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Civ scenarios for teaching and learning

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Creation & Customization' started by DoctorG, Aug 13, 2007.

  1. DoctorG

    DoctorG Chieftain

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    Hi Folks,

    I'm doing a bit of research - I've gotten the green light from my dean to develop some online ancient history classes that would either a) Civ scenarios as teaching aids in the regular lesson, or b) allow the creation and/or playing of scenarios as part of the final assessment of the class. I'm leaning towards a mix of mostly option B. So what I'd be curious to know is, what sorts of things would this community like to learn about in such a class? Basic ancient history? Special topics? Detailed nitty-gritty about the Roman (or Persian, or Greek... etc) army? Ancient technology? Urban planning?

    Also, I was wondering if there are any creators out there who would be interested in having their scenarios included in such a class?

    Thanks for your time!
     
  2. aman2192

    aman2192 Fade To Black

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    Well my favorite part of history is anything about Ancient Rome.
     
  3. ewu.7waker

    ewu.7waker Benin Monarch

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    I've taken a special interest in medieval and pre-medieval West africa.
     
  4. crunckel

    crunckel Chieftain

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    I had an epiphany moment when I was playing one of the WWI scenarios - the general idea behind the west degenerating into trench warfare while the east was more fluid was the fact the west had high troop density and strong rail connections to allow rapid redeployment of troops, while in the east things were less connected with sparser troops, allowing breakthroughs. Playing Germany in a WWI game, you really see how hard it is to shift a trench and how rail mobility matters. You also see, and more importantly understand, how when your reserves run out in a situation like that you fold quickly, which is exactly what happened.

    Also, when I play world games from about 1000AD (especially the new BtS Rhyse and Fall 600AD) it's much easier to understand Paul Kennedy's Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, since no matter how monolithic an empire is, a group of smaller and more agile empires always trades techs and skips ahead. Disable tech trading, and the big empires win hands down through sheer numbers. Perhaps the book inspired the game mecanic so it's somewhat circular, but it helped me to understand the concept better.
     
  5. DoctorG

    DoctorG Chieftain

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    That's it exactly - those are the kinds of epiphanies that I'd hope a course using Civ might create!

    My understanding is that a lot of the game mechanics of Civ are based on Kennedy's book. But there are other ways of writing history, and I think targeted scenario building could explore these. If you've ever read Ferguson's 'Virtual History', a series of counter-factual essays exploring could-have-beens... that's the sort of thing I'd like to aim at.

    Anyway, my background is as a Romanist (archaeology, mostly), but I'd try to design so that all historical periods could be explored in the one class. I confess a great deal of ignorance on Medieval West Africa, but it would be great to have a class where one student is exploring west africa, and another europe, at the same time - as an aside, in the academy in general, I think we're far too compartmentalized, and we need to be doing more cross-cultural stuff.
     
  6. Quantumf8

    Quantumf8 Warlord

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    Hey there, this is a shameless plug of my own, but I have a scenario which I've taken care to make with as much historical relevance as I can about the era of the 1500's-1700's, that's a good reference of time, in truth my scenario lasts from 1490 to 1790, I've tried to edit the techs to be very tuned to the civs that owns them, and the research rate adjusted (through aggravating testing) to what I feel is along enough research time, and short enough recruit/build. To clarify, my scenario uses the yearly calendar, so the game speed does not affect the date, only the actual speed of doing things in-game. It does not focus on europe however, focusing more on the world at large.

    The civs in this are: Spain(Beginnings of hapsburg) Holy roman Empire (beginnings of eastern hapsburg), Ottomans (with balkans and turkey), China (recently independant from mongolia's Yuan Dynasty, now under ming rule), Kalmar Union (under king christian IV of denmark), England( conflict and control of scotland) Aztecs(at the height of their empire, with the ability to invade the maya lands),Incas (stagnating because of mummy cult thing, little farmable land, little to do except wage war on southern cities, and old worlders, this was intended) Poland-Lithuania (also at their height, a strong east european border) Russia (Under Ivan III the great, with the option at 1491 to reject akhmat kahn's letter for horsemen and become independent ;) ) The golden horde (mongolia at its decline) Italy (Under the gruesome cesare borgia with papal rule) Mali (declining, risk of invasions from morroco) Wattasid Sultanate (Morrocan ruling sultanate, conflict with spain and Mali) Mughal Empire (atit's beginnings in pakistan and afghanistan, set to invade and conquer india) Ashikaga Shogunate (ready to invade korea and heading one of the upwardly mobile eras of japan's history) Mwene Mutapa (Great zimbabwe, south african empire)


    What inspired me to make this scenario was a general want for a historical scenario, one that was truly historical, without being deterministic not what earth 1000ad was. So I made my own, the second scenario for warlords to hit Civfanatics, and I'm damned proud of the year of work I've been putting into it. I've bought myself a copy of Joan Blaeu's Atlas Maior, an atlas of the known world at 1665 to give myself a good idea of the world with cities to scatter on the map.

