What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Farm Blitz is about as addictive as Web-based financial-literacy games get. Developed by the Boston-based non-profit Doorways to Dreams Fund, the game joins the casual match-3 mechanics of a Bejeweled or Candy Crush Saga with the engaging simplicity of sims like FarmVille. Well-suited for early teens (and many adults), Farm Blitz bakes up a nearly perfect combination of puzzles: on one hand, a playful matching game to get the farm's vegetables in a row, and on the other, a challenge to line up solvent finances. Most players making it through one or two rounds likely will work hard to beat the game and might even come to understand compound interest as a result.
What kids can learn
- the economy
Thinking & Reasoning
- problem solving
Responsibility & Ethics
- fiscal responsibility
- making wise decisions
Engagement, Approach, Support
Match-3 games are accountable for endless screen addictions, so it's no shock that "tending" the crop can become an obsession. Luckily, matching isn't all it offers, and tinkering with farm finances won't feel as forced as you might think.
Despite narrator Kyra's constant coaching, even wonky concepts like compound interest don't feel force-fed, and players are given room to fail. As in life, "aha" moments that sink in deepest come from making mistakes.
Tips and tutorials play out during the start-up narrative and appear regularly as mouseovers on the money-management screens. Help is ample, but it's all text-based, so struggling readers might get frustrated.
What's it about?
FARM BLITZ begins with an origin story from an animated on-screen narrator, Kyra. Players have inherited a farm (along with its preexisting debt) and are challenged to manage both its crops and its finances, building a net worth that wins \"Farm God\" status (everyone starts out as an \"Agricultural Novice\"). There are two key game spaces: a grid of crops where the mindless but addictive matching game happens, and a separate dashboard where players manage earnings and debt by moving their money around. Players who can't maintain a balance generally suffer one of two fates. The overzealous farmer buys up more seeds than he can afford, causing debt bunnies to pile up in a pen near the fields (and on their balance sheet), or the nervous Ned saves religiously and draws things out for way too long (even if he ultimately wins the game). The only way to win the farm free and clear is to pay down debt, transfer cash into assets, and use fiscal stability to stave off catastrophe (mostly weather-related) and your creditors.
Is it any good?
Players who approach Farm Blitz with reasonable expectations for a free financial-literacy game will be thrilled to find solid graphics, an engaging narrative, and smart interplay between catchy mechanics and well-supported learning objectives. Even the game's villains are cleverly tied in. As players tend the farm, bunny rabbits slowly populate a pen next to the crop. Each one represents debt that acquires interest over time. When too many rabbits crowd the pen, they begin digging holes and gobbling up the crop. Who knew bunnies could feel so evil?
In-game supports are generally well done, mixing mouseover tips for financial terms like net worth with narrated guide-on-the-side interjections at well-timed intervals, though important information occasionally moves by at a speed that's a bit too fast to process. A few details are unclear, like why players need a loan each time they buy seeds, but any shortcuts in the narrative are made up for with clear messaging when it's most necessary.
Families can talk about...
Parents and children can discuss debt. How does borrowing money pose a long-term threat to a person's finances? What is responsible borrowing and what is irresponsible?
Talk about interest and how it applies to both savings and debt.
Discuss how relevant concepts in the game relate to current events.