The Marriage of Social Studies and Gaming through Fantasy Geopolitics

Back in 2009, Eric Nelson was among the millions of teachers all over the world who was struggling to get their students’ attention in class. He teaches Social Studies at North Lakes Academy in Minnesota, wherein he realized that his efforts to reach out to his students simply were not getting through. It was not until he checked his Fantasy Football team that he finally came up with a solution. “I always get frustrated every time a 9th grader would look at me like a zombie in the classroom,” Nelson said. “It was not until I reviewed my Fantasy Football team that I realized how I have learned so much about the National Football League and the game itself because of it.”

The Proposal

Nelson brought up the idea in class the very next day. Even though the students were skeptical about it at first, they eventually warmed up to the idea and started throwing in points for improvement. Nelson took it all in like a sponge to enhance the students’ learning experience. What were once zombies have now become enthusiasts of the countries of their choice! It went as far as trash-talking with their classmates about their countries.

Fantasy Geopolitics: A Huge Success

The game was named Fantasy Geopolitics. The format is very simple and easy to learn. A draft session is held wherein the students pick their team, made up of three countries. China and the United States are not included since they are already hugely popular in the news. The students then keep themselves updated on stories about the countries that they chose, with the help of the news. Using the Times Developer Network API, a website was developed that monitors the number of times a country becomes a topic in the news. The students earn points based on the frequency that their chosen countries get mentioned. 

The game was indeed a huge success. One of Nelson’s students who initially considered the idea “kinda weird”, now talks in detail about Korea, like never before. This has greatly inspired Nelson. Ever since the game was started in his classroom, it has spread to other states across the country. Nelson no longer teaches Social Studies but has focused instead on bringing the game to more schools as an educational entrepreneur, so that more students and teachers can benefit from it.

Road Bumps Never Hinder Innovation in Educational Technology

Nelson has brushed off reports and opinions that say gaming is no longer at the forefront of classroom innovation. They say that gaming concepts are too complicated to be incorporated into the classroom with no tools that are readily available to make the process simpler. However, for Nelson, the desire to innovate should never waver, no matter what the circumstances or opinions given to them. It is just like the mindset of gaming fanatics out there that continue playing the game despite seeing the “Game Over” banner flashed on their screens multiple times.

Maria Dublin
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Maria is a writer, an editor, and a law student. She plays for the Philippine national touch football team, and does a lot of travelling during the holidays.