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  • March 13, 2024 6:10 PM | Anonymous

    By: Nick Proctor
    Executive Director
    The Reacting Consortium

    Games with two sessions of gameplay are fun. They are also easy to fit into existing classes. And, as it turns out, they are devilishly hard to write. Players must be launched into the game with dizzying speed. Agendas must be tight. Ideas need to be accessible. In short, there is no time for lollygagging!

    Determined to break the logjam in the development of short games, a small and dedicated group of Reacting stalwarts hammered out guidelines for their components in the Spring of 2022

    These guidelines inspired some new projects. And they also allowed the recalibration of projects that were originally developed for the Flashpoints series.

    This year’s Annual Institute will feature the fruits of these labors: four short games intended for a variety of disciplines and perfect for situations that cannot accommodate a full-length game.

    Read on to learn about the new and updated short games that we're featuring at this year's Annual Institute!

    Cigarette Century: Tobacco and Lung Cancer, 1964-1965

    By: Chad Curtis

    From the author: How do we know if X causes Y? "The Cigarette Century: Tobacco and Lung Cancer, 1964-1965" explores this question in the context of the congressional debates surrounding tobacco and lung cancer after the publication of the 1964 Surgeon General's Report. Players take on the role of senators, bureacrats, scientists, media representative, and tobacco executives as they seek to interpret the existing body of evidence to inform regulatory policy decisions.

    Do We Take Shelter?: Evaluating "High Stakes" Information

    By: Martha Attridge Bufton

    From the author: By December 1940, the Western Allies were in the second year of the war with Germany, and the Luftwaffe began a series of air strikes on England. Individuals and families were regularly faced with life or death decisions: should one stay at home or go to a community shelter during a raid? These decisions were complicated by the information--or lack thereof--to which people had access. This game asks players to think critically about sources: which are authoritative, current, and unbiased, and which are not? When the sirens sound, what will you do? Learn more here: https://dwts.interdisciplinarylib.ca/

    The Jumonville Incident: Washington at Fort Necessity

    By: Nick Proctor

    Overview: Constant struggles between the British and French empires fighting for territory along the frontier draw in colonists, indigenous populations, and various European powers. Now, a new flashpoint has developed: The Jumonville Incident. In this game, players will take on roles representing all the factions involved in this contested event to determine what actually happened, and what that might mean for the struggles that lie ahead.

    North Korean Hunger Games: Famine, Rogue Regimes, and the Ethics of Aid, 1995-1998

    By: Emily Simon and Kelly McFall

    Overview: Students will take on the question of humanitarian assistance in an environment fraught with complications. A wide range of government representatives and aid organizations have gathered to discuss the future of assistance to North Korea. While no one can deny North Korea’s need, players will debate whether the nation qualifies for international aid, who should provide it, and how best to meet the needs of the people without further empowering the dangerous regime under whom they suffer.

    These games and more will be available to play at the Reacting Annual Institute in June! Early bird registration is now open with discounted pricing for Reacting Consortium members. Don't wait! Register today!

  • December 05, 2023 2:00 AM | Maddie Provo (Administrator)

    The energy and inventiveness of the Reacting community is a sort of perpetual motion machine. It’s powered by people’s eagerness to lean into the mantra of improvisational theater. They like to say “yes, and.”

    When instructors pose challenging questions, others rush in to answer. Then they usually end up raising interesting questions of their own. Consequently, my interaction with Facebook is mostly clicking the “like” button. When someone else has already posted something wise or clever – or wise and clever – I feel silly adding a comment of my own. “Yes,” I think. “You’re right! Good point!” Click! Click! Click!

    All this leads me to wonder, when the band is playing improvisational jazz, what is the point of a director? Over the last year, I’ve generally found that the answer is that it is a lot like teaching Reacting – just say “yes” as often as possible. 

    I started figuring this out at the beginning of the year when Naomi Norman asked me to present the keynote for the 2023 Winter Institute. I said yes and presented “Building Brave Spaces for Reacting.” This generally went over well, probably because I was clear that most of the ideas came from Mark Carnes’ book, Minds on Firetalking with Allen White, the comic strips of Charles Schulz, and my experience at Knutpunkt

    When Ray Kimball proposed working with the authors on one session games, I said yes. When Bill Offutt started the short games subcommittee of the REB, I said yes. When Kelly McFall’s students made a student perspective video and asked to put it on the website, I said yes please. 

    Immediately after the Winter Conference, Jenn started planning the 2023 Annual Institute, which would mark our triumphal return to Barnard College. Jenn was eager to maximize the impact of meeting face-to-face, so she dropped the usual breakout sessions, which are easily replicated online, and reorganized the schedule so that everyone could participate in working groups dedicated to addressing the big challenges facing Reacting. When Jenn explained her plan, my response was, “Yes, let’s do that.” Clearly, I was gaining wisdom and growing into the job. The video interviews that we did at the AI bear out that my response was the correct one. 

    This schedule overhaul gave me the opportunity to facilitate a working group about the relationship between generative AI and Reacting, which yielded a document for our growing online library of materials for instructors. Of the others, another highlight was the group focused on Reacting in high school, which was organized by Chris Jones. It allowed instructors who had been working in isolation to coordinate their efforts. One of them,Mark Whitters, just landed a grant from the Upshur Institute for Civic Education to continue this work. 