    So it may be a bit off for your timeframe, but it could be used to teach history, I could even try to assemble a mod and team if you're interested, because it would, I admit, be awesome to even think about my scenario being used in a classroom.
     
  7. wolfman1234

    wolfman1234 King

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    DoctorG, if you want a detailed, well documented historic treasure try Rise and Fall of Roman Empire (RFRE) by Pinktipalia for civ3. It´s a exhaustive history lesson from 275 BC to 600 AD.

    You have to try The Ancient Mediterranean mod by Thamis, SPQR by Arne and the work in progress RFRE by Primordial Stew for Civ4 too.

    I am sure there will be lots of good mods around here, but for historic flavour, detailled civilopedia and ancient period that are the best imho.
     
  8. Gaius Octavius

    Gaius Octavius Deity

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    I was just about to suggest that but wolfman1234 beat me to it. There is also an updated Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire being made for Civilization 4, and the WWII 1939 scenario is very detailed as well. (I can't vouch for the historical accuracy of everything, but they seem to be reasonably solid.)

    Using games to teach history appears to be gaining a lot of ground. There was a class at my university a few years ago that did this, and Civilization 3 was one of the featured programs. Too bad I was not around when they offered it. ;)
     
  9. DoctorG

    DoctorG Chieftain

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    Thanks to everyone who has responded so far! Some good stuff is coming through. Here's what I'm thinking at the moment about how this might work:

    I'm reading Ian Bogost's book Persuasive Games, where he makes the case that the rules of the games, the processes, are a kind of rhetoric for advancing arguments about how the world works. William Urrichio makes a similar argument, saying that the way these games are structured corresponds to different kinds of historical methodology. Finally, there's an edited book by Niall Ferguson, Virtual History, that explores the use of the 'counterfactual' for understanding and exploring history.

    So those'd be my main texts for the course, and then I'd use these great scenarios people have been suggesting to explore those ideas, and finally wrap it up with a final scenario-building project where the point would be to advance a particular view of history (or a historical period) through the scenario and convince the other members of the class through tournament style play. No exam. Just building, play, and maybe a bit of forum posting/wiki writing.
     
  10. ewu.7waker

    ewu.7waker Benin Monarch

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    what scenarios or historical periods did you choose?
     
  11. wolfman1234

    wolfman1234 King

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    Ancient Rome! Ancient Rome! Ancient Rome!

    Talk to Primordial Stew and Pinktipalia :p
     
  12. Padma

    Padma the Inbond Administrator Supporter

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    No offense folks, but the Scenario subforum is for completed scenarios only. ;)

    Moderator Action: Thread moved.
     
  13. Ranbir

    Ranbir Civ junkie

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    India India India.

    Always overlooked as if it never existed in the ancient era. Totally needs some time in the light!
     
  14. DoctorG

    DoctorG Chieftain

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    Ah, ok - sorry! I figured scenario subforum was a good place to ask, but yep I see what you're saying.:goodjob:
     
  15. DoctorG

    DoctorG Chieftain

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    Thanks for the offer! I might well take you up on that, as things progress. It'll be a while before I'm ready to go live...
     
  16. DoctorG

    DoctorG Chieftain

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    So, the question's been posed: which scenarios do I plan on using? Well, it's by no means the best scenario out there, but I've got to use my own scenario, Year of the Four Emperors because I built it, after all, and it was my first...

    I want to use scenarios that are extremely 'tight' - focussed on particular problems of history, or explaining very constrained 'what if scenarios'. For instance, there was a BBC radio show a while back called 'What if Alexander had Gone West?'. So a scenario framed around that question would be one I'd like to use, to use game play to reinforce/contest the ideas in the show.

    And speaking of Alexander, Ranbir makes the good point that India is often overlooked in narratives of Western Ancient History, even though Alexander's eastern conquests created a syncretism of indo-greek culture - an interesting question to explore here would revolve around that Indian-Greek meeting of cultures.

    QuantumF8 has a scenario built around the early modern period that is more global in its reach - but this was a time of early globalism. It might be interesting to explore this scenario with reference to modern globalism (students in today's west are for the most part cultural amnesiacs: things happening today for them are happening FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!;) ). And you know, the American Revolution scenario that comes with the game is not that bad to play/explore. For students who are completely new to the game, that might be one of my first stops.

    So, I can't include every possible scenario to play as a class, but I can assign some (I might just get a long list and give students the choice - so keep those ideas coming!)... but what I'll be excited to do, and to see what results, is to identify with students an historical question, and use the creation of a scenario to explore that question as a way of writing history. In universities, we privilege the written word as the only way to 'write' history and we look down our noses at other ways of doing it. Historical reenactment societies, living history museums, and Civ scenarios to my mind are also valid ways of exploring and creating historical understanding.

