Admittedly, I cringe every time one of our local 4-H kids starts talking about Minecraft. After all, they’re fortunate enough to be involved in agriculture and raising fair animals. Why do they need a video game? While video games may seem like a lazy pastime, even the staunchest supporters of outdoor activities may be able to get on board with the latest farm video games.
Recently, Nintendo Direct showcased its upcoming four farming games, and I was surprised to learn just how much some people enjoy these games. And, well, how farm games and simulators can be used to benefit players and possibly even agriculture.
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Video games may not be so bad for your health after all
According to research in the journal American Psychologist, kids who spend time playing video games can develop improved learning, health, and social skills.
Video games really aren’t that new to classrooms — who remembers The Oregon Trail, which debuted in 1971? Research conducted by a Ukrainian university has shown that more and more teachers are using computer games in the classroom. With less than 2 percent of the world involved in agriculture, games provide the opportunity for players to test scenarios and weigh risk management practices.
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Video games can also help students stay in STEM. I think back to the horse farming simulator games I played as a youth — they’re the only reason that I know anything about a computer or coding.
They provide experiential learning and experience with risk management where players can learn from failure. And, probably more importantly — they’re engaging.
Farming video games engage players in agriculture
Farming games introduce people to agriculture and where our food comes from. They allow players to get closer to nature, and venture outside of urban areas (even if it’s only on a virtual level). Simulator games can even provide players with a type of education on farming — planting and harvesting crops, tools, equipment, seasons, and conditions that affect planting.
First off, though, it’s important to understand that there’s a distinct difference between farming games and farming simulators. Farming games have a variety of storylines and genres but may blend farming gameplay into a story, quest, or adventure. Their fields are stylized in a tiled system for planting crops.
Harvestella, for example, is coming out in November and sets players up to discover the solution for a sap-sucking disease called “Quietus” that is plaguing the game’s farmlands.
Farming simulators, on the other hand, include very real-world farming experiences (although the one I just watched didn’t seem to account for damages from running equipment over windbreaks). The extremely popular game Farming Simulator puts players through courses on machine operation, animal husbandry, and forestry. Featuring brands such as Mack, John Deere, and more, the simulated game play challenges virtual farmers with weather, disease, and improving crop yields.
According to TheGamer, Martin Rabl, head of marketing and public relations at Giants Software says, “We have a lot of players that actually have some interest in farming, and now they have a game that is about farming.”
It also wasn’t long ago that John Deere entered the world of Minecraft with its latest version of Farmcraft, made in collaboration with Blockworks. Farmcraft highlights the world of modern farming and shows players how machines, processes, and management all play roles in today’s food production. Additionally, Dairy Farmers of Ontario developed a version of the game they call Dairycraft, an effort to educate kids about dairy in a fun, interactive way. That project was first launched November of 2020, exclusively downloaded from its own website.
Even if you’re not a staunch lover of video games, farming games and simulators may be a genre that you can get behind. In a digital era, farming games provide educational tools and access to images and ideas from agriculture. And perhaps, they’ll help bridge the gap in agricultural education for this next generation through play.
Heidi Crnkovic, is the Associate Editor for AGDAILY. She is a New Mexico native with deep-seated roots in the Southwest and a passion for all things agriculture.