The Public History class this past fall used game design as a tool to learn about project management in an historical context. They read several books on the American Civil War, one on information architecture and another on Eurogaming. Their primary resource for creation of their final projects was the library’s Mark H. Dunkelman & Michael J. Winey Collection of the 154th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the best single regiment collections available.. This regiment was raised in Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties.
Most of the students had little gaming experience, particularly with boardgames.
The project was far outside the comfort zone of their previous academic work but they all rose to the occasion. They produced playable games which reflected the experience of the regiment in the war. Their games varied in complexity and mechanics but all met the criteria we’d set at the beginning of the semester. One of the things we emphasized was that the games didn’t have to look “pretty”. We were concerned with their function as educational tools, how well they used our collection and whether the mechanics worked. We didn’t insist on success with the last of those, but did require that they keep a designer’s diary to show their process.
I played all of the games and was thrilled by the students’ creativity in both design and content areas. Their games weren’t polished but they all were well on the way to being very usable tools for teaching about the Civil War from a regimental perspective. The ranged from a straight wargame to a cooperative game based on the home front. We treated the class as a design project, too, and the students’ input along the way was gratifying and useful for future iterations of the class.
It turns out that there are many ways to integrate one’s hobbies with one’s work!