2013 Institute: Featured Games


The institute program features the following two cycles of game workshops.  Participants should register for one game on Thursday-Friday and a second game on Saturday-Sunday.  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.

Thursday, June 6 – Friday, June 7

Saturday, June 8 – Sunday, June 9

* recommended for newcomers to RTTP

Game Descriptions

Confucianism and the Succession Crisis of the Wanli Emperor, 1587 (Pearson Education, 2005) seeks to introduce undergraduate students to the suppleness and power of Confucian thought as applied to issues of governance during the Ming dynasty. The game is set in the Hanlin Academy. Most students are members of the Grand Secretariat of the Hanlin Academy, the body of top-ranking graduates of the civil service examination who serve as advisers to the Wanli emperor. Some Grand Secretaries are Confucian “purists,” who hold that tradition obliges the emperor to name his first-born son as successor; others, in support of the most senior of the Grand Secretaries, maintain that it is within the emperor’s right to choose his successor; and still others, as they decide this matter among many issues confronting the empire, continue to scrutinize the teachings of Confucianism for guidance. The game unfolds amidst the secrecy and intrigue within the walls of the Forbidden City, as scholars struggle to apply Confucian precepts to a dynasty in peril.

  • Convener: Linda Mayhew, Advising Coordinator, Liberal Arts Honors Program, University of Texas at Austin

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Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman (in development) 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.

  • Conveners: Mary Jane Treacy, Professor of Spanish and Women’s Studies and Director of the Honors Program, Simmons College (game author); Mark D. Higbee, Professor of History, Eastern Michigan University

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Japan, the West, and the Road to World War, 1940-41 (in development) focuses on a single question: Why did the Japanese government decide to attack Pearl Harbor?  It is the summer of 1940. Japan’s war in China is about to enter its fourth year, with no end in sight. While officially neutral, the United States and Great Britain have been assisting the Chinese, and are threatening economic sanctions against Tokyo. With few natural resources of its own, Japan’s industrial economy depends on imported raw materials—particularly oil. However, Germany’s recent conquests in Europe may have just presented Japan with a golden opportunity, as French, Dutch, and British possessions in Asia lay largely undefended. Taking on the roles of leading figures in Tokyo—army or navy officers, bureaucrats, business executives, politicians, and members of the Imperial Court—participants are thrust into the middle of Japan’s strategic dilemma. Influenced by the tradition of bushido, and armed with the works of the pro-Western Fukuzawa Yukichi, and the ultra-militarist Kita Ikki, they must advise the emperor on how to proceed. Will they call for a “strike south” to seize the natural resources of Southeast Asia—even at the risk of war with Britain and America? Or will they seek an understanding with England and America—even if it means giving up Japan’s conquests in China? Similarly momentous decisions must also be made on domestic policy. How will Japan’s increasingly scarce resources be allocated? Will the powerful privately-owned zaibatsu continue to dominate the economy, or will they be forced to subordinate their interests to the demands of the state? Should Japan continue to follow a largely pro-western policy or return to its traditions and free itself—and all of East Asia—from thralldom to foreign powers? These questions not only require an understanding of the politics of Imperial Japan, but some appreciation for the intellectual undercurrents of the age. 

  • Author / Convener: John Moser, Professor of History, Ashland University

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Making a Motion Picture Production Code, 1930 (chapter game, in development) examines the debates over controversial movie content in the early years of Hollywood's studio era. Some students represent studio executives and professional staff from the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA); others speak for prominent critics and outside interests, including state censorship boards, women's clubs, investment banks, and the Catholic Church. The goal of these discussions is the development of a "production code" outlining standards for movie plots, dialogue, and imagery, as well as a clear process for review and enforcement. In the course of these conversations, students will examine central questions in the long-running (and still active) debate over media censorship. Why is a "production code" needed in the first place? Why can't movies simply be released without prior restriction, to succeed or fail based on popular taste? What moral or behavioral impact do films allegedly have over their audiences? If movie content is to be controlled, who should have the authority to do so: producers, outside reformers, government officials? What general principles and specific criteria should be included in a production code? Whose values and beliefs should the code enforce?

  • Author / Convener: Jeffrey Hyson, Assistant Professor of History and Director of American Studies Program, Saint Joseph’s University

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Modernism vs. Traditionalism: Art in Paris, 1888-89 (in development) considers the question: What is Art? Students will debate principles of artistic design in the context of the revolutionary changes that began shaking the French art world in 1888-89. Images from the 1888 Salon and the tumultuous year that followed provide some of the “texts” that form the intellectual heart of every RTTP game. Students must read these images and use them as the basis of their positions. In addition to these visual texts, students will read art criticism from the period, which will help to form the basis of their own presentations in favor of one art style over another.  These discussions are complicated and enriched by secondary debates over the economics of art, the rise of independent art dealers, and the government’s role as a patron of the arts. An additional feature of this game will include an optional “art lab,” which teaches students about the issues that French artists faced in the late nineteenth century through a studio-based, hands-on project.

