The Game of Politics©

American Government Simulation

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Frequently Asked Questions

Click on any of the following questions.  This will take you to the answer.  At the end of each section you will be able to select another question by clicking top of page.

Why does simulation work so well? Why were these games developed? How are these simulations different?

Why are these games set in the future? Can these simulations fit into my course? Do I need to be a simulation expert?

How much work is required on my part? How do I start and maintain the games? Why isn't this a computer simulation?

What if some try to ruin the experience? What about the unexpected? How many players and sessions?

How do the Story Lines fit in? How do I give students a grade? Questions after the simulation begins?

Q: Why does simulation work so well as a method of instruction?

A: Simulation is an effective method of instruction because it does a better job of involving the learner with the subject matter.  Rather than passively listening to a lecture or watching a video, the participant becomes engaged and more of the brain is employed in the learning experience.  Participants will remember information gleaned from the simulation long after they have forgotten lectures and videos.  Learning associated with simulation lasts for decades.

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Q: Why were these particular simulations developed?

A: The author, who had years of simulation experience, waited patiently for someone to develop an American government instructional game that remedied the problems that had limited the use of simulations in the past. These problems revolved around inflexibility, inaccessibility, artificiality and obsolescence.  There were very few who took on this challenge because of the workload and the limited market.  Those who did make attempts did not solve all the problems.  In the mid 1990s the author gave up waiting and decided to design a simulation that would meet the needs of potential users.

The Game of Politics© macro and micro simulations solve these problems plus enable more people to unleash the power of active learning in their classrooms and communities.  These simulations are flexible--designed to work with as few as 15 participants (4 in the case of micro simulations) or as many as 75 (52 in the case of the micro simulations).  Users can limit the simulation to just three sessions (1 in the case of micro simulations) or as many as 12 sessions (9 in the case of the micro simulations). The simulations are made much more accessible for the coordinator and the participants through careful design as well as helpful manuals.  The simulations are made more realistic though the addition of complex Story Lines and the exercises are kept up-to-date through annual revisions of materials.

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Q: How are these simulations different from other simulations?

A: These simulations, unlike many others, are able to focus on the whole political system and enable participants to see how the individual parts fit into the big picture.

The Game of Politics© macro simulation is much more flexible than other simulations of American government, both in terms of the number of participants as well as in the number of sessions.  In addition, this simulation is much more realistic because of the addition of Story Lines that require participants to balance the governmental routines with the pressures from a dynamic environment.  Unlike other simulations, The Game of Politics© macro simulation can’t get out-of-date because of annual revisions.  Finally, this simulation is carefully designed so that the coordinator and participants get the simulation up-and-running quickly.

Even the micro simulations are different from other small-scale simulations.  This smaller versions enrich each micro simulation by placing the experience within a highly realistic environment through carefully designed Story Lines.  This environment puts each micro simulation in perspective (because politics doesn’t occur in a vacuum) and it creates more complexity for each participant.  Annual revisions keep each micro simulation from becoming obsolete.

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Q: Why are these simulations set in the future with fictional roles?

A: The Game of Politics© macro simulation as well as the micro simulation alternatives are deliberately set four to six years into the future to avoid instant obsolescence and so that participants are not able to mouth the rhetoric of current politicians.  By having players assume fictional roles, the participants are able to respond to political pressures by using their own ideas and perspectives.  These simulations are trying to teach larger lessons than can be obtained by merely mimicking current politicians or debating today's "hot" issue.

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Q: Can these simulations fit into my course?

A:  The Coordinator’s Manual of The Game of Politics© describes different approaches for integrating the simulation into a course.  This simulation can be used in an out-of-class conference approach or online approach and not compete with any other classroom activities.  It can also be used in a lab approach during specified sessions throughout the course.  This larger simulation can also be used in a modular approach during a certain portion of the course, such as the last few weeks.  Suggested course outlines are presented in the Coordinator’s Manual that help set aside time for either the lab or modular approach to the simulation.

The three micro simulations are specifically designed to meet the needs of those with limited time.  The same conference, lab and modular approaches that are used for the larger simulation can also be used with each of the micro simulations.

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Q: Do I need to be a simulation expert to use these exercises?

A: It is not necessary to have simulation experience to use The Game of Politics©. Step-by-step instructions are presented in the Coordinator’s Manual to help with planning and implementing the simulations.  These techniques have been class tested for several years and are effective.  In the event that the simulation coordinator needs additional help, the simulation author, Don Jansiewicz, can be reached via e-mail at janstrat@comcast.net

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Q: How much work is required on my part to prepare and run these simulations?

A: The Coordinator’s Manual chapters for The Game of Politics© macro simulation are written on two levels.   A "plug and play” or quick start approach is available for those who do not want to make every planning decision.  A complete version is also available for the macro simulation, and it provides plenty of design choices for the coordinator.  In either case, it will be necessary to dedicate a few hours of basic preparation so that participants will have the materials that they need.

