A few weeks ago, CME Group and 4-H announced they would be continuing their partnership in educating kids at state and county fairs across the country about the economics of agriculture. It will be year two of the partnership, which centers around an activity called Commodity Carnival. In the 2013 version, participants played a game called “Pig-Linko,” which determined the value of a hypothetical pig they were bringing to market. In 2014, a couple of things are different. Pigs are now cattle in a game called “Risk Ranch” and the game isn’t confined to fairgrounds. Beginning this week, Risk Ranch is available as an online game, and as an app for iPhone and Android. The goal behind the game is to expand the ag market learning experience beyond the 11 states and 120 fairs where it will be appearing this summer to a game that can be played anywhere with a smartphone, and at any time of year. CME Group’s Risk Ranch site explains the app this way:
Risk Ranch is a highly addictive, single-player game with engaging, real-life content, challenging you to take on the role of a modern day farmer and bring your steer to market. Avoid risks, allocate your coins wisely and purchase Futures to protect your investment…It’s up to you to safely raise your steer and make a profit in a totally new world! As you progress throughout the game, you’ll have a chance to play through all four seasons while learning about the real-time risks that affect the value of your steer.
Here’s a quick run through the app…
First, you can get a quick tutorial on how the game works, which boils down to navigating your steer, who you’ll find on the next screen, through a series of risks in order to protect its value and, in the end, make the most money possible when bringing him to market. The risks — as in real life – include supply excess or shortages in different parts of the world, news events, changes in weather, rising energy costs, unexpected farm maintenance and overhead costs such as with equipment and animal health.
At the first stage of the game, you select your steer and give him a name. You can also customize the steer’s coat and give him some accessories, like a cowboy hat or sunglasses.
To protect against risks, you’re given coins, which represent your costs for animal feed, farm maintenance and treating illness. On top of that, you can buy futures to protect your steer against all of these risks.
And to decide all of this — which risks you’ll encounter, how you’ll use futures to manage them, and how to invest for the future — your steer falls down a long series of pegs with the red ones signaling risks, and coins giving you more capital to invest. Futures are especially good here since they make you immune to the red risk pegs for a few seconds.
Based on your performance through the pegs, your steer gains weight and value, with a chance to gain more the following season. The game tracks your high scores (prices) and in the end, you get a ribbon. Just like at the fair.
You can download the Risk Ranch app or play the online version here.
Learn more about the Commodity Carnival and where it’s headed this summer.