Cotton is one of the more expensive crops to plant in 3rd World Farmer, and it has a potentially high yield, but with some associated risk. In good years it outperforms corn and wheat in terms of return on investment, but it can also underperform more severely than both of them.
Game Design note: While researching which crop types to include in the game, we found it hard to settle on just a few crops. We knew that many different farming systems and crop rotation schemes exist in developing countries. We seemed to have two options. One was to use a realistic, and exotic, selection of crops, including sorghum, teff, and cassava, to name a few. The other was to only include crops that players in Western countries would be able to recognize.
In the end we settled on easily recognizable crops. We wanted the game to be accessible – and not to scare away our players by requiring too much forehand knowledge. Cotton is included in part because it’s emblematic of the history of slavery in America. We thought this was an interesting association to include in the game. In reality, as some have pointed out, cotton is a very water-intensive crop. So in fact it doesn’t fit the arid game setting well. This just goes to show some of the trade-offs between accessibility, realism, and larger narrative that must be made when designing simulation games.
In the event of a Civil War, roughly 75% of all crops are lost.
“The Environmental Costs of Cotton” by Frederik Beaudry, ThoughtCo, 2018:
The Cotton Economy and Slavery, PBS, 2013:
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1852, full-text version made available by Project Gutenberg:
Roots: The Saga of an American Family, novel by Alex Haley, 1976, WikiPedia entry: