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Educational Video Games, Farming, and Agriculture

If you’ve been involved at all in the commercial gaming sphere for the past decade or so, you know that farming sims are an incredibly popular genre. For example, Concerned Ape’s Stardew Valley, a 2016 indie release, has since sold over 20 million copies! Before Stardew, there was Natsume’s Harvest Moon series, now known as Story of Seasons. And now, because of Stardew Valley’s success, new cozy farming sims are popping up everywhere, like Sunnyside, Coral Island, and My Time at Portia, to name just a few.

While these games have high entertainment (and relaxation) value, they don’t exactly teach us much about real-life farming, agriculture, or animal husbandry. Listen, this is most definitely not a Stardew Valley hate blog – I’m just pointing out that watering every single one of your crops by hand with a tiny watering can, or picking your entire field vegetable by vegetable – it’s not something that real farmers do! At least I hope.

via Refined Geekery

But that’s perfectly fine, because Stardew Valley wasn’t designed to be an educational farming game, and we love it for what it is. That said, there are several games out there designed to teach farming, agriculture, and animal husbandry practices. If you’re looking for simulations that educate players on the nitty-gritty of real-life farming, you’re in the right place! Let’s investigate gaming’s role in educating players on farming and agriculture.

Esports athletes today, agriculture experts tomorrow

Bet you didn’t expect esports to show up in a blog about farming! The North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) uses Farmcraft, an experience created on Minecraft, to host a yearly competition for 3rd to 12th graders. You can watch the trailer for this year’s competition below.

This science-based, U.S. Department of State-supported esports event is not just for fun and friendly competition. Farmcraft educates players on a variety of timely agricultural concerns, for example, the relationship between farming and climate change. Competitors also learn how to create successful farms in different biomes while applying agricultural production techniques. To learn even more about this educational esports competition, check out this episode of the Scienceline podcast below!

Sustainable agriculture education at your fingertips

Farmcraft isn’t the only game that teaches players where their food comes from. Farmers 2050 is an educational mobile game created by Nutrien in collaboration with North American agricultural experts, farmers, and ranchers. This game seeks to teach players that “Feeding the world relies on balancing your economic, social and environmental sustainability”. Incorporating the practice of farmers across the world, players gather resources, grow crops, and learn about sustainability practices along the way.

Farmers 2050 is an extension of Journey 2050, a curriculum-aligned learning program including a game of the same name. This program asks students to investigate the question “How will we sustainably feed nearly 10 billion people by the year 2050?” Journey 2050 is available with pre-made lesson plans for students grades 7-12.

The Farmers 2050 and Journey 2050 games are both available for free download on the App Store and Google Play Store.

Educational games and animal husbandry

Crops aren’t the only factor in farming and food sustainability – so are livestock! There are research-based, game-based learning opportunities for those interested specifically in animal husbandry as well. For example, let’s look at Project S.W.A.R.M. (Strategic Widespread Agricultural Response Management Simulation), created by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas A&M University College of Architecture. As part of the project, developers created a prototype simulation game to help prepare farmers and other agricultural professionals for animal disease outbreaks. Knowing how to manage these outbreaks is important because they can result in economic unrest, food scarcity, and diseases that are spreadable to people. Project S.W.A.R.M provided a space where players could learn through failure, experimenting with different preventive and preparative strategies in a simulated environment. Learn more about animal disease preparedness in the video about Project S.W.A.R.M below.

We couldn’t finish off this blog on farming and agriculture without discussing Mooving Cows, a project that we’ve developed with our friends at the University of Wisconsin-Madison! In addition to our team, a multidisciplinary team of experts in animal welfare science, veterinary medicine, and more worked to create this educational simulation. Mooving Cows is a game-based learning experience that teaches players how to properly interact with cattle in a risk-free virtual environment. 

Why are proper cow-handling skills so important? Dairy farm personnel and other agriculture professionals frequently interact with cows. Knowing the safest way to interact with these animals reduces the risk of injury to both people and animals, and makes it easier for people to harvest milk and provide animal care. This game will serve as a resource for dairy producers, calf raisers, and anyone looking to develop the skills necessary to work with cows.

Now, get a moo-ve on and learn all about farming and agriculture with educational video games! Game-based learning is a great resource for students and professionals alike, equipping them with the skills they need to do their jobs well. Looking to combine education and fun in an educational game of your own? Reach out to us for a free consultation!

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