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Monuments and Memory-Making: The Debate over the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 1981-82

by Rebecca Livingstone, Kelly McFall, and Abigail Perkiss

How do we remember a lost war?

When the Vietnam War drew to a close, the process of memorializing the conflict resulted in a tug-of-war over the national narrative of the 20+ year struggle. In the wake of devastating loss and in the midst of the continuing and ever-evolving Cold War, conflicting voices emerged in the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Such physical spaces offer insights into how the creators of those spaces constructed the past, how they intended for audiences to do the same, and how those meanings can be challenged. In this game, students will take part in the conversations and controversies that emerged as the nation grappled with how best to memorialize what was at the time the longest conflict in US history. As they engage in the very process of memory-making, they will work to reconcile the varied and often conflicting voices that emerged after the fall of Saigon. How do we create a national memory of the past? How do we move on from a lost war? How do we remember the dead, while honoring the living? How do we reunite a fractured nation? Who speaks to that nation, and who speaks for it? How does public opinion and public consciousness shape our understanding of the past? Whose voices matter?



Art History; Conflict and War Studies; Cultural and Social History; Political Science and Government; US History

20th Century; Contemporary Era

Themes and Issues

Gender, Race, Memorialization, Aftermaths, Public Memory-making, Censorship, Social Justice 

Player Interactions 

Factional, Competitive

Sample Class Titles

Art and the Public Good; History and Memory; Introduction to Public History

Level 5 game (what's that mean?

North America


Secret voting, Rolling Dice, Formal Podium Rule, Public opinion index

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is relatively structured and moderately demanding on the instructor.

Notable Roles

Ross Perot, Jan Scruggs, Tom Carhart

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 10-35 students.

Class Time  
For this game, 3 setup sessions and 4-5 game sessions, with 1 debrief session are recommended.

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive.  Vietnam may pair well with:


You can adjust the assignments to fit the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing, journalism, and criticism. Not all roles are required to give formal speeches.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  


Students need a Gamebook, which includes directions, resources, and historical content. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Gamebook is published by UNC Press.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7389-9
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4696-7390-5

Published January 2023

Instructor's Manual

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.

.docx file

Role Sheets

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments.  

.zip folder with .docx files


Abigail Perkiss

Abigail Perkiss is an Assistant Professor of History at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. Her first book, Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia (Cornell University Press, 2014), examined the creation of intentionally integrated neighborhoods in the latter half of the twentieth century. She completed a joint JD/PhD in U.S. history at Temple University. She is the Managing and Pedagogy Editor of the Oral History Review, and Vice President of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Reacting and Related Titles

Kelly McFall

Kelly McFall is professor of history and chair of the humanities division at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas. Since 2013, he has run a popular podcast focusing on new books in genocide studies. In 2014, he won the inaugural Faculty of Distinction award from the Kansas Independent Colleges Association, recognizing his teaching excellence. He is a member of the Reacting to the Past editorial board.

Rebecca Livingstone

Rebecca Livingstone is Department Chair of History and Professor of History at Simpson College. She is involved in the innovative, immersive pedagogy of Reacting to the Past, utilizing the historical role-playing simulations in her classes, authoring games of her own, and serving on the Board of the RTTP Game Development Conference.

Reacting and Related Titles


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


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