Teachers can use it as part of a larger lesson on the ongoing controversy between pro-GMO and anti-GMO camps, and/or on patent law. As a serious game arguing a specific perspective, it also offers a great opportunity for students to analyze the point of view presented and place it in a larger conversation by doing independent research, filling in the opposing view, and maybe even holding debates.Continue reading Show less
Profit Seed is a "serious" or "persuasive" game with a clear agenda: to present an argument against the GMO (genetically modified organism) industry -- specifically, how GMO seeds can be difficult for farmers to control. It's easy to learn with just a few core mechanics: Players control the wind as they guide seeds to the proper fields and attempt to keep away GMO seeds from nearby fields. Birds sometimes eat the crops, tornadoes sometimes blow seeds around, and clouds sometimes obscure the view. Occasionally, a prevailing and shifting wind further complicates the process. When a GMO seed accidentally plants itself in a player's field, it must be dug out with a shovel so the patent lawyers don't notice. If too many GMO seeds plant themselves in players' fields, the legal team of Monsanto comes by in a black limo to give warnings and dig up the fields. If that happens too many times, legal action is taken and players go bankrupt, ending the game. There's a clear message: Monsanto and other seed companies control the vast majority of GMO (patented) seeds and -- in the process -- prevent the cultivation of organic and heirloom seeds.
It starts strong, but the objective doesn't change as players move up levels. Scores aren't kept, and players don't know if there's even an end. In fact, there doesn't seem to be an end goal; rather, it's an increasingly difficult game that players are likely intended to lose, suggesting that keeping GMO seeds out of farmers' fields is a losing battle. It works well for rhetorical effect but might frustrate students, so teachers should address this design choice in class to help students understand why it's frustrating.
Although the anti-GMO point is driven home during gameplay, the greater lesson isn't well integrated into the play, with information being somewhat separate from the play itself. Also, it just gets harder and harder, helping players understand the plight of the small, non-GMO farmer, showing how impossible it is to keep neighboring farmers' seeds from their plots of land. Since there's a clear argument being made, but the issue is more complex, it would best be paired with more context and analysis to get students thinking critically about the issue more broadly from both perspectives.
Students do learn a bit about patent owners' rights and genetic drift, and the website does include links to reference articles. So students interested in the topic have further reading available -- although links to the other side of the argument are absent. Still, students can take what they've learned here and explore meaningful conversations on the topic.
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