    The Annual Institute at Barnard also provided an opportunity to playtest the “Fall of Athens,” a mobile phone delivered, one-session game that Jenn and I adapted from Mark Carnes’ popular “Athens Besieged” with Trey Alsup and Lauren Kelly of Experiential Simulations. As expected, there were some bugs, but not enough to scare off intrepid volunteers for fall playtests – including me! I’ll be running it as a Tony Crider-style “epic finale” in my FYS as well as running it at the Science Center of Iowa’s “mixology” event, which will show how well it works with drunk people.

    I also said yes when Mark Pleiss, the director of my college’s CTL, asked me if I could “do some sort of game thing” for new faculty orientation. We co-presented the resulting “New Faculty Game” at this November’s POD Conference in Pittsburgh (it’s a big conference for CTL staff). The first version was written by Amy Berger and David Stewart as the “University Game.” Mark and I honed this down to the essentials, play-tested it with our new faculty, and then pitched it for the conference. It is not exactly a Reacting game, but it has all the principles and is better than death by icebreaker, the norm at faculty orientation events. My ambition is to use it as a “gateway drug,” enabling us to gain more traction with CTL staff. We shall see.

    The work that Jenn and I were doing was punctuated by Maddie Provo hosting outstanding online events about player safety with Allen White and universal design with Jamie Lerner-Brecher, as well as faculty happy hours. She also continues to do amazing and innovative things with individual, departmental, and institutional memberships. (So much so that we needed to upgrade our site license to handle the volume). 

    Similarly, when Jamie Lerner-Brecher saw there were more areas where the Reacting community could benefit from her expertise in Disability Studies and student support, she proposed making some short videos. We said “yes. do that,” and now we can all learn from here videos on Reacting and Anxiety and Reacting and Autism.   

    Meanwhile, Noah Trujillo steadily added to his job description. He started as digital resources manager, but as the year passed, his work grew to include coordinating student workers, formatting game materials, editing video, and compiling analytical reports about the operation of our website. 

    In the middle of all of this, Maddie and Noah decided to start work to overhaul the design of the website. They both work part time, but their curiosity, commitment, and energy mean that they do more with a handful of hours than most people get done in a week. 

    How did I unlock this potential? I nod sagely and say, “Yes. Do that. Do that thing that you just said.” I am excited by the prospect of being able to say “yes” much more in the coming year.

    Nick Proctor is the Executive Director of the Reacting Consortium. You can read his other blog posts and updates, including last year's look back.

  • November 01, 2023 9:27 AM | Anonymous

    By: Emily Fisher Gray
    Professor of History
    Norwich University, The Military College of Vermont

    Emily Fisher Gray is a long-time reactor and game author, her latest game, Wrestling with the Reformation in Augsburg, 1530 is one of four Reacting to the Past games being published by UNC Press this Fall!

    I sat in front of my computer, stumped by a game design problem. I was trying to create a microgame on the Schilling Revolt of 1524, to get players excited and prepared for my full-length game, Wrestling with the Reformation: Augsburg, 1530. To create the suspense of an urban uprising, I needed to build a sense of menace and danger with an irate mob, but I wanted all available players in the role of city councilors, besieged together in the council chamber. I did not want to give anyone a character sheet that instructed simply, “be very angry, yell a lot, and occasionally shake a pitchfork in a threatening manner.” That might be fun for a few minutes, but it hardly involves the kind of deep thinking and problem solving I was hoping this activity would generate. I needed a crowd without casting a crowd. 

    As a professor at a military college, I can generally expect to have a roomful of enthusiastic students eager to help me puzzle through sticky game-design challenges. In the summertime absence of students, my teenage son and his friends are my next best resource, so I took this problem to them. Their solution was immediate, and in retrospect, obvious. My son pulled up Spotify on his phone and within a minute “Crowd – Angry” was playing through the speakers in the room. It was perfect. The noise was chaotic and tumultuous. The voices were disgruntled and sullen, occasionally rising to outraged and furious. Bursts of shouting came through, and even a few dog barks. It was exactly the backdrop against which I could present a set of irrational proletarians’ demands to a roomful of players and say “NOW what are you going to do?!”

    In my years of experience using Reacting to the Past to create a historically immersive experience for students, I can’t believe I have neglected the potential power of sound. There are some games that encourage singing – the Ca Ira marks the climax of crowd action in the French Revolution game, and Greenwich Village offers personal influence points (PIPs) to those who are willing to break out into song. I have occasionally (if anachronistically) played La Marseillaise or a Bollywood hit or something from the musical Hamilton to get students excited about an upcoming game. But I had never before considered what a historical space might sound like and made use of the limitless trove of sounds on the internet to supplement a game with historically resonant noise.  

    I plan to introduce sound effects into my fall semester Reacting games, both to enhance the experience for students and to solve some constraints and game challenges. Allow me to briefly explain how I intend to experiment with sounds, and suggest a few ways sound effects might be useful in a variety of Reacting games. 

    (1) Using Sound to Build Excitement and Suspense. 

    After trying “Crowd – Angry” in a playtest of the Schilling Revolt at the summer Annual Institute, I thought of many ways this sound clip could come in handy. I intend to make it the backdrop of the die roll at the end of Reformation in Augsburg, which determines whether Augsburg will be able to maintain its chosen religious reforms or devolve into either invasion by the armies of Emperor Charles V or another urban uprising. But “Crowd – Angry” could also be a perfect supplement to crowd actions in other games, magnifying the effect of student action, especially in a smaller class. It could enliven a lackluster French Revolution Grand Journee and add verve to the mob in Patriots and Loyalists. I purchased a chicken hat after a bland tarring and feathering action in Patriots and Loyalists last spring (is there anything you can’t buy on Amazon?) but I think “Crowd – Angry” would be even more useful in helping to convey a sense of historically-plausible popular rage. 

