The aim of this game is to help the participants understand how trade influences the development of a country and to create interest and discussion about the world trading system in an enjoyable and non-academic way.
Overview of the game
The participants are divided into teams, each of which acts as a separate country with between two and six players in each team. There are five or six countries in a game. A game can therefore have between 10 and 36 players. More than one game can be played simultaneously, if the room is big enough, but there must be no interaction between the games.
Countries compete against each other to manufacture paper shapes (circles, triangles, rectangles, etc.) and sell them to an international market trader at posted prices, which vary with supply and demand. The objective for each country is to make as much money as possible.
There are tree types of country in the game:
- Two rich industrialised countries
- One or two middle-income countries
- Two low-income countries
Students are not told this; they find out as they play the game.
- Prepare an envelope of resources for each country.
- Put up posters on the wall showing the shapes, their measurements and their initial values. These posters are enlarges so that the participants cannon simply trace out the shapes.
- Prepare the materials for the trader
- Prepare the materials you need as the game leader.
- Each group should get their own table and chairs, with room between the tables to walk. The trader will need a separate table.
- 1 game leader (two is beneficial if you play two games at the same time).
- 1-2 traders per game.
- 1-2 observers for each game – make sure that everything is going fine.
Starting the game:
- Divide the participants into groups and place each group with a table
- Distribute the envelopes to each of the countries but TELL THEM NOT TO OPEN THE ENVELOPES YET.
The game requires minimal but clear instructions immediately that the participants have been seated around the tables and before they have opened their envelopes. The dynamic of the game requires that there is no explaining the purpose of the game and certainly no summary from the game leader explaining what the game is supposed to illustrate. It is important for the participants to work out what they should do. Once the instructions are understood, the game leader informs the participants that they have 45 min to play the game and that they can now start the manufacturing. Instructions are provided at the end of the template.
During the game:
At the beginning of the game there will be a lot of confusion and the participants will have many questions, such as “Where can I get scissors?” “Why have we only got paper?” “Can we buy things from other countries?” Can we combine with other countries?” “Can we have a loan?” Resist all temptation to answer these questions. Just repeat what you said at the beginning. After a minute or two they should begin moving around the room and trade, but the initiative should come from them, not you. The rich countries (A1 and A2) will probably begin making shapes, as they have all the materials and equipment that they need, but they will soon run out of raw materials and will probably try to buy some paper from other groups.
Role of the observers: Use the observers to report back to you on what is going on. This will help you information for the debrief session at the end. For example, get them to find out what Is happening to the scissors – the one crucial implement that has to be used for all shapes and is possessed initially by only two countries. Do the rich countries form a scissors cartel? Do they sell one pair to another country or do they hire them our? Observers should watch how groups negotiate the prices of paper and other materials. They should note the formation and operation of any alliances and deals and any cheating that takes place. Observers should also report to you any malpractice, such as stealing other countries’ paper, implements or shapes. It is up to you to decide whether you should ignore the problem, thereby encouraging countries to do their own policing, or whether you should impose a punishment, such as suspending them from making shapes for 5 minutes, confiscating certain materials or fining them.
Role of the trader: The traders must be careful in measuring the shapes and reject any that have not been cut of. Alternatively, if they have been torn carefully against a ruler, or are only slightly too large or small, a reduced price could be given. You could leave this to the trader to decide, or you could agree a policy in advance. The trader must keep close eye on the money to prevent participants from stealing, preferably keeping it out of their reach. Shapes that have been sold should be put into an envelope or box, again out of reach of the participants.
Traders should not normally give loans, unless you want to build this in as a feature of the game, in which case you should decide in advance what interest rate to charge ø- probably a high rate, such as 50 per cent. If loans are allowed the market traders should keep a record of them. N such cases, it might be a good idea to allocate an assistant to traders. It is easiest for loans not to be repaid, but at the end of the game, when money is totalled, the traders will simply announce how much has to be deducted (outstanding loan plus interest) from each team.
Your role as game leader: You will need to keep in regular contact with the traders. Find out which shapes are being sold in large quantities (probably the triangles and rectangles) and which are hardly being sold at all (probably the circles and the protractor-sized semi-circles). Sometimes the game leader has to give additional information and try to create new situations. Some of the information can be given to the whole group while some information will be given secretly to some countries. Remember to inform the traders about the changes you make. Not all the elements below need to be implemented in the game. You have to see how the game develops and how much stimulation is needed. Some examples:
- Price-change on the global market: After a while you can change the price of some products. Blow the whistle and announce that, owing to the forces of demand and supply, the prices of certain shapes have changed. You can choose how much to change the prices, but a dramatic change stimulates more interest and provides a stronger focus for later discussion. For example, when the students are debriefed after they have finished the game, it is better to change prices very infrequently. The price of particular shapes will also affect the value of particular tools. If circles go up in price, this will affect the demand for compasses. What will the rich countries do when they find out that their compasses are not as useful as they used to be? You might get to draw parallels to the real word: When a country finds out that their technology is getting out of date they usually sell it to poorer, less developed countries. The prices can also drop if there is an overproduction of one of the products on the market. Then this relationship can be identified later in the debriefing.
- Raw materials: As the game progresses, paper will rapidly run out. Trade in paper is likely to take place, with the price of paper rising to meet its value in terms of the shapes that can be made from it. Introducing more papers can prolong the game. You can for example give a bunch of papers to one or both of the low-income countries and then announce for “the whole world” that a new source of raw material has now been found in this country
- New natural resource: The discovery of a new natural resource can be stimulated by giving coloured paper and some glue to one or both of the low-income countries without indicating the possible use of these materials. The game leader then goes to one (or two) of the rich or middle-income countries and informs them that the value of a standard shape is trebled if it has a peace of coloured paper attached to it and that one of the low-income countries possesses colours shapes. These countries will then start searching for the coloured paper and the glue. Because the country that owns it doesn’t know the value of it they might sell it really cheap, or they might get suspicious and won’t sell it. This scenario could also simulate the discovery of raw materials in a developing.
Ending the game
The participants should be given a 5-minute warning of when the game will end. There will probably be rush of activity as the participants hurry to make shapes with their remaining paper and bring those shapes to the market traders. When the game ends, the game leader should ask all the participants to return to their countries and to answer thee questions:
- What were in the there envelopes when they opened them?
- What implements do they currently own?
- How much money do they have?
Collect and write the answers from the different groups on a big paper or a flip chart. This will help the participants compare their experience with that of other groups.