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So, You Want to Write a Game for the Reacting to the Past Curriculum? Some Pointers

Martha J. Payne

Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianpolis

Walking down a campus building, hall you notice toga-wearing students outside a classroom excitedly planning something. Inside, you hear raucous debate. What is going on? Student reply that they are now in ancient Rome debating the fate of those who sided with the conspirator, Catiline. Later, you learn the instructor is implementing a Reacting to the Past game in a Roman History course. Intrigued, you decide to try your hand in writing one yourself.

Reacting to the Past was developed by Barnard College History Professor Mark C. Carnes to engage students actively and deeply into material through reading, writing and argumentation. Assigned roles of real individuals from a particular moment in time, students are grouped into factions. From biographical role sheets, students accomplish assigned goals. In one or more classes, students research and argue a position in the voice of their role. Students may come up with results different from the actual events, however, after the game, a session is devoted to what actually happened.

Housed at Barnard college, RTTP publishes an extensive web site with information about an annual conference (‘Institute’) at Barnard (June), the Game Development conference (July) and regional conferences during the academic year. At the Institute and regional conferences, one experiences games first-hand and attends workshops. The Game Development Conference provides a venue for those writing games to play-test their games before experienced Reactors who provide helpful feedback. Individuals and institutions pay dues to a consortium which supports the main office and website. The website lists Published Games, Games in Development, the Big List of Reacting Games, and templates for authors developing games.

A game goes through several levels before final publication: 1-Concept, 2-basic prototype; 3-complete prototype; 4-approved for publication; 5-published. Authors must have a prototype ‘play-tested’ preferably through his/her own classes, by others in the Consortium at the Game Development Conference, or from those requesting the materials. Games at level 4 are reviewed and revised before advancement to level 5. WW. Norton, and the Reacting Consortium at University of N. Carolina Press publish fully developed games. Currently, at least four games are of interest to Classicists. Games in development include two adaptations of Classical text: Medea and Iliad. Games typically extend over 6-8 class periods; ‘micro-games’ are for one class. “Flashpoints” two-class games are in development for WW. Norton. Those wishing to run games in development request formal permission to adopt a specific game and register with RTTP to download the desired materials.

This presentation will give an overview of avenues for learning about RTTP resources and developing games. I will discuss my own experience developing a game based on Euripides’ Medea called, Happy Endings? Medea’s Divorce Trial.

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Lightning Session 2: Crossing Boundaries

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