    (2) Using Sound to Signal a New Space within Gameplay. 

    Reformation in Augsburg includes a mechanism whereby the most important city councilmen can adjourn to the Gentlemen’s Drinking Club to make decisions without the input of their lower-status colleagues. I rarely have access to a separate classroom or open hallway, so my drinking club meetings generally take place in the back of the room.  This fall, I plan to create a unique auditory space for the drinking club meetings thanks to “Medieval Tavern Ambience,” another wonderful Spotify find. Contrary to its name, this sound clip does not transport us to some rowdy low-class establishment, but to a genteel space of clinking glasses, murmured conversations, and soft lute music, perfect for behind-the-scenes dealmaking by my powerful Augsburg oligarchs. If it works as I expect, this music will help me seamlessly transition the class into and out of drinking club meetings with minimal game manager intervention. I’m not sure “Medieval Tavern Ambience” has applicability beyond Reformation in Augsburg, unless you have insomnia – it’s labeled as a white noise sleep sound – but there are other games where students move into an alternate space or time while they remain in the classroom. For example, next time I play 1349: Plague Comes to Norwich I can guarantee that the Grim Reaper will come accompanied by the ominous tolling of a church bell or a nice funeral dirge. 

    (3) Using Sound to Create Liminal Space or Transition into Gameplay. 

    I have struggled to replicate in other Reacting games the fun liminal activities that open each session of the Athens 403 BCE game. After a nice pig sacrifice and hymn or poem for Athena, students are centered in Athens and ready to play. At the Annual Institute this summer, my creative council clerk for Reformation in Augsburg decided to write a prayer to open each council session, but I would not feel comfortable asking a student to do that as a regular requirement of the game. Instead, I have combed through dozens and dozens of church bell sound effect clips to find the perfect sound I can play to transport everyone to sixteenth century Augsburg to begin each day’s session. It is amazing how many different ways bells can be made to sound, from joyful wedding bells to bells signaling danger to bells appropriate to the Grim Reaper in 1349: Plague Comes to Norwich. For me, “Three Ringing Church Bells” strikes the perfect tone, so to speak: upbeat, energetic but not frenetic, a sound that still signals the start of the day in historic towns across Europe. If sound effects are successful in helping make the transition from 21st century classroom to 16th century council chamber for Reformation in Augsburg, I will definitely be looking for other historical noises that could help signal to students that they are entering a game. 

    I am convinced that allowing students to hear sounds of the past will help put them in the right headspace to engage more effectively with the historical ideas and situations in Reacting games. A small Bluetooth speaker is an easy addition to my bag of Reacting props along with the flags, name tags, gavel, chicken hat, and other essential miscellany I carry with me to Reacting classes. I am curious to hear if anyone else has experimented with sound effects in class, and to get your ideas about how specific sound clips might add to the experience of the Reacting games you play!

    Be sure to check out Emily's newest game: Wrestling with the Reformation: Augsburg, 1530

    You can also find her previous blog post below:

    The Reacting Consortium - Costumes and Uniforms: Reacting at Military College

    About the Author

    Emily Fisher Gray is a Professor of History at Norwich University. She has written on the early causes and progress of the Protestant Reformation, the phenomenon of Lutheran- Catholic co-existence, and the unique aesthetics of Lutheran architecture. Her ongoing research takes place in churches, libraries and archives in the former Free Imperial Cities of southern Germany, especially Augsburg, where she lived for a year as a Fulbright

    Fellow. She has written a Reacting game, "Wrestling with the Reformation: Augsburg, 1530,” and is developing a game on the 1648 Peace of Westphalia.

    Blog Author Questionnaire

    One word to describe faculty: Curious
    Two words to describe your school: Liberal-arts, military
    Three words to describe students: Enthusiastic, Open-minded, Game-breakers
    Four words to describe favorite games: Armies, Duels, Sausages, Votes
    Five words to describe Reacting: Transformational, Challenging, Brilliant, Engaging, Essential

  • July 19, 2023 1:23 PM | Anonymous

    Becca Livingstone
    Professor of History
    Simpson College

    I assigned Monuments and Memory-Making in my Fall 2022 First-Year Seminar course, which centered on the theme of Civic Engagement.  I, as a historian, naturally gravitate towards thinking about such things historically.  As Abby discussed last week, the contest over how we frame, construct, and teach our national history is a central issue in today’s politics.  The very crux of these debates – what history do we tell, celebrate, exclude, and decry – are defined by who is involved in the conversation.  

    These are big, complicated questions.  Understandably, most students of mine were not particularly interested in exploring these questions; they were busy navigating their first semester in college, figuring out how to be college students, how to fit in, and how to make a good impression on their peers.  In fact, many of my students expressed a distinct reluctance to discuss anything remotely ‘political’ because of how divisive and uncivil those conversations have become.  There was resistance to civic engagement at precisely the time when they were coming of age to be able to vote.  Is there any wonder why with the current hyperpolarization in the country?  But this is what makes the college classroom space all that more important.  Where else can our young people learn the tools for how to discuss contentious issues if not in our classrooms?  How else can we help them figure out how to not only disagree with respect, but also listen to other viewpoints, engage in meaningful discussion, and build consensus about how to move forward together?

