Fort wars and trading post.

I while back I wrote a blog about fort wars. Here is a quick recount;

  • Kids build cubbies
  • Resources run out
  • Kids steal other’s resources
  • All hell breaks loose, and a war starts.
  • Kids have a great time, until it gets too real.
  • A magna carta is designed
  • Peace is reached and society lives in harmony.

Most groups can pull this off in four hours (humanity still can’t pull it off).

Today at a VAC program it evolved differently. First, they built cubbies. Then they ran out of resources. Then a kid tried to steal another fort’s stick. He was caught, and instead of bleating about not sharing and unfairness, he tried to negotiate for the resource. He offered a tyre for the stick. An agreement was made, and a transaction was peacefully passed.

The original thief enjoyed this feeling. He obtained a resource through bargaining rather than conflict. (maybe he thought ‘what a model citizen I am’). He came back with a few more tires and asked for more sticks.” No worries” said the trader. An exchange was made.  This went on for around 10 minutes. One notable exchange was when a crate was exchanged for two sticks. A little later the original thief rethought the deal and decided he wanted the crate back. After all, there was 300 sticks and only three crates. The reformed thief returned to the trader and said I would like to buy my crate back for two sticks. The trader’s partner (a sly businessman) said it is worth 8 sticks. “but you only paid 2 sticks for it” the dejected soon-to-be-thief-again responded.  “We have plenty of sticks”, said the traders. We only have one crate.

The concept of supply and demand is starting to hit home for all involved. Something is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. And if someone realises there is a lot of one thing, and a very limited supply of another then the value is reflected in that.

A light bulb went off in the head of the traders. They had traded so many resources, they had quite the bank. They could now dictate trade terms. By now, many other corporations had joined this trading system. Sometimes the terms were disputed other times they were accepted. The fort had now morphed into a trading post. Soldiers were no longer needed to guard, because the thieves had become customers. Instead of sentry’s, it had front counter staff.  They would see a client come with something to trade then phone head office (using a much-prized irrigation pipe telephone) and heads office (a group of kids huddled in a dark cubby) would discuss what that was worth.

First offers were nearly always dismissed. Haggling was the norm. Before long, most kids started to understand how to trade commodities. Things of worth, like blue barrels, cost a lot, and things of little use, like short sticks, were not worth much at all. At one stage the original traders created bitcoins. They found a large stack of rocks, hid them in their cubby, and peppered them out in small amounts to make them seem valuable. To start off, one stick was worth 5 rocks. However, they flooded the market, and soon they couldn’t give the rocks away.

So a 4 hour session of unstructured free play, that looked like cubby building, to the untrained eye, was delivering some unbelievable commerce and marketing learning. Imagine how these experiences will inform their future understandings on how the real-world works.

Is there anything a stick can’t teach us?

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