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Reacting to the Past: Extended Simulations and the Learning Experience in Political Science
Unformatted Document Text:  negotiating with other players for support. The presentations and debates help develop leadership and public speaking skills as well. The games, like history, are inherently contingent. The historical sequences in the simulations do not have to play out the same way they actually did. While the odds slightly favor the histori- cal winners, all Reacting games are decided by a final vote on the positions of the factions. Vic- tory is dependent on the votes of the “indeterminates” in the game and on the positions won in debates as the game progresses. In the India game in my second class, for instance, the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress agreed on a compromise combining a new national constitution based on a very loose form of federalism with refusing Commonwealth status for India. 6 Ghandi agreed to it to avoid civil war. Ghandi’s support swung the indeterminate repre- senting the rural masses behind the constitution and insured its passage in a simulated national referendum. India cut its ties with Great Britain, Pakistan never emerged, and a weak central government hemmed in by protections for religious minorities took power. Another aspect of the contingency built into Reacting games is the intervention of “outside elements” into game play. This can influence outcomes significantly. For instance, in the French Revolution game the crowd of Paris can denounce members of the Assembly as “enemies of the Revolution” and can eliminate them (and their votes); in the India game, the Muslims and the Hindu nationalists can foment widespread disorder and the Hindu nationalists can assassinate their enemies. The effect of these interventions is determined by a roll of dice; the numbers that result are attached to particular outcomes. These “threats” raise the level of tension in the simula- tions and give some voice to non-voting forces. Students respond with a surprising seriousness that lends additional credence to the games. 8

Authors: Lightcap, Tracy.
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negotiating with other players for support. The presentations and debates help develop leadership
and public speaking skills as well.
The games, like history, are inherently contingent. The historical sequences in the simulations
do not have to play out the same way they actually did. While the odds slightly favor the histori-
cal winners, all Reacting games are decided by a final vote on the positions of the factions. Vic-
tory is dependent on the votes of the “indeterminates” in the game and on the positions won in
debates as the game progresses. In the India game in my second class, for instance, the Muslim
League and the Indian National Congress agreed on a compromise combining a new national
constitution based on a very loose form of federalism with refusing Commonwealth status for
India.
6
Ghandi agreed to it to avoid civil war. Ghandi’s support swung the indeterminate repre-
senting the rural masses behind the constitution and insured its passage in a simulated national
referendum. India cut its ties with Great Britain, Pakistan never emerged, and a weak central
government hemmed in by protections for religious minorities took power.
Another aspect of the contingency built into Reacting games is the intervention of “outside
elements” into game play. This can influence outcomes significantly. For instance, in the French
Revolution game the crowd of Paris can denounce members of the Assembly as “enemies of the
Revolution” and can eliminate them (and their votes); in the India game, the Muslims and the
Hindu nationalists can foment widespread disorder and the Hindu nationalists can assassinate
their enemies. The effect of these interventions is determined by a roll of dice; the numbers that
result are attached to particular outcomes. These “threats” raise the level of tension in the simula-
tions and give some voice to non-voting forces. Students respond with a surprising seriousness
that lends additional credence to the games.
8


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