Board Games in the Classroom

| April 19, 2011

My name is Matt Wranovix and I’m a Lecturer in the History Department at the University of New Haven. I’m a medievalist by training and teach a variety of courses from general surveys of Western History to more specialized medieval topics. There has been talk in the department of the need to develop more exciting and creative courses, and I have begun working on a course that would revolve around the analysis of a complicated board game set during the Protestant Reformation called Here I Stand.

Getting games into the classroom is all the rage now, and I have experimented myself with the method. Recently, for example, I designed a game to simulate the effect of the Black Death on human interaction. This new course, however, would be different in that instead of playing a game students would be using historical research to deconstruct, analyze and critique the design of a game. Optimally students would even develop improvements to the game on the basis of their research. My hope is that the game would both serve as a hook to get students interested in the Reformation and help them realize that all historical accounts, no matter the format (video game, board game, or professionally written book) are fundamentally reconstructions and interpretations.

At the conference I’d like to introduce people to board games like Here I Stand and discuss ways of using them in the college classroom. There are games like it on a whole host of historical conflicts from the Crusades to the Cold War and even the recent War on Terror. These games are far too long and complex to actually play during the conference session, but I hope to set up some small scenario so that conference participants can get a sense of the potential uses for games of this kind.