2015 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.  Please note that only the published games are hyperlinked to fuller descriptions, but all the games on offer at this summer's conference are blurbed below.

Thursday, June 11 - Friday, June 12

Saturday, June 13 - Sunday, June 14

** games recommended for newcomers to RTTP

Game Descriptions

Challenging the USDA Food Pyramid (game 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  as well as some nutritionists. The role of special interests versus the basic nutritional science is an important factor in the hearings. Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Services which includes the FDA and CDC object to the inherent conflicts in the USDA which are reflected in the Pyramid. They seek to convince Congress that nutritional advice should be removed from the USDA’s purview.

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. It has also been used in courses covering graphical representation of data.

  • Co-author / Convener: Susan Henderson, Professor of Chemistry, Quinnipiac University
  • Co-author / Convener: David E. Henderson, Professor of Chemistry, Trinity College

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Charles Darwin, the Copley Medal and the Rise of Naturalism, 1861-6 (W. W. Norton, 2014) thrusts students into the intellectual ferment of Victorian England just after publication ofThe Origin of Species. Since its appearance in 1859, Darwin's long awaited treatise in “genetic biology” had received reviews both favorable and damning. Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce presented arguments for and against the theory in a dramatic and widely publicized face-off at the 1860 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford. Their encounter sparked a vigorous, complex debate that touched on a host of issues and set the stage for the Royal Society’s consideration of whether or not they ought to award Darwin the Copley Medal, their most prestigious prize. While the action takes place in meetings of the Royal Society, Great Britain’s most important scientific body, a parallel and influential public argument smoldered over the nature of science and its relationship to modern life in an industrial society.

A significant component of the Darwin game is the tension between natural and teleological views of the world, manifested especially in reconsideration of the design argument, commonly known through William Paley’s Natural Theology or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity (1802), and updated by Wilberforce. But the scientific debate also percolated through a host of related issues:  the meaning and purposes of inductive and hypothetical-speculation in science; the professionalization of science; the implications of Darwinism for social reform, racial theories, and women’s rights; and the evolving concept of causation in sciences and its implications for public policy. Because of the revolutionary potential of Darwin’s ideas, the connections between science and nearly every other aspect of culture became increasingly evident. Scientific papers and laboratory demonstrations presented in Royal Society meetings during the game provide the backdrop for momentous conflict that continues to shape our perceptions of modern science.

  • Co-author / Convener: Elizabeth Dunn, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Professor of History at Indiana University South Bend
  • Co-author / Convener: B. Kamran Swanson, Instructor of Philosophy at Harold Washington College

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The Collapse of Apartheid and the Dawn of Democracy in South Africa, 1993 (game in development) asks: can you help lead a country defined by decades of institutional racism and deep distrust to reimagine itself?  The Collapse of Apartheid places you dead-center in the dangerous, complicated world of South Africa in 1993.  The National Party government declared three years ago an end to the apartheid system of government, freed Nelson Mandela, legalized the African National Congress, and promised democratic reforms.  But since then, efforts at negotiation between Mandela and DeKlerk have led to failure after failure, increasing despair and leaving many people feeling marginalized by an artificial process.  You come to the Multi-Party Negotiating Process with a partisan agenda and longer-term political ambitions to meet with people who have little track record of working with each other.  The nation is on the precipice – can you prevent a bloodbath?

  • Author/Convener: John C. Eby, Associate Professor of History, Loras College 

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 Constantine and the Council of Nicaea (game in development) plunges students into the theological debates confronting early Christian Church leaders. Emperor Constantine has just declared Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire, but now discovers that Christians do no agree on the most fundamental aspects of their beliefs. Some Christians have resorted to violence, battling over which group has the correct theology. Constantine is outraged that he has to settle what he regards as petty disputes between factions. Hoping to settle these problems at a great Church Council to be held in Nicaea, Constantine has invited all of the Bishops of the Church to attend. The outcome of this conference will shape the future of Christianity for millennia. The first order of business is to agree on a Creed which states the core theology of the Church and to which all future Christians will have to subscribe if they are to be regarded as holding to the ”true faith.” Those who will reject the Nicaean Creed will be deemed heretical and subject to discipline or even exclusion from the Church. The basic questions to be decided include: Who or what was Jesus and what was his relationship to God? How should the Church be organized? What should be the rules of behavior for its leaders? What is the role of women in the Church? Some will attempt to use this creed to continue their battles and to exclude their enemies from the Church. If they succeed, Constantine may fail to achieve his goal of unity in both empire and Church. He will do everything in his power to assure that agreement is reached, but, given the animosity between the factions, he will need all of the skills which allowed him to become sole Emperor. The debate over theology is informed by reading about the various theological positions of the time using Bart Ehrman’s Lost Christianities and readings from a range of non-canonical Christian texts including the Gospel of Thomas.