     Monuments and Memory-Making provided an interesting point of entry for my students to explore the issues in our current political debates about history without directly engaging in the politics that made them resistant.  It’s topic – the Vietnam War and the 1980s controversy over the memorial’s design – is far enough away that it didn’t directly touch their lives or outlooks.  The game became a less contentious space for them wrestle with the questions of: Who are we as a nation?  How do we deal with uncomfortable and (in many cases) shameful parts of our history?  How do we come to terms with the reality of history and its actors both holding and acting upon beliefs and values that are antithetical to our modern world?  What does this all mean for who we are as a nation today?  By setting these questions in the world of the early 1980s, students more easily engaged with the divergence in perspectives framed by different experiences, allowing them to more readily explore the negotiated nature of historical memory.   

    The experience of playing the game left them with the crucial question of ‘why should this matter to them beyond the classroom space?’  This is where the debriefing session became critical; it was the place where we made the connections between the game and our present.  First, we discussed how the game demonstrated the power and the impact that everyday people, just like themselves, have on the creation of historical memory.  The interaction of roles opened students up to thinking about how people today can have such divergent understandings of American history.  To complete the ultimate task of the game, students had to figure out how this disparate group of people could (or couldn’t) come together to achieve a consensus of what it meant to be American.  This then served as a springboard for us to consider how these questions are alive today and why they matter to all of us.  

    We as a nation are still trying to figure out who we are now and who we want to be.  It should not be the voices of the few or the powerful that decide the vision of the past, present, and the future of our nation; rather it should be the voice of the many, the people.  The stories that we lift up and give voice to matter.  Through this experience, my students began to think about how historical memory is constructed by various competing voices, both big and small, that mostly have nothing to do with historians or the professional discipline.  Instead, it is ordinary people, just like them, who ‘make’ a nation’s historical memory.  The game served as a lesson in civic responsibility and empowerment.  It also showed them how to engage in civil discourse about things that matter deeply to people.  Two things, which our present state of politics are sorely in need of.    

  • July 12, 2023 2:17 PM | Anonymous

    Abigail Perkiss
    Professor of History
    Kean University

    Recently, one of my students told me that it was impossible to truly put himself into the mindset of the role he had been assigned, because he would have been seeing the past through his 2023 eyes. As instructors, we do our best to acknowledge and mitigate this inevitable collision of past and present – of a student’s contemporary predicament influencing the way they understand and interact with a role, a text, a historical moment.

    But what happens when the game asks students to confront this very collision, and calls on them to understand that our present impacts our understanding of the past as much as our past impacts our present?

    Suddenly, their current reality becomes a site of inquiry, an entry point into the ways we as a society experience and make sense of the past, and how those meanings become contested.

    Such is the case for Monuments and Memory-Making. When my co-authors, Rebecca Livingstone and Kelly McFall, and I began conceiving of this game – in 2013 – we aimed to give students a glimpse into the creation of collective memory by entering contest over the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We wanted students to consider how we create a national memory of our collective past. How we move on from a lost war. How we remember the dead while honoring the living. How we reunite a fractured nation.

    We wanted students to understand that the past is neither fixed nor concrete, that empirical evidence is always viewed through the lens of the contemporary reality in which it is interpreted. We wanted them to see that the struggle for the memorialization of the Vietnam conflict was rooted as much in the civic life and politics of the late 1970s and the early 1980s as it was in the preceding decades of fighting.

    Nine years later, as we were finalizing the manuscript for production, armed insurrectionists stormed the US Capitol, brandishing the flag of the Confederacy. Though the history of the Capitol attack was – is – still being written, it was clear early on that this act was more than a mere nod to the past. In the halls of the Capitol, in congressional chambers, and through the streets of Washington, DC, those who participated in the attack invoked an interpretation of history that called back to the aftermath of the US Civil War, when former enslavers fought to memorialize the southern cause as noble and just, a heroic battle to preserve the ways of the South while minimizing the brutality of the system of slavery.

    This fight over the narrative of the Civil War – so deep as to challenge the naming of the war itself – has pervaded American life for more than 150 years. In the wake of the conflict, southerners held dear to this noble “lost cause” narrative, as northerners sought to celebration widespread triumph and the reclamation of a united nation. Today, as historians center the experience of enslaved people and the consequences of slavery in retelling the period, white supremacists like those who invaded the US Capitol on January 6 evoke the Confederacy to push back on the ideas of federal oversight and racial justice reform, lionizing those who fought as victims of an aggressive northern campaign to dismantle southern customs and traditions.

    These debates over the past are not simply academic exercises; they matter because the way we understand and make sense of our collective past informs how we make sense of our contemporary reality. These efforts to commemorate a past as the past stem from our desire to craft a national collective memory of what has come before.

    In 2013, we envisioned Monuments and Memory-Making as a game that would call on students to interrogate the relationship between past and present in the early 1980s. We didn’t conceive of the game as an opportunity for students and instructors to contemplate current events in the time and place in which they were playing the game.

  • June 26, 2023 10:50 AM | Anonymous

    By: Robert Goodrich
    Professor of History
    Northern Michigan University

    This is a continuation of the previous blog about the recently published Democracy in Crisis: Weimar Germany, 1929-1932. The previous post can be found here.

    Alongside my overenthusiastic tendency to overdesign the game, the biggest conundrum proved to be the use of antisemitism, Nazi imagery, and playing a Nazi. These issues quickly became a stumbling block as the RTTP community split into roughly two camps. The first camp, to which I belong(ed), argued that this is RTTP. Our own name is “Reacting to the Past.” We do not shy away from historical controversies but instead believe that only by immersing ourselves in the intellectual realities of the past can we understand how history unfolded as it did without projecting our contemporary prejudices onto it. In short, antisemitism matters. Nazism matters. And we need to confront them head on using all the power of RTTP pedagogy.

