Re: 3 questions re simulation games

Joan Miller (joan@CAM.ORG)
Tue, 21 Nov 1995 19:45:05 -0500

Hi Karen,

I use a computer simulation, Les chasseurs-cueilleurs, made available
through the Quebec Ministry of Education for use in CEGEP anthropology
courses. It uses an optimal-foraging model as a base and approximates
the ethnographic and ecological situation that might be presumed for
pre-European contact northern Quebec dwellers. Successful students are
asked to make decisions for a band (marriage, post-marital residence,
choice of trapping and hunting territories, time to migrate, sharing of
game, etc.) with a goal of keeping the band members alive for the year.
The game is scored and half the points are earned through success
measured in individuals who do survive; the other half is earned by
following culturally appropriate rules. My students play it in our
computer lab as homework and can replay as many times as it takes for
them to attain a mark acceptable to them. Although some of them are
lucky and do relatively well after a couple of hours, most find it
reasonably demanding and spend 6-8 hours (and many games) to secure their
preferred A's and B's.

Unfortunately, I don't know whether the program is available outside
Quebec and I don't have a current address (the particular sub-segment of
the Ministry charged with distributing this program was closed down
several years ago). It is also available only in French which isn't
really a problem in an English-language CEGEP in Montreal but could be a
problem for you. Names of possible contact anthropologists are the two
authors (Bernard Deslandes and Denis Emond) who were at the Universite de
Sherbrooke when they wrote the program. The program runs on IBM and has
"coped" with our evolving networked system without any major problems.

John Omohundro, at Potsdam in New York state has also prepared a
simulation called, I think, Rice Paddies. It's thrust is to introduce
students to the impact of the green revolution. It is more complex and
sophisticated than Les Chasseurs-cueilleurs and has such desirable
possibilities as the ability to save a partially completed game. It is
also in English but, for my institution, unfortunately on the MAC
platform. I don't know what kind of distribution it is in now. I got my
copy directly from John after seeing the program demonstrated at the NEAA
meetings in Lake Placid; you might try contacting him.

And I looked into the possibilities of using Civilization but found three
things off-putting: a) the "violence" that it does to history, and b)
the pervasive ideology of conquer and destroy, and c) the length of time
it takes to play it at all well.

And I, too, am always on the lookout for new simulations to try in a
"Peoples of the World" class. And my students continue to claim, despite
their abilities in French, that they would prefer a game in English. So,
if anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to learn of them.

Joan Miller

On Tue, 21 Nov 1995, Karen Szala-Meneok wrote:

> Dear colleagues,
> I. I'm looking for computer simulation packages or non-computer related
> simulations to be used in an undergraduate class in Cultural Ecology.
> Games dealing, with foraging, pastorialism, horticulture, agriculture and
> fishing would be of interest. I would be happy to cull suggests and
> reviews back to the list as one posting.
> II. Has anyone used Simcity or Simcivilization in the class room context?
> III. Also does anyone know of a discussion list that deals with
> simulation games?
> Best wishes,
> Karen Szala-Meneok
> ******************
> Dr.Karen Szala-Meneok
> Department of Sociology and Anthropology
> Editor: Anthropologica
> Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. N2L 3C5
> Phone: (519) 884-1970 Ext. 3640
> FAX: (519) 884-88854