    James Gee (I had to quote him sometime! ;) ) writes that 'the content of video games, when they are played actively and critically, is something like this: They situate meaning in a multimodal space through embodied experiences to solve problems and reflect on the intricacies of the design of imagined worlds and the design of both real and imagined social relationships and identities in the modern world'. There, in a nutshell, is the rationale for what I'm doing: embodied learning.

    Here's a question though: are the rules of Civilization applicable for every time and every place? Is it enough to simply have a different map to play (a scenario) or should we be changing the rules too (a different mod)? Ian Bogost might argue that we need to change the rules too, or at least be aware of how the rules shape what we play...
     
  17. DoctorG

    DoctorG Chieftain

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    By the way folks, if you're interested, my regular online Intro to Roman Civ/Culture class starts Thursday - plenty of space, cost is low, contact me privately if you're interested! Next cycle is in six weeks. Scenario building could be part of the assessment for this class too, I'll deal with that on a case-by-case basis.
     
  18. DoctorG

    DoctorG Chieftain

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    I'm still working on integrating civ into my classroom teaching. Big problem: how do you assess it? How do you give a grade for making a scenario?

    I posted the following on a 'technology & education' type forum, and thought it might also be interesting to post over here:
    ----->
    One of the things that always amazes me about playing Civilization IV (or indeed, just about any game you’d care to name) is what might be called the ‘metagame’ - the discussions on the forums, the fansites, the user-created mods. It seems to me that this is one of the most important aspects of the educational use of commercial games. On Civfanatics, there is a discussion entitled ‘the Rise and Fall of Rome‘ which I find absolutely fascinating. These folks are not historians, they are not classics students, but in the course of trying to make an historically ‘authentic’ simulation of Roman culture they embrace such difficult concepts as the conditions behind the emergence of the Social War - and then they devise a way to allow for the possibility of a Social War emerging in the game play!

    That is the kind of discussion I would want to emerge in my classroom, were I to formally assign the creation of a Civ mod or scenario as part of the assessment of the course. The problem that I’m addressing in this post though is how would I assess the scenario, and the metagame? I’ve addressed the problem of assessment when students play a scenario (in my ‘Year of the Four Emperors’ scenario for Civ IV I assigned a ‘game diary’ that asked pointed questions of the students at particular points in the game) but I’ve only started to grapple with the problem of assessing construction recently. How can you be fair and assess two individual students, one who has a good technical grasp of python, xml, and scenario building but is hazy on the history, and one who knows the history but freezes at the sight of the worldbuilder? How do you mark the mass of material that will be produced as a byproduct? How do you manage the paper trail?

    I had a similar problem during my dark old days as a high school teacher of technical drawing. The solution there was a rubric, and I think the solution here might also be a rubric. Rubrics have the advantage of boiling everything down to a checklist of various criteria. Your students can see at a glance what you are looking for, and they can see what they have to do to achieve a good grade. As the prof, you save yourself time, energy, and headaches. Below is my proposed rubric for marking the creation of a scenario for Civilization IV:



    The first criterion addresses the question: has the student selected a good problem to try to render in a scenario? Civilization has built in assumptions about how history unfolds. Does the proposed scenario play to those assumptions, or does it challenge them?

    The second criterion assesses whether the student has assembled the appropriate secondary or primary literature to ensure the ‘authenticity’ of the scenario (and a very good student will explore just what makes for an authentic scenario).

    The next two criteria are asking the student to plan out the scenario on paper first. Where will the issues be? What kind of a map? What scale is appropriate both geographically and chronologically? Clear writing = clear thinking = an easier time of building the scenario. My own scenarios at first suffered from woolly design…

    The ‘demonstrates understanding’ criterion might be the place to assess whether the student realizes the problems of simulating history…?

    The ‘uses forum/wiki’ criterion - I envision having a group forum or wiki for students to talk out their design problems, and to offer help, hints, and suggestions to each other as they design their scenarios. I’m envisioning each student designs their own scenario, but I want the experience to be a social one. This is especially important for my distance education students…

    ‘Identify design issues’ - I’m not sure whether to keep this or to discard it. It really should be moved up to the ‘design’ part of this rubric. I do want the students to be demonstrate that they are aware of the constraints the Civilization environment imposes.

    The last two are performance related. A student who is otherwise a poor historian (and would get low grades in an essay-based course) would here have a chance to pick up some points - and demonstrate their historical knowledge through making.

    So, that’s all off the top of my head this morning. I would be interested to know how others have approached (or if they’ve approached) the problem of assessing the use of games in an educational context in this manner. Should the rubric be expanded? Contracted? Is it hitting the right targets?
     

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