    The second camp did not disagree with any of this in the abstract. But practical application was different. They pointed out that there was, in fact, a red line that we should not cross, and that proactive use of antisemitic speech and Nazi imagery espoused by student characters were obviously on the other side of that line. A colleague pointed out the potentially disastrous public relations optics of a student using their phone to video a part of the game where a Nazi character spews antisemitic filth, captioned, “Professor Makes Students Be Nazis.” Twenty years of building a positive brand recognition gone in a flash… Other experienced instructors pointed out the dangers to the students. While we expect much of our students, asking, in particular, a Jewish student to either play a Nazi or be exposed to attacks by a Nazi character could well be expected to shut that student down, trigger warnings be damned. If the goal is to learn about these issues, placing such a high affective barrier is not necessarily conducive to that goal.

    I am not about to try to weight how an individual student might respond emotionally to an RTTP character who embraces ideas diametrically opposed to their own beliefs, but we do this all the time. We expect fundamentalist Christians to be Darwinists, Muslims to play Crusaders, Blacks to play racists, Native Americans to be genocidal whites, and so forth.

    And yet there emerged a particular sensitivity to antisemitism. Not that other game designers or the RTTP community in general were insensitive in the cases just listed. Far from out. I spoke with most of the designers of these games and they were keenly aware of the need to take the students’ sensitivities into consideration. They either developed various mechanics to isolate explosive content or they chose to remove it since, although relevant, it got in the way of bigger issues. And the visceral reaction of many faculty at the RTTP conferences when playing Democracy in Crisis kept appearing as the central point of concern in their assessments.

    Here is not the place for an argument about why antisemitism proved a sort of last frontier. The fact is, it was. Game production stalled. The perceived stakes were high. But in 2022 the editorial board voted to advance it and UNC Press accepted it among its first tranche of RTTP publications released this year.

    What happened? I think three things. First, there were changes in the RTTP board. New faces brought new perspectives, and there was a general shift towards advancing the game. But that just begs the question as to what had happened to shift general perspectives. While the game was regularly debated by RTTP, it played no role in board elections. So other factors were at play.

    The second element was the consequences of the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency in 2016. This was not immediate, but the events of the “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017 and Trump’s persistent refusal to take a principled, consistent, and policy stance against racism (quite the contrary, in fact), were accompanied by an almost inevitable statistical rise in antisemitic and other racist acts and beliefs during his presidency. Whether Trump’s role was casual or contributory or correlative can be debated. And I have not done an opinion poll of RTTP members, but I noticed a distinct shift by 2017 in the willingness to grapple more aggressively with the controversial issues in Democracy.

    “Unite the Right” Rally, Charlottesville, Va, 12 August 2017, by Anthony Crider

    The third element flowed from the second. Working with colleagues, especially those who had faced similar design and classroom challenges, we made changes to how antisemitism and Nazi imagery were handled. The revisions specifically prohibited Nazi iconography (no swastika, “Heil Hitler”, fascist salute, or any such thing). Just as importantly, the section on antisemitism now allowed instructors to choose from three broad options on how to proceed with antisemitism.

    Reich Youth Rally,  Potsdam, 1932 (photograph), Calvin University, German Propaganda Archive

    1) Full integration: Antisemitism, as essential to the period and the issues, remains since leaving it out sanitizes the Nazis, and it is the rise of the Nazis that is the primary reason we study Weimar Germany. It must be confronted head on, and that includes exposing how an overtly racist organization can twist its rhetoric to fit into the norms of a democracy.

    2) Full exclusion: It is dropped as a debate issue entirely. While antisemitism was an integrating construct for the Nazis, they rose to power based on other issues – unemployment, opposition to Versailles, anti-Marxism, collapse of traditional values and ways of life, etc. The game, and history up to 1933, make sense without antisemitism (what happens after, however, does not). After all, this is not a game about the origins of the Holocaust or about the Nazis or Hitler. The topic is replaced by racial eugenics (race hygiene) and eugenic sterilization, which gets at the broader issue of Nazi racial thinking.

    3) Hybrid: Antisemitism remains in the game but rather than having players express those ideas in character, we use historical documents from ~1930 to be read by everyone, distributed in place of speeches by antisemitic characters.

    The revisions went a long way towards allaying lingering concerns, but the changed and charged political climate was likely decisive.

    About the Author

    Robert Goodrich’s research interests lie in Modern Central European history with a broad and integrative approach. His research and teaching emphasizes cultural and social history and the interplay of factors such as labor, gender, sexuality, and religion in identity construction. The nature of his research into religion and identity also requires a comparative view of European and American experiences, reflected in his interest in transnational history and recent focus on questions of identity related to Austro-Hungarian migration to, from, and through Michigan. Goodrich also works to promote internationalization at Northern Michigan University and has taken students to Spain, Peru, Greece, and most regularly, to Austria.

    Blog Author Questionnaire

    One word to describe faculty: Engaged

    Two words to describe (your) school: Supportive, Humane

    Three words to describe students: Kind, Underprepared, Distracted

    Four words to describe favorite games: Team-Based, Open-Ended, Immersive, Problem-Solving

    Five words to describe Reacting: Contingent, Document-Based, Confrontational, Student-Centered, In-Depth

  • May 04, 2023 1:26 PM | Anonymous

    Registration for this year's Annual Institute is still open and games filling up fast! Take this fantastic opportunity to experience some of our most popular Reacting games in a controlled environment. Whether you're a Reacting Veteran or Newbie, the games featured at the Annual Institute will give you something to take away for your classrooms and offer an unforgettable experience.

