The institute program features the following games in two-day workshops. Participants should register for one game on Wednesday-Thursday and a second game on Friday-Saturday. The program also includes a series of concurrent sessions where participants engage in discussions about the RTTP pedagogy, game management, and undergraduate education more generally. Games are described below.
- The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Constructing the American Republic
- Paterson 1913: The Silk Strike
- Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791*
- The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations, and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994
- The Prado Museum Expansion: The Diverse Art of Latin America
- The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE*
- Bacon's Rebellion and the Birth of American Racism, 1676
- Chicago, 1968
- Climate Change in Copenhagen, 2009
- Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945*
- Democracy in Crisis: Germany, 1929-1932
- Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor and the New Woman*
*games recommended for newcomers to RTTP
The Constitutional Convention of 1787: Constructing the American Republic (W.W. Norton, 2018) has as its subject the most fundamental legal event in American history—the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Students gather as delegates sent to Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation or to replace it with something better. Familiar elements, such as the Virginia Plan, the New Jersey Plan, and the Great Compromise, structure the first half of the game. Here the principal theoretical divide is between large-republic advocates, called nationalists, and small-republic advocates, called confederalists. In order to give prominence to these competing visions of republican government, the game deviates from the historical original in one significant respect: it incorporates arguments articulated in Federalist and Antifederalist writings and at the state ratification debates. The purpose is to use this one, seminal event as a vehicle for teaching much of the thought of the Founding period.
In the second half of the game, the Convention takes up new issues not a part of the structure of government. What to do about slavery, how to regulate commerce, and whether to include a bill of rights are just a few of the topics that come up at this time. Sectional interests, backroom deal-making, personal rivalries, foreign intrigue, and the danger of leaks all work to add drama to the proceedings. The game ends in a vote to accept or reject the constitution.
Convener: J. Patrick Coby, Smith College
Paterson 1913: The Silk Strike (game in development), is a five-session game that examines the struggles of silk manufacturers and silk workers to find both prosperity and economic justice for themselves and their community. As the game opens, workers have declared a strike against one mill, a common tactic for skilled workers to demand changes on working conditions. However, a branch of the Industrial Workers of the World call in their heavy-hitters—national leaders of the Chicago school of the IWW—who urge a general strike of the entire silk industry. Meanwhile the mayor of Paterson calls on his police chief to nip labor unrest in the bud, preventative measures that lead to violations of freedom of speech and assembly. While two factions, the Manufacturers and the Workers, put pressure on one another in the hope of negotiating a settlement, townspeople face the impact of a long-term strike in an industrial city. These indeterminates try some pressure of their own in the hope of surviving the strike and, perhaps, becoming the next leaders of Paterson.
Convener: Mary Jane Treacy, Simmons College Emerita
Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791 (W.W. Norton, 2014) plunges students into the intellectual, political, and ideological currents that surged through revolutionary Paris in the summer of 1791. Students are leaders of major factions within the National Assembly (and in the streets outside) as it struggles to create a constitution amidst internal chaos and threats of foreign invasion. Will the king retain power? Will the priests of the Catholic Church obey the “general will” of the National Assembly or the dictates of the pope in Rome? Do traditional institutions and values constitute restraints on freedom and individual dignity or are they its essential bulwarks? Are slaves, women, and Jews entitled to the “rights of man”? Is violence a legitimate means of changing society or of purging it of dangerous enemies? In wrestling with these issues, students consult Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, among other texts.
- Convener: John Moser, Ashland University
The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations, and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994 (W.W. Norton, Spring 2019), invites students to consider what responsibility individuals and states have to each other, to their own citizens and to citizens of other nations. The game asks players to respond to rapidly spreading genocidal massacres in Rwanda in April and May of 1994. Some players will, as part of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), have the authority and responsibility to debate proposals and make policy. Others, as leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), journalists or representatives of public opinion, will attempt to learn more about what’s going on in Rwanda and influence public policy based on this knowledge. During the game, they decide whether events in Rwanda constitute genocide and, if so, how the international community should respond. As they do, they gain a deeper understanding of genocide, of ideas about humanitarian intervention and of the dynamics of debates about humanitarian intervention in the international community.
