Written on 2018-11-22
Recently I have been doing some teaching at a secondary school. Accordingly, I have been on a constant look-out for ways to make my lessons more engaging. So when the topic of selective breeding came up in one of my Key Stage 3 biology classes, I thought I might be able to turn the whole thing into a game.
Unfortunately, from the moment I had the idea to create a simple computer game for the lesson, I only had four days of preparation left. But I enjoy a challenge, and I wasn't planning to do any fancy graphics - so off I went. I christened the project MooBreeder, and, within three days, I actually had it completed. Here is a screenshot:
Like I said, it is very simple. But it does bring across the salient points of the lesson, which were:
Not all organisms of one species are the same.
If we keep breeding the best animals for a given task and discarding the rest, we will eventually get animals that are better and better suited for this task.
Breeding for one feature may lead to another feature becoming ‘worse’.
At the start of the game, students choose one purpose they want to breed for
(“dairy”, “beef”, or “plowing”). Each cow or bull has three traits that
correlate with its suitability for this purpose (
Each animal also has an
aggression trait, which strongly decreases its
suitability for any purpose. The players must repeatedly choose with bull to
mate with which cow, and which of their offspring to keep. The aim is to breed
an animal that is “excellent” for the chosen purpose in as few generations as
possible (although there is a strong element of chance involved).
MooBreeder is distributed as source and as an executable JAR. So if you would like to use it for a lesson, or just play around with it, go ahead! And shoot me an email to let me know what you think of it.