About Us

Reacting to the Past

Reacting to the Past (RTTP) consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors advise and guide students and grade their oral and written work. It seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills. Pioneered in the late 1990s by Mark C. Carnes, Professor of History at Barnard College, the RTTP curriculum has been implemented by faculty at hundreds colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad since dissemination began in 2001.

All of the games are set in the past, and thus might be regarded as history, but each game also explores multiple additional disciplines. Part of the intellectual appeal of RTTP is that it transcends disciplinary structures. In addition to games currently published in the RTTP Series by W. W. Norton, we seek to expand the curriculum by supporting faculty workshops and collaboration on new game designs that explore a variety of historical moments in the humanities and sciences.

RTTP was honored with the 2004 Theodore Hesburgh Award for pedagogical innovation. The project has received developmental support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, Spencer Foundation,National Science Foundation, Teagle Foundation, and FIPSE, U.S. Department of Education. RTTP has also been featured in Change magazine, the Chronicle Review, the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Christian Science Monitor; and elsewhere.

The RTTP initiative is sustained by the Reacting Consortium (RC), an alliance of colleges, universities, and individual faculty committed to developing and publishing the Reacting to the Past series of role playing games for higher education. Through the main program office at Barnard, the Consortium provides programs for faculty development and curricular change, including a regular series of conferences and workshops, online instructor resources, and consulting services. For those interested in developing their own games, the Consortium also has an Editorial Board that provides guidance and oversight during the game development process from concept to official designation and publication.