Convener: Kelly McFall, Newman University
The Prado Museum Expansion: The Diverse Art of Latin America (game in development) opens in 2010, shortly after the world-renowned Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain completed its expansion project, an ambitious plan that reorganized the physical design of the main building and created additional exhibition space. With an eye to diversifying its predominantly national Spanish-centered collection, the Prado Museum decides to curate a new gallery of Latin American paintings from the 20th and early 21st century. The Prado game provides a diachronic introduction to the diverse styles and movements (Cubism, Constructivism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Mexican Muralism, Indigenismo, Abstract Expressionism, Hyperrealism, Chicano Art, Street Art, and Naïf Art) that have influenced our understanding of Latin America art from the early 1900s to the new millennium. Taking on the roles of museum curators, docents, marketing directors, Patrons of the Arts, private art collectors, artists, and art dealers, players will learn how to identify the formal elements of Latin American painting and immerse themselves in the complex dynamics of the international art world. Discussions will focus on a variety of issues, including the influence of European colonialization, the limitations of geographic boundaries, diverse representations of indigenous, Afro-Latino and female subjects, and the place of public art within museum culture.
Convener: Bridget V. Franco, College of the Holy Cross
The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 BCE (W.W. Norton, 2014) recreates the intellectual dynamics of one of the most formative periods in the human experience. After nearly three decades of war, Sparta crushed democratic Athens, destroyed its great walls and warships, occupied the city, and installed a brutal regime, “the Thirty Tyrants.” The excesses of the tyrants resulted in civil war and, as the game begins, they have been expelled and the democracy restored. But doubts about democracy remain, expressed most ingeniously by Socrates and his young supporters. Will Athens retain a political system where all decisions are made by an Assembly of 6,000 or so citizens? Will leaders continue to be chosen by random lottery? Will citizenship be broadened to include slaves who fought for the democracy and foreign-born metics who paid taxes in its support? Will Athens rebuild its long walls and warships and again extract tribute from city-states throughout the eastern Mediterranean? These and other issues are sorted out by a polity fractured into radical and moderate democrats, oligarchs, and Socratics, among others. The debates are informed by Plato’s Republic, as well as excerpts from Thucydides, Xenophon, and other contemporary sources. By examining democracy at its threshold, the game provides the perspective to consider its subsequent evolution.
Convener: Tony Crider, Elon University
Bacon's Rebellion and the Birth of American Racism, 1676 (game in development). Once regarded by early scholars as a precursor to the American Revolution War, Bacon’s Rebellion symbolized and epitomized the patriot’s enlightened revolutionary ideals through a premature uprising against the tyranny of hierarchical rule. Modern scholars argue in favor of an approach that focuses more on America’s original sin- the terrible transformation from a society with slaves to a slave society. This game transports the classroom to Jamestown for the Virginia Grand Assembly in 1676 to deliberate about the “Indian Problem.” However, the fate of Virginia is at stake.
Convener: Verdis Robinson, Campus Compact
Chicago, 1968 (game in development) is set in August 1968, when delegates to the Democratic National Convention gather. They need to settle their party platform’s position on domestic issues as well as a policy on Vietnam, and also pick a candidate for President. Since neither is in the majority, liberals and conservatives must win over the moderate center. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters descend upon Chicago. They plan on using the methods of the civil rights movement to bend the Democrats to their will, but they are divided as well. Serious and dedicated pacifists will find it difficult to work with new voices like the absurdist Yippies or the increasingly radical SDS. In both venues, mainstream and underground journalists must jockey for position. Will they focus on the rancorous politics inside the convention hall or the giddy protesters in the streets? In the Reacting to the Past game Chicago, 1968, players assume the roles of historical figures in each of these groups. Whether Richard Daley, Eugene McCarthy, Fannie Lou Hamer, Abbie Hoffman, Walter Cronkite, or Hunter S. Thompson, they must understand and contend with competing ideologies and incipient chaos that defined this pivotal moment in American history.
