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Fantasy Geopolitics: A Game of World News

by Jeff Kuhn |

Hello and welcome to another edition of the TESOL Games and Learning blog. With the Olympics having recently concluded, I thought it would be great to share fantasy geopolitics this month! In this classroom game, students create a list of nations serving as their roster, then the students investigate the news each week to find stories about their countries to earn points. It is a fun game that gets students interested in world events! Let’s take a look.

The idea stems from a popular hobby in the United States called fantasy football. In fantasy football, players select real American footballers to play for an imaginary team. Players of fantasy football score points based on how well the athletes they selected perform in real-life games, such as the touchdowns they scored or distance they ran the previous week. The fantasy football player with the most points at the end of the season wins. A clever classroom spin on this topic has students selecting nations instead of athletes.

The key to success in fantasy geopolitics is the draft process. For the draft, have students, or teams of students, draw numbers to determine their place in line—the student who draws “1” goes first, the student who draws “2” goes second, and so on until the first round of the draft is over. However, for the second round of drafting the student who went last in round one now goes first:

A snake draft ensures a more equitable drafting process.

I recommend limiting rosters to five nations; it is enough to give students variety, but also not so many that students have too much news content to search for each week. Ensure that there are more nations in the pool of choices than students can select for their rosters. Then, at the end of each week, students can examine the nations on their roster and can drop nations—a maximum of two drops a week is a good amount—and select new ones from the pool of available nations. Players are also encouraged to trade with their classmates.

To make the game more competitive, it is important to have rules around gameplay. Here are some examples of the rules that can be used:

  • A roster can only have two countries from the same continent, or each team must have a country from each continent.
  • News stories count for points only if the story occurred in the previous week. For example, if Week 1 of the game is the week of September 6th, students can only collect stories that were reported during the week of August 30th to September 5th.
  • Establish a set of acceptable news websites for students to search. This will help prevent students from running up their points by finding every story they can. News websites that could be used are NPRBBC World News, and Voice of America.
  • Points can be awarded based on the type of news. For example, positive stories, such as science news or Olympic coverage, could be worth 3 points, whereas negative news stories, such as those related to conflict or environmental pollution, could be worth 1 point.

For a more detailed explainer on how to play, check out the fantasy politics lesson plan I wrote for American English. Educators looking for a more technology support to automate the game should visit FANgeopolitics, which has a freemium service model. Their website also has a great explainer video for those getting started.

Until next time, play more games!

About the author

Jeff Kuhn

Jeff Kuhn is the director of esports at Ohio University. He frequently delivers talks and keynote addresses on games and learning, game design, and the need for games literacy in educators. He is one of the founding moderators of the Electronic Village Online’s Minecraft MOOC, a community of practice for teachers learning to use Minecraft in the classroom. He has served on the TESOL CALL-IS steering committee, as the Gaming Special Interest Group chair for CALICO, and in the U.S. Department of State’s English Language Specialist program. His research interests include game-based learning, second language writing, and computer-assisted language learning.

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