Last week I contemplated Civilization VI and its problematic game play mechanics.
A couple weeks ago Charlie Mirus (@ATeachersTeach) posted this really amazing collection of Space Themed Visual Effect GIFs. My mind immediately jumped to creating Space Travel based classroom themes. The GIFs suggest combat and exploration which I eventually tied back to possible Civ VI mechanics. The more I contemplated Civ VI though the more I began thinking about the problematic nature of much of the game. Civ VI has the potential to encourage Fascist thinking, Colonization,white supremacy, and Genocide. This mindspace then led me to think about what kinds of game applications would be easy to apply to a Space exploration theme. Space battles obviously but who is the “Good guy” and who are the “Bad guys”? If fighting aliens wouldn’t that easily slip into a colonization mode? What if the aliens are defeated and subjugated or even wiped out? Could militarism, jingoism, and fascism easily be slipped into through battle mechanics? Obviously these would not be intentional messages but easily fall into a white supremacist allegory – good colonizers fighting off evil savage aliens.
Looking back at my past themes I wonder what unintentional lessons I have taught. In one of my past themes students were “Underground Historians” fighting against an pseudo-fascist government that corrupted History into propaganda. In 2016 I realized that the underlying message of the storyline was not how truth will overcome propaganda but was rather supporting “fake news” and “distrust the government”.
As a gamified community I think it would be worth it to develop some guidelines for thematic development. This post will be a start to the list – add more ideas into the comments section.
Theme Guiding Questions
- Don’t let the white supremacists win.
- What is the underlying message of the win-conditions?
- Is there a colonizer mentality?
- Is there a savage group? Are they intentionally treated in a second class or enslaved manner?
- Does the theme only lend itself to 1v1 battles or are there collaborative possibilities?
- Does the theme support the backgrounds of a diverse student body? (even if your student population is mostly one ethnicity)
- Does the theme support or diminish our civic institutions?
- Are you asking students to relive a personal or cultural trauma?
I would like to make this a community project. I know that there are problematic areas that I have a blind spot to so please leave more thoughts and suggestions in the comments.