Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

History through games

Over at his blog Peasant Muse, Jeremy Antley ponders the challenges of designing a university course on “history through gaming”:

What results do I wish to achieve?  I want students to be able to critically evaluate a board game, or any game derivative, looking at not only its outward theme and graphics/material pieces but also the mechanics and designer motivations/inspirations that went into the overall play-mechanic design.  They should be able to situate the game amongst the larger historical narrative, demonstrating knowledge of what the game excels at modeling and what it fails to accurately portray.  In a real sense, I want students to be able to use games as one of many ‘documents’ in evaluating what Black identified as the ‘problematic relationship between the peasant and the past’ in addition to the ‘relationship between information and knowledge’.

What do I consider acceptable evidence?  To begin, students will need to analyze the game itself and then branch out to the designer behind the game, as well as examine the source materials used in its construction.  Students should also cross-check their initial analysis of game materials and design construction using other critically evaluated primary or secondary sources of the period or theme depicted in the game.

What are the learning experiences I wish to utilize?  Beyond reading and evaluating source material (the bread and butter of historical practice), I want students to actually engage with the games we study through the act of play.  Many modern day board games strive to create a narrative through play and I want students to become observers of this process, yet go a step further, analyzing the structure and limitations of this narrative generative experience.  Because many games rely upon the experiences, both past and present, a player brings to the table, I want to use a coordinated approach of tweets to create a real-time experience backchannel, allowing others to view and comment, in addition to having students produce longer explanatory essays, once reserved for the instructors eyes alone, on blogs of their own creation that will be shared with the entire class.  I also want students to produce ‘modifications’ of the games we study, based on research they have conducted throughout the course, linking the play-design mechanics they propose on reasoned approaches to historical phenomena.

Go read the whole thing at his blog.

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