Geography students engage in charged “Trade and Development” game
The main objective was to create as many paper shapes as possible within an hour, and to trade them into the bank for money. It seemed easy and straightforward enough at first… Before the game started, we were randomly assigned our groups just from our position in the line. Just as people have no choice of what country they are born in, we had no clue what these groupings would mean as we waited for the game to start. When the game did begin, we read through the rules, which seemed simple enough, and then went through the contents of our box. Groups A, B and C each had a different set of supplies to start with, ranging from abundant to scarce.
We were in the C2 group, representing a low-income country (LIC), and we started with three sheets of paper, two pencils and $200. To make the shapes to trade into the bank, we needed to cut them to exact dimensions, but we had no way of measuring or cutting. After realising we had to trade for supplies, we attempted to do so, but to no avail. The A groups already had everything needed: paper, all the tools and $600. They were representing developed countries; these countries would start with lots of money and already have the necessary natural resources and manufacturing tools to make even more money, while the poorer countries were stuck with next to nothing.
The B groups at least had bargaining materials in the form of lots of paper and special paper - rare resources - which I assumed would increase the value of the shapes sold, though since our group never used this, I didn't know the specifics. Before we knew it, 30 minutes had passed and we had made no progress at all. Even though they had more than enough, the other groups did not want to trade and demanded extortionate prices like $500 and two sheets of paper in exchange for a two-minute use of a stencil or scissors. The shapes had different values, like products in the real world, and their prices in the bank fluctuated for unknown reasons, but in the real world it could be supply and demand.
Around this halfway mark, the price of the circle increased, making it the most valuable shape. Getting a compass would be very important now, but the groups holding them knew that too. Then, the price of the circle further increased to $1,000, while the rectangle and the triangle plummeted to $50. We managed to obtain a set square to draw triangles, but still had no scissors. We had still made nothing; this was very frustrating and felt unfair. At some point, Groups A was forced to lend group C a pair of scissors for three minutes, and one of our members tried her hardest to cut out all our triangles, but alas, the bank rejected them for being mere millimetres off-shape.
The game drew to an end and we came in last place with a negative balance. Interestingly, in one of the other worlds, a C group managed to outperform one of the A groups; an impressive development, both because Group C group actually managed to profit, and because Group A somehow lost more than they made, even with the huge starting advantage (perhaps they were incredibly generous, which led to their downfall?)