With Fish Tycoon, a simulation game for Windows PCs, families can all the fun and none of the mess of maintaining three tropical fish aquariums. At the same time, the program teaches kids about genetics, running a fish-breeding business, and pet responsibility.
The game challenges players to interbreed different species of tropical fish in hopes of genetically recreating the seven Magical Fish of the Island of Isola, a place where the most rare and exotic fish used to live.
You start with one tank containing a few "teenage" fish and some unknown fish eggs. As your fish grow to maturity, you can pick one of them up by clicking on it, and move it to a small observation tank. There, you can discover the genetic background of a fish and about how much the fish is worth. If you put another fish into the observation tank, the first fish will become pregnant. Unless you turn the "Time" off, this simulation runs in real time, even when the program is closed or the computer is turned off. However, fish pregnancies within this program only take a few hours for gestation and birth. You can create more than 400 species of fish by combining different species.
As in the real world, fish-breeding requires money and attention. You need money for medicines, new fish eggs, and other fish supplies including beneficial plants, vitamins, and growth hormones. And it costs money to research better fish environments (to support more exotic and fragile species) and higher quality food. You earn the needed money by selling your grown fish in your pet store. The more exotic the fish, the higher price—some are worth more than $300. You can experiment with price and can influence the traffic flow to your store by advertising.
In this software, independent game developer, Last Day of Work, did an outstanding job of applying the simulation-tycoon game format to the tropical fish industry. Just watching fish swim across your computer screen is fun. But it becomes more compelling in this game because you are constantly breeding new, unique fish. Testers found that they were drawn to observe their tank every few hours to see what weird new fish had been born and whether they had managed to create a Magical Fish (or at least one that was worth a lot of money.)
Kids learn about market forces as they discover that rare fish can command high prices. Since each tank can only hold 20 fish, kids learn how to use their resources best as they decide which fish to breed and which to sell. They study genetics as they tinker with combining different species. The program even suggests that players might want to keep track of their genetic combinations.
Parents might not want to play this simulation with very young children because fish do die and will need to be thrown away. But for kids old enough to handle the death of fish, Fish Tycoon
is a fascinating way to explore genetics and learn about pet responsibility (players need to remember to feed their fish and inspect their tanks for dead or diseased fish.) Families can try Fish Tycoon
free for one hour by downloading it at www.ldw.com
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