real investment, so we won't go there.

Different crops have different XP (experience) ratings. They will take different times to grow and cost different amounts of money. The user takes the few coins they have and tries to make them into more coins. Simple, right? Just like in business... Start small and grow.

The player competes with their friends to see what level they can get to - the higher the XP the higher the level. It also shows the user about working together - if you give your friends/neighbours a little something, they will give a little something back which will make your farming life easier and maybe even more efficient - e.g. they might give you some fuel for the tractor you just saved up to buy. Which makes ploughing quicker and more efficient.

This is a very simple game and concept for teaching people what it's like to juggle a few areas at once. It's obviously nowhere near as sophisticated as the bike shops, airline games and other retail outlet simulators I've played in the past but there are definite similarities. I think Farmville has the potential to tap into a kid's entrepreneurial spirit which could be further encouraged by fully developed simulators like Mike's Bikes and the Small Business Game.

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