Simulation Games

Simulation games—in which students solve problems in situations modeled on the real world—are growing in popularity; almost every academic field now has them freely or commercially available.

Stanford Professor Scott Sagan has used simulation to enhance his Political Science course on arms control and security issues. Students are divided into teams and assigned a role based on actual figures in the negotiations. True to their role, they write and exchange position papers, then conduct rounds of talks based on a schedule of plenary sessions. Faculty and TAs act as consultants but otherwise keep their interventions to a minimum. Class time is also used for reflective discussion of the simulation, since research indicates that games are effective only when combined with thorough debriefing.

Course evaluations from the students involved are highly positive. Although students put much more time into the course than they anticipate will be necessary, they feel that actually doing the negotiations gives them an unusual mastery of this aspect of international relations.

Simulation games can also be used to supplement a more traditional course. For example, the Introductory Economics Center created a variant of simulation games in which students participate in synchronous online games from their own computers.

See Also

Simulation in the Stanford School of Medicine: