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Reacting to the Past: Extended Simulations and the Learning Experience in Political Science
Unformatted Document Text:  Reacting to the Past games are not typical simulations. Indeed, when one looks at typologies of simulations and games, it is difficult to see where they fit. The games might best be consid- ered as what MaGee (2006) calls a simulation challenge game. The games are simulations in that they model events and processes. There is a game element as well in that all participants are bound by a set of rules that direct players to a particular goal and that constrain their behavior. Finally, there is an element of challenge in that participants are purposely put into conflicts with uncertain outcomes, outcomes that depend on the capability of the participants to use resources and respond to feedback. In many ways, however, Reacting games are quite different from usual simulation challenge games. First, the events being modeled are abstractions, but abstractions from actual sequences of events that have already occurred. Most simulations model processes in undetermined situa- tions to convey skills through repetition in a risk-free environment. Many of the short duration simulations of electoral or legislative processes familiar to political scientists fit this description. Reacting games, because they are based on historical events and characters and played over an extended time, give players both more definite and constrained roles and less control over the pace of events. The result is a simulation, but one which propels the participants forward in a path dependent process that creates substantial risk of failure. They are, in short, more like war games. Second, challenges to all participants are more stark then in most simulations. Interactions between the participants must be sustained over (commonly) a two week period. Further, most games include the possibility of unpredictable violence (players can be “killed” or “injured” in both games I used), constant negotiation in swiftly changing situations, and the need to publicly 4

Authors: Lightcap, Tracy.
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Reacting to the Past games are not typical simulations. Indeed, when one looks at typologies
of simulations and games, it is difficult to see where they fit. The games might best be consid-
ered as what MaGee (2006) calls a simulation challenge game. The games are simulations in that
they model events and processes. There is a game element as well in that all participants are
bound by a set of rules that direct players to a particular goal and that constrain their behavior.
Finally, there is an element of challenge in that participants are purposely put into conflicts with
uncertain outcomes, outcomes that depend on the capability of the participants to use resources
and respond to feedback.
In many ways, however, Reacting games are quite different from usual simulation challenge
games. First, the events being modeled are abstractions, but abstractions from actual sequences
of events that have already occurred. Most simulations model processes in undetermined situa-
tions to convey skills through repetition in a risk-free environment. Many of the short duration
simulations of electoral or legislative processes familiar to political scientists fit this description.
Reacting games, because they are based on historical events and characters and played over an
extended time, give players both more definite and constrained roles and less control over the
pace of events. The result is a simulation, but one which propels the participants forward in a
path dependent process that creates substantial risk of failure. They are, in short, more like war
games.
Second, challenges to all participants are more stark then in most simulations. Interactions
between the participants must be sustained over (commonly) a two week period. Further, most
games include the possibility of unpredictable violence (players can be “killed” or “injured” in
both games I used), constant negotiation in swiftly changing situations, and the need to publicly
4


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