The delegates from Polarlandia announced first that it would cease oil drilling that threatened an endangered species in their territory in order to avoid conflict with their environmentalist neighbors in New Shire.
They then announced they would use some donated funds to move some of their troops away from an erupting volcano, and they had reached a treaty to provide the waters of life to Friendly Country, which ironically had been ready to use its large military to go to war for the fictional resource that was needed to save its prime minister’s life. Finally Polarlandia’s leaders announced they had formed a non-aggression treaty with the Niro Deserts, and were hoping to form an alliance with them.
Not bad, for negotiations that had taken less than an hour.
All these announcements came just before lunch break in Matthew Criscione’s fifth-grade class at Hoover Elementary School on Monday, the first day students in the class were playing the World Peace Game.
Ele Adams, a Corvallis High School senior, brought the game to Corvallis schools for the first time as her senior project. She described it as a political science simulation that includes 50 interlocking world crises that must be solved. Participating students take on roles representing one of four fictional countries as well as the World Bank, the United Nations and a group of arms dealers.
Adams said the goal of the game is for players to learn cooperation while gaining an understanding of world issues.
“If I’d had this game, I would have loved it. Right now these are the things we are dealing with in government (class),” she said.
Adams learned about the game in January 2014 during a presentation at Oregon State University by the game's creator, John Hunter. She decided to bring the game to Corvallis. Hunter has given a TED Talk on the game, which can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1yK2pBh.
“It seemed like Corvallis was the perfect community to support this game,” she said.
She raised $3,000 so that she and her mother, OSU education instructor Terry Adams, could travel to California for a seminar on running the game, and another $1,000 to build the game board and purchase supplies to run it. She received a number of small donations for the effort and even contributed her own birthday money.
The game board is a massive table with four map levels stacked on top of each other, the highest representing outer space, the level below representing airspace, the third level representing the ground and the surface of the ocean, and the lowest level representing areas under the sea. Each level has units on it; satellites and spaceships on top, planes in the air, boats, armies, and tanks on the surface and submarines under the water.
The game takes place in two phases: a negotiations phase where students scramble about making deals and buying military units, and the pronouncements phase where students declare their agreements, and move game pieces. In this phase the “weather goddesses,” who control the random events, also announce how the economy is doing, and what weather conditions there are. Bad weather can create new problems and a poor economy means that the players have fewer resources to use to solve problems.
The game is won when all 50 crises are solved, and all the countries’ net assets are higher than they were at the start of the game.
Justin Mulford, one of the fifth-graders who is an arms dealer in the game, called the negotiations phase the heart of the game.
“It may be chaotic, but everything has a purpose,” he said.
Justin said he sees the game, in which students are trying to solve such issues as ethnic tensions and global warming, as preparation for when his generation is running the world.
“The older generations have left a lot problems, global warming, nuclear fallout, and we’re going to have to be the ones to deal with that,” he said.
Ele Adams, who plans to study pre-medicine and international relations at Portland State University next year, said that the game is open-ended, and students can come up with their own ideas to solve problems — such as robot sharks the arms dealers introduced which can serve as warships or harvest fish as food.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “They have done this (game) with high school and college students … with (older players) it’s harder for them to let go of their assets. They are thinking about winning.”
She said that cooperation comes more naturally to the fifth-graders.
The Hoover students began learning about their roles in weekly sessions in the beginning of January, and the game will continue on Mondays through the end of February.
Hunter himself will run a version of the game at Linus Pauling Middle School this August. Students in grades four through seven can join in the week-long version of the game for $295, and teachers can join a masters course on running the game for $1,250.
Ele Adams said that the board and materials for the game were purchased with a donation from the OSU Peace Studies program, which will own the game materials and check the set out for free to teachers who plan to run the game.