    Registration is open until May 19th, so don't wait! Register for the Annual Institute today!

    Read on to learn more about the Nine Games and Newbie Workshop we're featuring at this year's Annual Institute!

    The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C.E.

    Democracy in peril in ancient Athens!

    Step back in time to Athens in 403 B.C.E. and immerse yourself in the intellectual and political struggles that shaped debate in the Athenian Assembly. As Athens emerges from the devastation of war with Sparta, players must decide the fate of direct democracy and other issues such as the role of magistrates, the citizenship of slaves and foreign-born metics, and the restoration of its empire.

    With primary sources from Plato's Republic and Pericles' Funeral Oration, Athens 403 BCE is a great way to introduce students to political theory, philosophy, and ancient history. This game is straight-forward and structured making it perfect for first-time instructors and first-year seminars.

    Wrestling with the Reformation: Augsburg, 1531

    Can you keep Augsburg independent and prosperous?

    Religious, economic, and civic duties collide in this dynamic game that challenges players to balance the competing demands of citizens and foreign powers in the midst of the Reformation. As a member of the City Council of Augsburg, you'll have to navigate complex decisions that will impact the city's military defense, economic growth, and spiritual purity. With salvation and Augsburg's very survival at stake, players must work together to form alliances and make critical decisions to secure the future of the city. This game is perfect for students studying Cultural and Social History, Medieval History, Religion, Western Civ, or World History.

    Detroit 1859: The Frederick Douglass-John Brown Meeting

    The Abolitionist Movement is at a crossroads!

    Step back in time to a critical moment in American History as the Abolitionist Movement reacts to recent bombshells including the Dred-Scott decision and Fugitive Slave Act. As you take on the role of a prominent abolitionist, you'll have the chance to engage in lively debates and discussions with other key abolitionists, including John Brown and Frederick Douglass. With the future of the Abolitionist Movement hanging in the balance, it's up to you to work together and find a new viable plan to end slavery in America.

    Will you be able to come to a consensus, or will disunity impede your progress? Introduce your students to the debates that defined the abolitionist movement with this newly developed game that was recently featured at the GDC in 2022.

    Diet and Killer Diseases: The McGovern Committee Hearings, 1977

    The deadliest food in your kitchen is in the sugar bowl...

    Why are they still selling non-fat yogurt and who got the idea it was a good thing? It all stems from the McGovern committee's findings in 1977. As US senators and doctors examine the scientific evidence on dietary fat and its impact on health. You'll explore how the committee's report was influenced by more than just scientific data and how the findings of it were amplified by journalists to change how we think of nutrition and health.

    As you navigate factional, competitive, and collaborative player interactions, you'll consider issues of public health, science, journalism, and political lobbying. This game is perfect for those interested in the history of medicine and health, history of science and technology, political science and government, and STEM.

    Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor, and the New Woman, Second Edition

    A New Century, A New America?

    Immerse yourself in the socio-political changes that characterized the early 1900s. Labor, Suffrage, and Bohemian ideals clash in New York City in an attempt to forge a new America. With notable historical figures, including Emma Goldman, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and W.E.B. DuBois, Greenwich Village Second Edition offers a rich overview of 20th century political movement. Students will attempt to persuade each other through lively debates, stinging op-eds, and artistic expression to gain influence and make sure their views are heard.

    The all-new second edition comes with more structure "under the hood," while still providing players with considerable freedom to initiate debates and explore the ideas of the time. This game works especially well with classes that explore American political movements, labor, race, and gender.  Assignments are designed to move beyond speeches and debates to get students more engaged, making it a great game for new and experienced Reactors alike.

    Ending the Troubles: Religion, Nationalism, and the Search for Peace and Democracy in Northern Ireland, 1997-98

    Giving Peace a Chance in Northern Ireland.

    Step into the shoes of Northern Ireland's major political parties as they reconvene at the Multi-Party talks in 1997 to end 30 years of bloody conflict. Ending the Troubles offers a unique opportunity for history and politics majors to more deeply understand Irish history. It's also an effective way to get general education or honors students to learn the broad issues raised by the clash of civic and cultural nationalism in Modern Europe and the US. Students will find an effective way to explore strategies to achieve compromise between long warring communities. This game also explores the difficulties involved in designing a democratic system that can protect minority rights. Register today to avoid having fingers thrown at your door!

    Rousseau, Burke, and Revolution in France, 1791

    Revolution, counter-revolution, or reform in France.

    Students are tasked with the daunting task of writing a constitution for a revolutionary France. Along the way they will grapple with fundamental questions about individual rights, democracy, and the limits of governmental power.

    This game offers a unique experience for students and an immersive introduction to Political Science, European History, and Philosophy. With themes ranging from political violence, combatting inequality, slavery and the role of the Church, there's something that can be used in any class. Primary sources include Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Social Contract and Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, which allow students to actually apply political theories to governance.

    The Fate of John Brown, 1859

    John Brown: slavery, liberation, and violence.

    An immersive game that places students at a fictional conference debating whether to execute John Brown for his failed rebellion at Harper's Ferry. As players immerse themselves in this pivotal moment in history, they will confront enduring questions about the legitimacy of political violence and the balance between morality and the law. This short game is perfect for classes looking focus on slavery, the Civil War, and the abolitionist movement. As a week-long short game it also has the benefit of fitting into tight courses that are still looking for interactive ways to immerse their students in history.

    Democracy in Crisis, Weimar Germany, 1929-32

    Democracies don't die, they're murdered.