  • Author / Convener: Gretchen McKay, Associate Professor and Chair of Art History and Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, McDaniel College; Nicolas Proctor, Professor of History and Director of the First Year Program, Simpson College

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Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-76 (Pearson Education, 2011) draws students into the political and social chaos of a revolutionary New York City, where patriot and loyalist forces argued and fought for advantage among a divided populace. Can students realize the liminal world of chaos, disruption, loss of privacy, and fear of victimization that comes with any revolution accompanied by violence? How do both the overall outcome and the intermediate “surprises” that reflect the shift of events in 1775-76 demonstrate the role of contingency in history? Could the Brits still win? What were the complexities, strengths, and weaknesses of the arguments on both sides? How were these affected by the social circumstances in which the Revolution occurred? Students engage with the ideological foundations of revolution and government through close readings of Locke, Paine, and other contemporary arguments. Winning requires the ability to master the high political arguments for and against revolution as well as the low political skills of logrolling, bribery, and threatened force.  

  • Author / Convener: Bill Offutt, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Pforzheimer Honors College, Pace University

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Red Clay, 1835: Cherokee Removal and the Meaning of Sovereignty (in development) focuses on American Indian removal from the American Southeast in the 1830s and events leading up to the Trail of Tears.  The debates are set at a pivotal historical conference held in Red Clay, Tennessee in October 1835, at which the United States presented terms for a removal treaty a few months before the illegal Treaty of New Echota was signed.  The game deals not only with this too-little-known part of American history, but it also opens up other issues of the period (many of which have continuing relevance today), including westward expansion, race and the status of Native Americans within the framework of the United States, cultural change and assimilation of minorities, how one deals with social problems, and the sectional divide that eventual leads to the American Civil War.

  • Authors / Conveners: Jace Weaver,  Director of the Institute of Native American Studies,  Franklin Professor of Religion, and Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Georgia; Laura Adams Weaver, Instructor in English and Native American Studies, University of Georgia

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Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791 (Pearson Education, 2005) 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.

  • Conveners:  John M. Burney, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dean of the Faculty, and Professor of History, Doane College; Paul Wright, Associate Professor of English and Co-Director of the Honors Program, Cabrini College

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STEM Games:  This track will introduce participants to three games currently in development with support from a National Science Foundation "Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement" grant. After a brief overview of the initiative, the Thursday-Friday sessions will focus on an abbreviated version of Kansas, 1999: Evolution and Creation Science. The Saturday and Sunday sessions will be devoted to two new short science games currently under development: London 1854: Cesspits, Cholera, and Conflict over the Broad Street Pump and Challenging the USDA Food Pyramid, 1991.

Kansas 1999: Evolution and Creation Science (in development) is set in 1999 and 2000. Christian Conservatives on the Kansas Board of Education have deleted macroevolution and Big Bang cosmology from the state science curriculum. The game centers on the election of a new Board of Education which must, for legal reasons, revisit the decision. The controversy in Kansas lies on a continuum that begins with the trial of Galileo. This game raises many questions about the role of religion in American society, the power of religious fundamentalism in the modern world, and the nature of science.  Readings include an excerpt from Darwin’s Origin of Species, Microcosmos by Lynn Margulis and Doran Sagen, which presents a modern view of evolution, readings from Hume on natural religion, and a classic essay on civil religion in America. Labs include building a telescope similar to that of Galileo, observing the moon and planets, learning about observational astronomy, studying physical optics of lenses using ray tracing, an exercise in natural selection, an exercise in allele propagation, and an exercise on radioactive decay. Additional possible exercises include a study of the Hubble Constant using simulation software and the use of ice core and tree ring data in obtaining dates.

Cesspits, Cholera, and Conflict over the Broad Street Pump (in development) takes place on the evening of September 7, 1854 at Vestry Hall in Soho, Greater London.  The event is a meeting of a special emergency response committee of the local Board of Governors and Directors of the Poor of St. James Parish, who have convened to respond to the deadly outbreak of cholera that has claimed the lives of more than 500 parish residents over the preceding eight days.   Historically, the outcome of this meeting was the decision to remove the pump handle from a contaminated neighborhood pump on Broad Street.  This decision and the events leading up to it are considered a defining moment in the development of modern approaches to public health.

This game immerses students in the scientific debates and methodologies that led to the founding of the modern fields of microbiology and epidemiology in the mid‐to‐late 1800’s.  Student role players address three central questions:  What is the source of this disease outbreak?  How is cholera communicated from person to person?  And, what steps should be taken to contain the outbreak?  Particular emphasis is placed on the dichotomy and tension between believers of miasma theory (the prevailing idea at the time that disease was caused by miasma or unhealthy odors) and advocates of germ theory (that later attributed a specific disease to being caused by a specific organism).  Central characters in this debate included Dr. John Snow (resident physician in St. James Parish and believer that cholera was a contagious and waterborne disease) and Rev. Henry Whitehead (curate of the local Church of St. Luke’s and a staunch supporter of miasma theory).  With slight modifications, this game can also be used to achieve secondary scientific objectives highlighting the role of sanitation in modern societies and the eventual implementation of municipal wastewater-treatment systems in urban planning.

