Skip to main content

Survival Game

Survival Game
Survival Game
Keep your herd alive—with a little help (maybe) from your friends.

Players struggle to keep their livestock herds alive and thriving—despite disease, drought, and other dangers. When your neighbor suffers a major loss, the question arises: Can you afford to share? But the real question may be, can you afford not to?

What’s going on?

The Survival Game is based on the lives of Maasai cow herders in Africa.

The Maasai live on milk and meat from their herds. When rains are heavy, cows have plenty of grass to eat, and herds and people alike thrive.

But when rains are poor and cows starve or get sick, herders ask neighbors for cows to tide them over. “Lucky” herders share with “unlucky” ones because they may need help in the future.

The Maasai refer to these helping relationships as osutua, or “umbilical cord.” This cooperation helps Maasai communities remain intact when disaster strikes. 

This exhibit was designed with the Human Generosity Project, a group of scientists studying osotua and other mutual aid systems around the world.