Christopher X J. Jensen, PhD
Department of Math and Science
The Sustainable Use of Fisheries is a Flash-based game designed to be played by two to eight students in a classroom setting. Students act as fishers sharing a fishery, and must make decisions about how to exploit their common resource. Players have the potential to over-exploit or under-exploit their fishery, both of which can cause their fishing village to fail. Playing the game allows students to discover the “Tragedy of the Commons” first hand, and to experiment with different approaches to regulating a limited resource. The game empowers students to answer questions about population growth, predation, cooperation, and sustainable exploitation through an inquiry-based process.
I developed this interface in collaboration with
Aaron Cohen, who did all of the programming in Flash. We invite your comments and suggestions.
To check out the game, download a teacher’s guide and classroom worksheets, and learn more, please navigate to the dedicated
The Sustainable Use of Fisheries page.
Our work on this project was supported by Pratt Institute’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education grant administered through the Center for Sustainable Design Studies.
The game is available for free download or direct use off of a dedicated website. It can easily be embedded into a variety of learning management systems. Students play in groups around a single computer, making implementation in a classroom or computer laboratory simple. The use of a remote number keypad facilitates competitive game play.
Through a simple set-up screen, students can specify the number of players, the way the game incorporates the carrying capacity, the catch probability, the per-player carrying capacity, and the fecundity rate of dynamic fish populations.
Students enter their names and choose an avatar so that they can make their own strategy choices throughout the game.
For every year of play, each student can anonymously choose how many boats to put out (one’s ‘fishing effort’). After each year’s play, students receive an update on their most recent fishing success, the current size of their fishing fleet, and how many fish remain in the population. Based on this information and observations of other students’ fishing success, each student must decide how many boats to put out in subsequent years.
The best place to play The Evolution of Sustainable Use is in a computer lab. With the addition of a USB numberpad, groups of four to six students using a single internet-connected computer can play a round of the game in ten to fifteen minutes.
At the end of each 20-year game, students receive clear tabular results that report how many boats each player put out during each year and their resulting catch. Totals for the entire game are tabulated, making it easy to see how fishing effort and fishing success correlate.