    Step into the shoes of a delegate of the Reichstag and contend with the complex political landscape of Germany during the Weimar Republic. With factions and ideologies clashing for power, players must navigate the pressures of economic stress, political gridlock, and foreign demands while addressing street fights, trade union strikes, assassinations, and deadly polarization.

    The complex issues addressed in this game makes it easy to adapt to different courses and have increasingly relevant real-world implications. Today, Democracy is under attack globally, sometimes insidiously, sometimes directly. The study of how a modern democracy is killed is surely of use for those who wish to defend one now and identify the dangers: gridlock, arbitrary executive orders, constitutional crises, corruption, party over country, and the demonization of opponents.

    Reacting Newbie Workshop

    A great introduction to using Reacting in the classroom!

    Are you relatively new to Reacting to the Past and wanting a curated experience to help you understand how to use Reacting games in your courses? This year's Annual Institute features a workshop dedicated to Reacting Newbies and designed to answer your questions and help prepare you for when you run your first game. Take part in a hands-on workshop series designed to walk you through the process of syllabus revision, assessment strategies, and curricular integration, so you'll feel fully confident when implementing Reacting to the Past. Learn from instructors who have used Reacting and share your questions and experiences with colleagues from across the country. This option is recommended for Reacting Newbies, and for cohorts from the same school.

  • April 24, 2023 4:32 PM | Anonymous

    By: Robert Goodrich
    Professor of History
    Northern Michigan University

    After integrating RTTP into my classes at Northern Michigan University and attending the annual faculty conference at Barnard, I started working on a Weimar game (what ultimately became titled Democracy in Crisis: Germany, 1929-32) in 2010. Mark Carnes and I had a conversation at one point a few years later about it, and, paraphrasing, he stated that everyone had always joked that it would be impossible to do a Weimar game—it just be too complicated and polarizing. I was naively unsure how to take the comment.

    Of course, by that time I already had a beta version of the game. I thought I had come up with some new mechanics that could integrate the abstraction of Weimar’s fickle public opinion and sense of crisis (what I came to call the “Stability Index”). Regarding mechanics, I had followed Nick Proctor’s advice. “Throw in the kitchen sink” is what I remember him telling me during the early design phase, “You can edit it back later.” I responded by making a rather wonky game (it still has a lot of that complexity even after Nick encouraged me to take out the kitchen sink—sorry). I also tried to hit the reality that every single modern issue was on the table during Weimar, but the number of issues kept expanding to either unmanageability or too much open-endedness in terms of what issues instructors and players could choose to integrate.

    Most of these were resolved over time through play testing. Issues that did not generate enough “heat” (I think this was John Moser’s term) were dropped (labor-management relations and religion); so, too, were those where players showed a tendency to simply replicate modern American discussions (abortion, gay rights, the death penalty). Some mechanics were dropped to keep the game focused on debate (trade unions and finances).

    It remains a bit more complicated than most, but within expectations for one of RTTP’s bigger games. In fact, “big” is where this game really unfolds—it works best with a large classroom from 20+ given the fractured nature of Weimar politics. In the end, it hits the main goal of exploring how democracies die through polarization, radicalization, gridlock, and constitutional shenanigans. Generally, players come to appreciate the desperation of moderate politicians torn between extremes as the middle frays, and why they, in that desperation, might be willing to consider previously unthinkable alliances (in this case, a presumably tactical and temporary alliance with the far-right populism of the fascists).

    And now it is 2023. Parliamentary gridlock. Polarization and echo chambers. Hysteria and moral panic. Post-truth discourse and hostility to a free press. Refusal to accept democratic outcomes. Politics as theatre rather than legislation. Corruption. Calls for violence against political opponents. Calls for insurrection and civil war. Xenophobia and national chauvinism. Amplification of counter-factual conspiracy theories. Support of tyrannies abroad. Attacks on and scapegoating of the most isolated members of society. Mainstream enabling of openly authoritarian rhetoric and policies. And, as I write this, the referral for criminal charges, including sedition, against a former president who has pandered to blatant racists and called for the literal “termination” of the Constitution in order to be restored to power.

    I started this project in 2010. I saw it as history. As it now reaches classrooms in 2023, I am not so sure it is not a bit more chilling than a mere historical exercise anymore. To repeat my comment in the game’s introduction, democracies do not die, they are murdered. There is motive and process. And someone takes the necessary actions. Usually, they even confess before the deed is done. If the game has any value, I hope that it is to help us see how a democracy is undermined, why people act in this manner, and how to recognize the actors. And then to take action to prevent it. These are all choices on all sides. And there are always alternatives.

    Democracy in Crisis is one of the many games being offered at this year's Annual Institute. If getting first-hand experience playing the finished version with the author himself interests you, you can register today on our official event page!

    About the Author

    Robert Goodrich’s research interests lie in Modern Central European history with a broad and integrative approach. His research and teaching emphasizes cultural and social history and the interplay of factors such as labor, gender, sexuality, and religion in identity construction. The nature of his research into religion and identity also requires a comparative view of European and American experiences, reflected in his interest in transnational history and recent focus on questions of identity related to Austro-Hungarian migration to, from, and through Michigan. Goodrich also works to promote internationalization at Northern Michigan University and has taken students to Spain, Peru, Greece, and most regularly, to Austria.

