When we heard that there was a computer game - two, actually! - designed around the labyrinthine story of chocolate and getting it from the jungle to the confectioners' shop, we were intrigued. We're not big game-players, but this one got us a little hooked.
Chocolatier and Chocolatier 2: Secret Ingredients, both from PlayFirst, follow a chocolate factory in San Francisco, a thinly disguised Ghirardelli that sits downtown next to the Ferry Plaza and other San Francisco landmarks. Your job as a new chocolatier is to help the struggling factory make more money and eventually expand.
You combine chocolate and sugar in the factory, make sure your inventories are up to date, and sell chocolate to local San Francisco chocolate shops to make money. You travel around the world to source good cacao beans and to scout out new locations for production.
We had to laugh at some of the cheesy graphics and plot dialogue, but in the end there was something oddly fascinating about plunking our cacao beans and sacks of sugar into slots in the factory, and traveling the world in a 1920s steam train. They get a lot right, visiting Puerto Rico and Abdijan in West Africa to hunt out the best cacao beans. They also have recipes that we didn't work our way up to yet, for things like ganache, pralines, and infusions.
There's a lot about the real world of chocolate-making that can't be reproduced in a game, of course, like sleeping next to your vintage millers for three days to make sure they are grinding the chocolate perfectly (a story from Mort Rosenblum's Chocolate). But there is something oddly fun and entertaining about the game, and it would be a good introduction to the world of chocolate, especially for kids.
Each game costs $19.95, and there are trial downloads available at PlayFirst.