Don’t we all!
This game from the BBC follows an ambitious business man seeking to make millions by getting into the cotton game in the late 18th century. Although “spinning yarn from raw cotton had been mechanized and brought into water-powered factories…weaving the yarn into cloth remained a ‘domestic’ industry.” Our business man wants to get in on the ground level and start bringing cloth making into the factory. Throughout the game, you help Mr. Business man making decisions on how to establish and operate his factory. The four things you need to help him decide are:
-Where to locate
-Who to employ
-What power to use
-What future investment to make
My first time through did not go very well. The first decision was whether to stay close to home and pursue business in Cumbria, or move closer to the ports in Lancashire. They seemed to have similar advantages, so I thought we should stay close to home. This was the wrong choice, and I lost two bags of money.
The next choice was who to chose for the workforce. Given my knowledge of child labor traveling effortlessly into the 20th century, I figured women and children were the best option.
Next, I was tasked to choose which type of power to pursue in the factory. The options are homeworkers, water, or steam. I figured since everyone else is having a good time with water power, it would be the best option. Again, I was wrong, as all of the good spots on the river were taken and steam really is the wave of the future.
The final choice was whether to invest in better machinery or better working conditions. Since this biz is all about profits, I decided to invest in new machinery. People won’t start asking for decent working conditions for another couple hundred years, so why invest in it? Unfortunately, I was not poised to make this decision thanks to a dreadful lack of savings based on my previous bad decisions.
Alas, I’ve gone bankrupt and ended up in debtor’s prison. There’s no turning things around either, as this is apparently the end of the game. However, with new found knowledge of what needs to be done to become a cotton millionaire, I tried again.
First, I chose Lancashire to be closer to Manchester and other busy ports.
Then, I once again chose women and children to employ because they are cheap and flexible. To power the mill, I chose fabulous new steam power.
I chose to invest in better machinery again, as better working conditions don’t matter right now. Thankfully, all of my decisions this time around got the factory ready for cotton “boom time”.
After being congratulated on a job well done, we are given a moral dilemma to ponder. “How long will you be able to leave the people filthy whilst you grow fat?” We are also offered an exciting opportunity to learn more about the challenges of industrialization by playing “Muck and Brass”.
Overall, this game is very simple and not particularly informational. There are truly four things you need to do and you either end up in debtors’ prison or are made to feel guilty for doing well. Also, the correct choices are given to you after you mess a step up, so there’s no reason to play this more than twice. I’m not sure what age group this would be good for, but I imagine an elementary social studies class could get some use out of it. I’m curious to see what people think would be the best use for this, or how it could possibly be made more in depth.
Thanks for reading! I hope everyone is happy and healthy!