For as long as videogames existed, there have been crappy, educational games better suited for ruining Christmas morning than for actually imparting any useful lessons.
No one told that to Mayor Thomas Menino.
Last week, Menino announced that through his “Save Up” initiative, the city of Boston would be sponsoring a three-week tournament/random drawing among its “summer jobs teens.” Basically, participants in the contest must play Farm Blitz!, an online game intended to teach players about debt management and investment. In reality it teaches teens never to trust a videogame associated with any municipality.
“The goal of the Save Up initiative and Farm Blitz is to help all of the students employed this summer to learn some basic personal finance skills to better manage and save their own money,” Mayor Menino said in a released statement. “This is just the first step in promoting financial literacy through new, innovative means. If kids are motivated to play, they will be motivated to learn too.”
What can teens learn by playing this game? Debt is just like a bunch of horny bunnies. If you ignore either one of them, with time you’re stuck having to live off the meat of dead rodents. Also, dynamite can solve all of your problems.
In order to motivate those teens to play the game, Menino’s tournament comes with some cash prizes.
As the city’s press release explains, cash prizes will be awarded to the winners, with the grand prize winner earning $200, while five $100 and five $50 prizes will be randomly drawn from all players whose farms qualify with a “Net Worth” of over $10,000, which should only take between 30 and 90 minutes of play to acquire.
What the release fails to mention is that those 30-90 minutes are likely to be filled with rapid mouse clicking and deep sighs of disappointment.
In each level of the game, players have to re-arrange crops to make rows of at least three of the same crop. While making money off of rows of crops, players have to contend with multiplying debt bunnies that devour wealth and the occasional disaster to remind you that you can’t get the time back you spent on this game.
Players must use credit to purchase seeds at the beginning of each level. There’s no concrete price listed for bundles of seeds, and yet this is supposed to be a key component to the game’s educational intent.
Ultimately, players are left having learned very little about credit aside from the fact that bank fees and interest rates are often more arbitrary than justifiable. So I guess the game didn’t actually fall too far from the mark.