  • Author/Convener: David Henderson, Professor of Chemistry, Trinity College

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Frederick Douglass, Slavery, Abolitionism, and the Constitution: 1845 (game 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”?

  • Author/Convener: Mark Higbee,Professor of History, Eastern 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.

  • Author / Convener: Mary Jane Treacy, Professor of Spanish and Women’s Studies and Director of the Honors Program, Simmons College

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Mexico in Revolution, 1912-1920 (game in development) transports player to tumultuous Mexico City during the Revolution. Although the game begins in March of 1912, Mexico has been at varying levels of chaos and instability since November 1910. Porfirio Díaz, long-standing president (some say dictator) of Mexico has been in exile since 1911. Francisco I. Madero has been in the office of the presidency since November, but the country is far from stable, as Madero’s ability to rule effectively has been questioned and undermined from the day he took office. Even some who rallied behind his cry of “Effective suffrage, no reelection” have begun to criticize him and question his dedication to his campaign promises, such as land reform. The game is situated just after Pascual Orozco, Madero’s one-time ally, has rebelled against him. Amidst the violence and chaos of the Revolution, students grapple with socio-political ideologies such as Comtian Positivism, Social Darwinism, Agrarianism, Anarchism, Social Catholicism, Feminism, and Liberalism as they make decisions concerning federal versus state government power, land reform, labor reform, suffrage, women’s rights, religious reform, foreign investment, and education reform. Throughout the process of negotiating Mexico’s future, they must keep the questions of how to establish a national identity (vis-à-vis cultural and historic memory) and stabilize the country.

  • Co-author / Convener: John Truitt, Associate Professor of History & Director, Institute for Simulations and Games, Central Michigan University
  • Co-author / Convener: Stephany Slaughter, Associate Professor of Spanish, Alma College

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Patriots, Loyalists, and Revolution in New York City, 1775-76 (W.W. Norton, 2014) 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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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 Burney, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Doane College

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The Second Crusade: The War Council of Acre, 1148 (game in development) brings to life a dramatic moment in the history of the crusades. Students become the great gathering of monarchs, barons, religious authorities, and others that met as a war council in Acre on the eve of the Second Crusade, and “react” as participants in the discussions and debates that might have been held there. As William of Tyre, the most important historian of the twelfth-century crusader states explains, after the armies led by the French and German monarchs had arrived in the holy land in response to the Pope’s call for crusade, “a general court was proclaimed at the city of Acre to consider the results of this great pilgrimage, the completion of such great labors, and also the enlargement of the realm. On the appointed day they assembled in Acre, as had been arranged. Then, together with the nobles of the realm who possessed an accurate knowledge of affairs and places, they entered into a careful consideration as to what plan was most expedient.” The war council must discuss and debate the idea of “crusading,” the justifications for holy war, and the reasons why a second crusade should be launched at this time. They must decide who from among the council’s participants should lead the crusade, and further if the authority for the crusade should lie in secular or religious hands. And finally, they must consider what city or area should be attacked and how. The debates are informed by Christian and Muslim teachings about peace and holy war found in the New Testament and the Qur’an. They are also informed by St. Augustine’s City of God, documents from the Investiture Controversy, and selections from various other historical sources about the Second Crusade and the crusader states, including William of Tyre, Odo of Deuill, Otto of Freising, Usamah ibn Munqidth, and Ibn al-Qalanisi. The Second Crusade game reverberates with issues that are as important today as they were in the twelfth century.

  • Author / Convener: Helen Gaudette, Professor of History and Director of the Office of Global Education Initiative, Queens College

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The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C. (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: Linda Mayhew, Advising Coordinator/Lecturer Liberal Arts and Humanities, The University of Texas at Austin

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Changing the Game:  Title IX, Gender and Athletics as American Universities (game in development) uses Title IX and the debate over university athletics to examine what equality means in a democratic society.  Students take the part of students, athletes, coaches, administrators, boosters, and others at a fictionalized university in the emerging media environment of the 1990s.  They game revolves around the question of how to bring the university into compliance with Title IX.  In debating how to distribute scarce resources, students ask themselves whether treating men and women equally requires treating each the same, how equality should be measured, and how quickly institutions must move to establish equality, how you measure the impact of past discrimination and, especially, whether it is permissible to discriminate against men in order to redress past discrimination against women.  As they do so, they also debate the role of athletics in general.  Why do universities have athletics?  What goals should universities have for athletics and athletes?  Are sports as they exist in the 1990s good for American society?  To inform their debates, students read primary sources drawn from congressional hearings, memoirs, public opinion surveys and contemporary magazines and newspapers.  

  • Co-author / Convener: Kelly McFall, Associate Professor of History and Chair of the Humanities Division, Newman University
  • Co-author / Convener: Abby Perkiss, Associate Professor of History, Kean University

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