Strategy Games – make civil resistance come alive to your students

One of the projects I am working on is writing scenarios for civil resistance strategy games. Once these scenarios are ready, I will make them available for teachers to use in their classrooms. These games will provide students with a profound understanding of civil resistance that they will never get from reading history books or watching documentaries.

I first learned about strategy games in a training for nonviolent direct action trainers in the early 1980s. The scenario for each game describes the issue at stake, the setting for the game, the current conditions that led to the need for a civil resistance campaign and the current level of involvement for the different constituent groups involved.

Participants are given roles to play within particular constituent groups, for example:

  • students
  • African American community members
  • religious leaders
  • local government
  • business owners
  • White Citizens Council members
  • general public and
  • the media

for a game about the Nashville lunch-counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights struggle.

The constituent groups meet separately and decide their responses to the initial scenario. Each constituent group has a spokesperson who reports what their intial actions will be to the entire group. The facilitators decide the impact of these actions and update the scenario. Each back-and-forth step is a progression through time. The game comcludes when either the goal of the resistance campaign is met or the campaign gives up (or we run out of time).

The most important part of the game is the debrief at the end. We ask different group members what it was like to be a part of that group, how realistic they thought their strategies were and what they could have done differently to achieve their goals.

In a school setting, students can be asked to write an essay about what they learned from this experience for homework, to get even more information and help evaluate this experience for them.

Students can be provided with reading materials, watch documentaries and maybe even listen to oral histories from participants to help them prepare for the game.

The initial game that introduced me to this teaching strategy took about 4 hours. It might make sense to have the game take place over a week of classes. That way, motivated students can do research on their roles in between each day’s action.

If you are interested in working with me on this project (writing scenarios, etc.) or would like me to contact you when we have scenarios available, please fill out the form on the Strategy Game page.

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