Edugame Reacting to the Past


Learning, especially as it is framed by school, is based on the dual theories of behaviorism and constructivism.  In this assignment, you will be designing a “Reacting To…” game.


If you think about it, you will spend the majority of your life learning, whether in school or outside of it.  In fact, work, play, and school would be really boring if you weren’t learning—if you were only doing the same activity day in and day out.  You have learned a lot of strategies for learning, but you will still learn more.  In this assignment, I want you to think about how you and others might best learn.  Games are increasingly being considered for teaching and learning activities because of their procedural rhetorics and qualities as Bogost claims. “Reacting to…” games are designed to get students to engage with a topic like never before. Rather than just memorizing some facts or reading various perspectives, students are asked to role-play key players or decision makers in an event.


What makes learning work?  What makes learning fun?  What makes games suited for learning?  How do game designers “teach” players?  How does school teach players?


  1. Spend some time thinking about an historical event or topic that you have some interest in and that would be a school topic worth students exploring. You can use any topic, including STEM topics, as long as it has an historical component. For example, the Reacting to Consortium has a game on the Food Pyramid, and it takes place during the debate in 1991 when various government agencies and interest groups were debating what the pyramid should look like. You can select literature topics as well, and they can focus on the content of the book or the historical relevance of the author.
    1. Does the event/topic have at least two potential outcomes that are debatable and controversial?
  2. Begin drafting a vignette or narrative setting for your game. Provide relevant details about what is going on and why this is an important event.
  3. Build roles for students. There should be at least 15 roles designed, but there certainly can be repeats, as we saw with the games we played in class. Roles should have “suggestions” for player actions, but should not predetermine all outcomes. These are nudges. Players need choice. Add secrecy and ulterior motives for richer game play, but it should be realistic (e.g., “You are Abraham Lincoln. While debating the Emancipation Proclamation with your cabinet, you are secretly wishing you were out fighting vampires.”)
  4. Build a choice that the players must decide or debate. It can be a binary choice, but in a more advanced version, there might be more outcomes. This “choice” should lead to a victory condition. It should be debatable and controversial. The outcome can be an alternate version of what really happened–that’s part of the fun of the game.
  5. Design a game mechanic around the choice. Maybe there are multiple rounds, and die rolls are used to add variables or effects? Maybe there are a series of decisions that the role-players have to make to “build” a consensus? Maybe writing is involved? Maybe only speech is involved? Maybe currency is required for players to earn favor?
  6. Write out the pedagogical objective of your game. This is one sentence, usually. See samples.
  7. List the supplies needed. This might include a list of resources such as internet links and books or articles that students might benefit from reading before playing the game.


February 25 – Hardcopy due in class for review and workshop

February 26 – email draft to by midnight


  • The project should have a 1-2 page “Instructor” version, and a 1-2 page “Student handout.” You should write out roles for 15 students (this could be anywhere from 2 pages to 15 pages).
  • It should have a Works Cited page with the appropriate citation information for any sources you consulted.  When appropriate, visuals (screenshots or other representations) within the text and labeled are encouraged.
  • It is worth 10 points.

Leave a Reply