  • Author / Convener: Marshall Hayes, Research Associate in Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University

Challenging the USDA Food Pyramid, 1991 (in development) is set in a Congressional hearing to evaluate the work of the USDA in developing the Food Pyramid in 1991. This document angered various interest groups in agribusiness and the role of special interests versus the basic nutritional science is an important factor in the hearings. Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Scrvices which includes the FDA and CDC object to the inherent conflicts in the USDA which are reflected in the Pyramid. Students come to see that the Pyramid reflects a combination of science and politics. This chapter-length RTTP game involves 2-3 class periods of game play in addition to any background instruction in the basics of nutrition that are needed to support the game. It is intended for use in popular food/nutrition general education science courses and could be used in introductory chemistry and biology courses as well.

  • Author / Convener: Susan Henderson, Professor of Chemistry, Quinnipiac University

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The Josianic Reform: Deuteronomy, Prophecy, and Israelite Religion (in development), takes up several tensions within the Bible: “the one versus the many gods,” the nature of sacred text and prophecy, and the conflict of ideas within the Bible itself. Set just before a monotheistic reform of Israelite religion (622 BCE), the central conceit is that the action takes place at the moment of 2 Kings 23:1-3a when all the elders and people of Judah assemble to hear a newly discovered “Scroll of the Teaching” read out to them. The de Wette hypothesis proposes that Deuteronomy is the very text found. The game makes this moment the center of gravity around which discussion of the Hebrew Bible and the practice of Israelite religion revolve. The disintegrating power of the Assyrian Empire supplies an international context for the nation to imagine recovering lost territory if it pleases God by reforming. You are a woman, the prophet Huldah, who vets the scroll: How will you defend it? You are of the royal house: Should you ally with Egypt? You are a Traditionalist: Won’t these changes “remove the ancient landmarks?” The Documentary hypothesis—the literary-historical notion that the Torah grew out of a set of traditions, documentary “sources,” and editorial activity—takes seriously the competing idea sets within the Bible. Why does the found-scroll differ in tone and ideas from the Priestly and Yahwistic traditions? The game’s factions “embody” these idea sets and play out their tensions.

  • Authors / Conveners: Adam L. Porter, Associate Professor and Chair of Religion and Philosophy, Illinois College; David Tabb Stewart, Assistant Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Religions, California State University, Long Beach

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The Trial of Anne Hutchinson: Liberty, Law, and Intolerance in Puritan New England (Pearson Education, 2005) recreates one of the most tumultuous and significant episodes in early American history:  the struggle between the followers and allies of John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and those of Anne Hutchinson, a strong-willed and brilliant religious dissenter. The controversy pushed Massachusetts to the brink of collapse and spurred a significant exodus. The puritans who founded Massachusetts were poised between the Middle Ages and the modern world, and in many ways, they helped to bring the modern world into being. The Trial of Anne Hutchinson plunges participants into a religious world that will be unfamiliar to many of them. Yet the puritans’ passionate struggles over how far they could tolerate a diversity of religious opinions in a colony committed to religious unity were part of a larger historical process that led to religious freedom and the modern concept of separation of church and state. Their vehement commitment to their liberties and fears about the many threats these faced were passed down to the American Revolution and beyond.

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Theology of the Icon: Byzantine Iconoclasm (chapter game, in development) explores the theological issues surrounding images in the Byzantine period. It brings together Iconoclasts and Iconophiles to an ecumenical council to decide the issue of icons in the Church once and for all. Such a gathering of theologians of opposing sides did not happen historically, but it is essential in order to have the issues on both sides come to the fore. Four characters are named: Nicephoros and John of Damascus (iconophiles) and Constantine V and John the Grammarian (iconoclasts). Readings are drawn from Cyril Mango’s The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312-1453: Sources and Documents and John of Damascus’ On the Divine Images, a key “classic text”. Secondary texts on icon use in the early Christian period are also suggested. Short primary texts that describe the use of and beliefs about images in the early Christian/Byzantine period are reproduced (in translation). Readings that hold the Iconoclast position are rare; the Iconophiles, after historically “winning” the debate at the seventh ecumenical council in 787, destroyed most of them. Also included in the game are indeterminates: Byzantine peasants, merchants and a visitor from Charlemagne’s court (to bring in the western medieval art perspective on images which was very different from the Byzantine). Through this debate, students wrestle with the definition of images in the medieval world (eastern and western ideas on images were very different), the nature of what an image can “do,” and, finally, the theological definition of Christ’s person (hypostasis), which was the foundation for the final decision about icons.

  • Author / Convener: Gretchen McKay, Associate Professor and Chair of Art History and Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, McDaniel College

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