Community Connection: Teachable Moments in Board Games with Dr. David Beard
What is a board game? A fun distraction? An entertaining way to pass the time? A tool for the classroom?
University of Minnesota Duluth’s Dr. David Beard has utilized board game design in his classes to teach technical writing. Part of the reason is that it's a fun way to approach the curriculum, but it goes beyond that. “A good board game forms a model or a picture of the world," says Beard. "In a game world I have a limited array of choices."
This approach opens up more questions. What is the purpose of a board game? What kind of impact can it have on the players? Can this impact be both positive and negative? And what part, if any, do ethics play in board games?
Beard taught a class that was coupled with students from a literature on Vietnam course. "In my class they were developing a board game which would represent some portion of the Vietnam War," says Beard. "A number of students did your traditional Risk or Axis and Allies model."
However, one group gave Beard a moment of pause. "It was a very simple game... you'd move around the edge of the board game and when you made it to the other end, the game was over." Though simple, the game shined a light on the experience of soldiers. There was no focus on conquest or victory, but rather on survival. Making it through the yearlong tour was the sole objective.
"If we work with students... to understand that games are pictures of the world... they do amazing things."