The chapters on the micro simulations take a straightforward “plug and play approach” to implementation.  Yet, even with the micro simulations you can make adaptations to suit your needs.

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Q: How do I start and maintain the simulations?

A: After all the participants have been placed in roles, the first session of The Game of Politics© macro simulation will begin with a short speech by the President on legislative priorities.  Then, things just take off from there.  The Coordinator’s Manual for this simulation gives you step-by-step instructions on keeping things moving ahead.  As participants try to accomplish the legislative and budgetary work of government, you will add further complexity by distributing the pre-packaged Story Line materials.

Specific instructions are included for beginning each of the micro simulations.  Each exercise moves forward based on the specific work assignments as well as the Story Lines.

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Q: Why isn't this a computer simulation?

A: Computer simulations are very good for some things.  However, they cannot capture the drama, chaos and spontaneity of politics.  A computer simulation is sterile when compared to the real world of politics. The Game of Politics© simulations are deliberately designed to give participants a sense that they are caught up in a complex and ever-changing system.  Moreover, these simulations absolutely require that participants interact with each other.  Interacting with a computer would be exceedingly unrealistic.

However, it is possible to adapt both macro and micro simulations to work on a network and have individual players in different locations.  In order to do this the coordinator would need to create an email system and chat rooms for the participants.

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Q: What if somebody tries to ruin the experience for others?

A: It is very rare that one or more participants would try to spoil the experience for others.  In the real world of politics, individuals who are absurd or destructive receive harsh criticism from the press and from their colleagues.  These are natural consequences, and natural consequences are always the best mechanisms for bringing stability to a social situation.  In the event that a participant attempts to trivialize the simulation experience, then, use natural consequences to modify the behavior.  It works every time.

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Q: What if the unexpected happens?

A: If somebody gets sick, drops out or has a bad day, then, take the same type of actions that would occur in the real world of politics.  In politics, a political vacuum always gets filled, and internal adjustments always have a way of stabilizing the system.  It should be the same for The Game of Politics©.  Take the unexpected in stride and keep the game moving forward.

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Q: How many participants and sessions are needed?

A: You will need a minimum of 15 participants for The Game of Politics© macro simulation, and it can comfortably handle a maximum of 75 participants.  The macro simulation should run for at least three sessions (45-90 minutes per session) with a maximum of 12 sessions.  In the event of a class that meets just once per week, several sessions can be joined together during individual class periods.

Some micro simulations can run with as few as 5 participants and some can run with as many as 52 participants.  Actual minimums and maximums will depend on the individual micro simulations. The micro simulations can run from 1 to 9 sessions depending on the particular micro simulation, the time that is available and coordinator preferences.  Sessions for micro simulations can be as short as 45 minutes or as long as 90 minutes.

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Q: How do the Story Lines fit into the simulation?

A: The Story Lines are optional for the user, but they are strongly recommended.  These scenarios enable participants to see that routine governmental decisions cannot be made in a vacuum, due to a highly fluid and unpredictable political environment.  These Story Lines, which change each year, range from the deadly serious to the ironic and are designed to bring more realism to the simulation experience.

Each individual Story Line is carefully constructed to provide background information, create tension (through memos, meetings, press conferences and editorials) and then move the participants to make decisions or take some action.  The participants do have discretion, but often the environmental pressures shape their decisions, as they do in the real world.

When Story Lines are employed in The Game of Politics© macro simulation, the participants will encounter:

  • 6-18 Story Lines on Bills depending on the length of the simulation,
  • 6 Story Lines on Budgetary Issues,
  • 1-12 Story Lines on Constituency Matters depending on the number of participants and length of the simulation,
  • 1-2 Story Lines on non-political Distractions depending on the length of the simulation,
  • 3-6 Story Lines on Domestic Issues depending on the length of the simulation,
  • 3-6 Story Lines on Foreign/Military Issues depending on the length of the simulation and
  • 2-9 Story Lines on unanticipated Wildcards for legislative and executive players depending on the number of participants and the length of the simulation. 

In the micro simulations, Story Lines are adapted to fit the subject matter.  Memos to those who are not part of a particular micro simulation are eliminated.  Yet, these Story Lines are communicated to the media and help provide a sense of context for each micro simulation.  They do so by informing participants about developments in the larger political environment.

Although it is recommended that the Story Lines be included, it is quite possible to drop any or all of the Story Lines by removing those pages and concentrate more on the routine decision-making processes.

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Q: How do I give students a grade for the simulation?

A: Assigning a grade is optional.  If a grade is to be assigned, the Coordinator’s Manual in The Game of Politics© outlines several alternative approaches to assessment that can range from self-assessment by the participant to peer assessment or to coordinator assessment.  Evaluation can concentrate on effort, results or written reflection on the simulation experience.  The same approaches can be used in evaluating participants in the micro simulations.

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Q: What if I have questions after the simulation begins?

A: Don Jansiewicz, the author of the simulations, is always willing to help you have a successful experience.  He can be reached easily at janstrat@comcast.net   He welcomes your questions, comments and suggestions.

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