    Blog Author Questionnaire

    One word to describe faculty: Engaged

    Two words to describe (your) school: Supportive, Humane

    Three words to describe students: Kind, Underprepared, Distracted

    Four words to describe favorite games: Team-Based, Open-Ended, Immersive, Problem-Solving

    Five words to describe Reacting: Contingent, Document-Based, Confrontational, Student-Centered, In-Depth

  • March 01, 2023 11:07 AM | Anonymous

    By: Ray Kimball
    Founder and CEO
    42 Educational Games Coaching and Design

    I recently read Jane McGonigal’s Imaginable: How to see the future coming and feel ready for anything – even things that seem impossible today. Because McGonigal’s background is in gaming, I saw parallels between the book’s framework and the Reacting Community. Below are my Reacting takeaways from Imaginable. Each section has a graphic with McGonigal’s rules and summary of those rules, followed by my musings.

    Given the current state of the world, it is really hard to focus beyond the immediate. But the tyranny of the present is exactly why McGonigal’s idea of envisioning the future is so critical. When so many of our assumptions about education have been upended, now is the time to see what the future might have in store for us. Why ten years out? From a Reacting perspective, ten years gives sufficient time for a game to go through the publishing process. A Reacting game that is only a glimmer of an idea now could easily be in a published status ten years from now.

    Reacting is ridiculous! That’s not a disparagement of Reacting, but simple statement of fact derived from the state of higher ed. It is ridiculous to believe that students would collaborate out of class, read longer form pieces, and inhabit the personae of long-dead individuals. But that is precisely why Reacting is so powerful: it gives us a way to realize a different style of teaching. Imagine science classes playing Climate Change and Charles Darwin to understand both contemporary challenges and foundational debates. Imagine Chinese, French, or Latin classes playing Confucianism in ChinaEnlightenment in Crisis or Crisis of Catiline to practice their language skills and gain a deeper cultural understanding. Imagine American Politics classes playing Chicago 1968 and Food Fight to better grasp the complex interplay and occasional dysfunction of American governance. Reacting may be ridiculous, but it is also completely capable of “rewriting the facts of today.”

    Start by looking at those future forces that will impact your students and potentially create a greater imperative for Reacting. Some of these forces might be a greater emphasis on open access textbooksrethinking of traditional classroom design, or a shift in college demographics. As you look for these forces, look for Reacting allies who might also be stakeholders in Reacting’s establishment or growth at your institution. These might be a student Live Action Role Playing (LARP) group, a like-minded faculty affinity group, or a faculty development grant program. You may be surprised at how many Reacting-adjacent efforts there are in your backyard.


    Above all, understand what your students need. Practicing “hard empathy” with them means seeing education through their eyes. The Marist Mindset List is a great tool for this. You may discover that students want games to tell under-represented stories like those of LGBTQ political figures or post-colonial governments. Using this approach, you can ensure that those challenges are mutually shared by all members of the educational community.

    Reacting is in many ways a shared dream. The broad-based collaborations it inspires are unheard of. What are some options for your Reacting “call to adventure”?

    • Attend a Reacting event. Whether it’s an in-person conference or a webinar, Reacting events are a great way to get a sense of what’s out there.
    • Browse the Games section of the Reacting website. A powerful search function can help you find games you might otherwise miss.
    •  Write your own! Reacting has a growing wealth of resources to support future authors.

    Let’s make Reacting truly Imaginable in education!

    About the Author

    Ray Kimball holds a Doctorate of Education in Learning Technologies from Pepperdine University and Masters’ Degrees in History and Russian Area Studies from Stanford University. He spent ten years on the faculty of the US Military Academy at West Point, advocating for broader adoption of active pedagogies like Reacting. He currently serves as the CEO of 42 Ed Games, a Reacting “Fellow Traveler” organization.

    Blog Author Questionnaire

    One word to describe faculty: Inspiring

    Two words to describe your school: Armed Hogwarts

    Three words to describe students: Ready for change

    Four words to describe favorite games: Escape reality for now

    Five words to describe Reacting: A community like no other

  • January 18, 2023 2:08 PM | Anonymous

    This year brought a lot of changes to Reacting to the Past! From our new relationship with the University of North Carolina Press to transitions in leadership, and our new website.

     Here are ten of the most significant blog posts and announcements that you might have missed this year!

    1. Mark Carnes Steps Down After More than 15 Years as the Executive Director of the Reacting Consortium

    Thank you Mark for all that you've done and continue to do for Reacting to the Past!

    Announcement: Reacting Leadership Transitions

    Announcement: Reacting Leadership Transitions

    Reacting to Mark Carnes with Gratitude

    Reacting to Mark Carnes with Gratitude

    2. UNC Press Takes Over Publishing for RTTP

    Reacting Consortium Partners with UNC Press for all Reacting Games

    Reacting Consortium Partners with UNC Press for all Reacting Games

    3. “The Not So New Guys” Take Over

    Notes from the Executive Director: Nicolas Proctor’s Objectives

    Editorial Comments: Thoughts from Kelly McFall, Interim Chair of the REB

    Talking Heads:  The Not-So-New Guys Discuss their New Roles

    4. Our New Website Gets a Makeover

    Fall 2022 Web Update

    5. Former Reactors Reflect on Reacting

    Reacting Growing with You

    Reflecting on the Past

    What Reacting Can Do

    6. Reacting Comes to High Schools

    Reacting in High School

    The Reacting Consortium - Reacting in High Schools

    7. Chatbots Dominate Facebook Group Discussion

    Reacting to Chatbots

    Reacting Faculty Lounge | Facebook

    8. Another Successful Giving Day

    Giving Day 2022

    9. Game-Based Learning Continues to Grow

    Introducing Plexus!

    The Making of Rising Waters

    The Reacting Consortium - Fellow Travelers

    10. The Reacting Team Grows

    The Reacting Consortium - Contact and Team

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