Big Fish - Little Fish Game Instructions
Playing the Game
in this game are either a school of big fish or little fish.
Big fish need to eat little fish to survive and little fish
avoid big fish to survive. The interface is very simple.
After entering your name on the starting screen (see the general
instructions page), wait for
the whole group to be ready to start. You will note on the
starting screen that you are told whether you are a big fish
or a little fish, both in words and with a picture. When
the game begins the screen will tell you how many fish are
school. If you are a big fish you will have an Eat button
that you use to eat schools of little fish. Both big fish
and little fish have graphs of their population size over
time, and a data button that they can use to look in more
detail at their populations.
of big fish decline over time unless they eat little fish.
Schools of little fish increase over time unless they
get eaten by big fish. You can play additional rounds of the
game by going to the menu in the upper left, and click on
restart game. It will kick
you back out to the name screen with your name already filled
in. Everyone should start the second round together. You
cannot play with other players if you restart your game while
other people are playing the first game, your machine will
not communicate with theirs. You can also stop the game at
the end of a round to preserve your data until the next round.
most important parameter to set in this game is Big Fish
and Little Fish. You can tinker with the right ratio, but
usually making a 1:1 ratio or a 2:1 ratio (little fish to
big fish) works well. The other parameters that you can change
are how fast the big and little fish schools decline/increase
and how many little fish are converted to a single big fish
when they eat.
A complete explanation of the parameters is given here:
- Big Fish / Little Fish - determines
if the player is a big or little fish
- Seconds Per Tick
- Big Fish - how many seconds between
decreases in schools size
- Little Fish - how many seconds
between increases in schools size
- Population Rate
- Big (Decay) - the percentage that
the big fish decrease each tick
- Little (Growth) - the percentage
that the little fish increase each tick
- Little/Big Fish Ratio - determines how
many little fish need to be eaten to make a big fish
- Game mode - which round the game is
Information for Instructors
This game is a lot more about the strategies that they players
create than the technology itself. We usually don't give
the players any of the quantitative information at the beginning,
but the challenge of how to balance the pond with this info
is still difficult.
People should wear red/green nametags if possible and turn
them to red if they are big fish and green if they are
little fish (and take the tags off when they are dead).
When playing the game we usually have the first round simply
be whatever the players like. Little fish usually try to
hide or run, or sometimes the blend in with big fish or dead
fish. But what quickly happens is the big fish deplete their
little fish stock and quickly die out themselves. After
the first round we ask, "What
do some probing and ask some more directed questions towards
the whole pond dynamics.
We engineer a second round with a slightly different context
- how can we keep the as many fish alive in the pond as possible
and maintain the biodiversity (both big and little fish).
As a group players will then brainstorm strategies for keeping
big and little fish alive - cutoffs for feeding, spatial
arrangements, signals, etc. Sometimes this requires a couple
of rounds to do well.
Note that students can see their individual data, but there
is currently no automatic way to pool data. It can be effective
to have students copy their numerical data into a spreadsheet
and then combine the spreadsheets to see the whole class
Discussion at the end can center on predator-prey dynamics,
overfishing, biodiversity, evolution, and behavior among