Convener: Nicolas Proctor, Simpson College
Climate Change in Copenhagen, 2009 (UNC Press, 2018) covers the negotiations at the Conference of Parties 15 meeting that was attended by a large number of national leaders. This short game also includes representatives of non-government organizations and the press. Students wrestle with the need to work within conflicting limits set by their governments.
Convener: David E. Henderson, Trinity College Emeritus
Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence,1945 (W.W. Norton, 2016) is set at Simla, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where the British viceroy has invited leaders of various religious and political constituencies to work out the future of Britain’s largest colony. Will the British transfer power to the Indian National Congress, which claims to speak for all Indians? Or will a separate Muslim state—Pakistan—be carved out of India to be ruled by Muslims, as the Muslim League proposes? And what will happen to the vulnerable minorities—such as the Sikhs and untouchables—or the hundreds of princely states? As British authority wanes, smoldering tensions among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs increasingly flare into violent riots that threaten to ignite all India. Towering above it all is the frail but formidable figure of Gandhi, whom some revere as an apostle of non-violence and others regard as a conniving Hindu politician. Students struggle to reconcile religious identity with nation building—perhaps the most intractable and important issue of the modern world. Texts include the literature of Hindu revival (Chatterjee, Tagore and Tilak); the Koran and the literature of Islamic nationalism (Iqbal); and the writings of Ambedkar, Nehru, Jinnah, and Gandhi.
Convener: Mark Carnes, Barnard College
Democracy in Crisis: Germany, 1929-1932 (game in development) is set at the one moment in history when all of the great ideologies of the modern West collide as roughly equal and viable contenders: Germany during the so-called Weimar Republic, 1919–1933. For over a decade since World War One, liberalism, nationalism, conservatism, social democracy, Christian democracy, communism, fascism, and every variant of these movements have contended for power in Germany. Although the constitutional framework boldly enshrines liberal democratic values, the political spectrum is so broad and fully represented that a stable parliamentary majority requires constant compromises – compromises that alienate supporters, opening the door to radical alternatives. Along with intense parliamentary wrangling, players, as delegates of the Reichstag, must contend with street fights, trade union strikes, assassinations, and even insurrections. Our game begins in late 1929, just after the US Stock Market Crash and as the German Reichstag (Parliament) deliberates on the Young Plan (a revision to the reparations payment plan of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War One). The players are mostly Reichstag delegates belonging to the various political parties. They must debate these matters and more as the combination of economic stress, political gridlock, and foreign pressure turn Germany into a volcano on the verge of eruption.
Convener: Robbie Goodrich, Northern Michigan University
Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman (W.W. Norton, 2015) takes students to the beginning of the modern era when urbanization, industrialization, and massive waves of immigration were transforming the U.S. way of life. As the game begins, suffragists are taking to the streets demanding a constitutional amendment for the vote. What, they ask, is women’s place in society? Are they to remain in the home or take an active role in the government of their communities and their nation? Labor has turned to the strike to demand living wages and better conditions; some are even proposing an industrial democracy where workers take charge of industries. Can corporate capitalism allow an economically just society or must it be overturned? African-Americans, suffering from the worst working conditions, disenfranchisement, and social segregation, debate how to support their community through education and protest, thereby challenging their continuing marginalization in both the South and the North. Members of all these groups converge in Greenwich Village to debate their views with the artists and bohemians who are in the process of remaking themselves into the new men and new women of the twentieth century. Their spirited conversations not only show a deep understanding of nineteenth-century thinkers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Karl Marx; they are also informed by such contemporaries as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jane Addams, W.E.B. Du Bois, Emma Goldman, John Dewey, Franz Boas, and Sigmund Freud. The game asks what social changes are most important as well as how one can or should realize these goals.
- Convener: Jennifer Worth, Barnard College