Regional Conference at Duke University

Co-sponsored by the Duke Franklin Humanities Institute and Wake Forest University
Saturday, January 19 - Sunday, January 20, 2013
Durham, NC

College faculty and administrators are invited to register for the regional “Reacting to the Past” conference hosted by the GreaterThanGames Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke University. Conference participants will learn about the RTTP pedagogy by engaging in intensive two-day workshops on particular games. In addition, plenary sessions will provide an opportunity to discuss issues related to teaching and learning, game mechanics, and the like.

Featured Games

Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence,1945 (Pearson Education, 2006) 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.

  • Conveners: Mark C. Carnes is Professor of History at Barnard College and Executive Director of “Reacting to the Past.” He is author of the five original RTTP games and many books in American history.  His book on RTTP, entitled Mind Games: Rethinking Higher Education, is forthcoming in 2013.  Author of Bathed in Blood: Hunting and Mastery in the Old South, Nicolas Proctor (Simpson College) is Chair of the Reacting to the Past Editorial Board and author or co-author of several games in development, including: Forest Diplomacy: War, Peace, and Land on the Colonial Frontier, Kentucky, 1861: Loyalty, State, and Nation, Traditionalism vs. Modernism: Art in Paris, 1888-89, and Security, Self-Determination, and Empire: Yalta, 1945.

Frederick Douglass, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Constitution: 1845 (in development) introduces students to a time and place almost unimaginable today, when advocating an end to slavery was far more controversial than supporting its perpetuation: the United States in 1845.   Class debates focus on the intellectual and cultural clashes between the “Defenders of the Constitution”—the entrenched, respectable defenders of American slavery—and the Abolitionists—a small but dedicated movement calling for slavery’s immediate and universal abolition. Many characters are independent of both factions.

The question facing the country in 1845 was not a civil war—which was then unimaginable—but whether abolitionist critics of slavery were legitimate. Can the abolitionists be suppressed outright? The many violent anti-abolitionist mobs in the North showed that this was hardly just a “southern” demand. Thus, in the first part of the game, all characters “review” the newly published “The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself” at a literary forum hosted by the illustrious English author Charles Dickens in New York.  (This forum brings together a range of people whose ideas and interests, while actually engaged with one another, never actually meet face to face.)  Later, characters address the U.S. Constitution and its clear protection of slaveholders’ power, such as its assertion that fugitive slaves must be returned. Are Americans accountable to the Constitution or to a “higher law”?


This conference has been generously funded by the GreaterThanGames Lab, an initiative of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. Supported by a Humanities Writ Large grant from the Mellon Foundation, GreaterThanGames aims to build a game platform that brings together virtual and real world components, is adaptable over a range of networked and programmable devices including desktop computers as well as iPhones, iPads, etc., and develops rich narrative content that emerges interactively with player collaborations and choices. The goal is to use the combined allure of game play, virtual architecture and design, and digital storytelling to intervene constructively in real world problems. Additional support has been provided by the Teaching and Learning Center of Wake Forest University.

Participation is free for faculty, administrators, and graduate students from sponsoring institutions (Duke University, Wake Forest University). The registration fee is $75 for faculty and administrators and $25 for graduate students from other institutions. The fee includes tuition, materials, consultation, and the meals listed on the schedule below.

Registration for this event is now closed.

Payment Methods: Credit card payments will be processed live during online registration. All payments made by check must be postmarked January 2, 2013; an additional late fee of $25 will apply to all registrations/payments postmarked after this date. Workshop materials will not be shipped until payment is received in full.

Refund/Cancellation Policy: Registrations are transferable within an institution at any time. Refunds will be provided for cancelations received in writing or via e-mail 10 business days before the scheduled workshop date. A $25.00 processing fee will be deducted.

Schedule of Activities



LUNCH / OPENING PLENARY: Introduction to “Reacting to the Past”


GAME SET-UP AND FACTION MEETINGS: Gamemasters will “Meet and Greet” participants to introduce the historical context and specific rules of their games. 






PLENARY SESSION: Instructor/Gamemaster: RTTP and the Art of Teaching










Travel and Lodging

All conference activities will be held in the Smith Warehouse at Duke University in Durham, NC.  Directions are available on Duke’s web site.

A block of guest rooms has been reserved at a rate of $119/night at the Durham Marriott City Center (201 Foster Street, Durham, NC 27701 / Tel: 919-768-6000).  The hotel is a ten-minute walk from the conference venue. Reservations can be made online by clicking here or by providing the group code "reareaa" when reserving by phone.

Jan. 19, 2013 - 12:00 PM