The fun begins! Statecraft Turn One began online on Saturday, and I told the students in my international relations class to read the news messages before Monday’s class but otherwise to do nothing else. Then I reserved the entire class period yesterday (Monday) for the Statecraft Turn One session. As with every simulation session, students were free to meet with members of their own country and foreign countries in order to make trades, form alliances, and discuss plans for achieving country-level and global goals. I reminded everyone that Turn One doesn’t actually end online until noon on Saturday, so students should feel free to keep meeting, emailing, texting, etc., outside of class until the turn ends and the decisions they have entered online become final.
Almost the entire class stayed late (they were still scurrying about and talking in alternatively animated and secretive tones when I left). So we’re off to a great start. Right now they shouldn’t be thinking of learning IR concepts–only how much fun Statecraft is. Once they are “hooked” and thoroughly immersed in their world, the learning will happen in a series of waves (some initiated by me, some by them).
Based on yesterday’s session (and prior experience), here are some important tips for making Turn One run successfully:
1) Remind students that there are many points available for achieving key global and country-specific goals. Encourage them to decide what goals their country will pursue and focus on moving toward these; this will help focus their attention during a Turn One that is often chaotic.
2) Tell students to sit with their country groups and remain there for the rest of the semester (even on non-simulation days). This fosters in-group bonding. If you ever see simulation-related activity going on during non-simulation sessions (i.e., while you are lecturing), threaten to hit the offending country with a natural disaster using God Controls. Usually the threat alone is enough, although occasionally I will unleash an earthquake or asteroid strike (with resulting resource losses) just to show I mean business. If you want to get really creative, reward countries that do particularly well on quizzes or other activities with “the discovery of a new vein of gold” (e.g., +100 gold, again using God Controls) and discourage slackers by hitting particularly low-scoring countries with any kind of negative event (costing resources) that you can imagine.
3) Mandate a UN meeting during the Turn One class session. I announced a time (half an hour into the class session) for all UN reps to meet up front for this initial meeting. I sat in on part of the meeeting and heard them discussing a nonaggression treaty and several other global issues. I told them that it is up to them whether they want to hold UN meetings during future sim sessions, but I mentioned that worlds that keep the UN vibrant and active are usually more successful in maximizing everyone’s Statecraft scores.
4) Announce that presidents need to set their “decision keys.” The decision key is a code that presidents (or other officials they trust enough to give the code to) use to make decisions such as purchases, trades, and movement of troops. Presidents should go to the “President” tab and click “set decision key,” then enter a code of their choice. I realized yesterday that the decision key is not discussed in the manual so we are revising the manual accordingly; this should reduce confusion in the future.
5) Walk around and listen in on groups’ discussions. It is important to make clear that anything you hear will remain confidential, so groups will speak freely. As usual, I heard some very interesting things from a number of countries.
6) Remember that students will have questions on Turn One and refer them to Joe Jaeger (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you don’t have the answer. The more familiar you are with the simulation manual the easier it will be to answer these questions, but there’s a learning curve for professors as well, so if this is your first time using Statecraft don’t feel at all hesitant to send students to Joe or contact him yourself with questions. By the second or third time you use Statecraft you will be able to answer students’ basic questions and even give some strategy tips (I do this whenever students ask). You will also find yourself with a growing repertoire of Statecraft stories to illustrate key concepts to future classes as the drama of your unique world unfolds.
I also had the opportunity to introduce the concept of comparative advantage to a country that was trying to decide whether to build farms (their country produces little food) or oil drilling sites (they are rich in oil). These resource-enhancement structures cost all countries the same but provide percentage bonuses, so a country that produces 1,000 food per turn will gain much more from one farm than a country that produces only 200 food per turn. I will discuss links between IPE and Statecraft later in the semester in lecture and discussion, but it is always useful to “plant the seed” of a concept with individual country groups when the opportunity arises naturally within the simulation (as it very frequently does).