Game on!

Boardgame developed in the Citizenship and Communication subject. Image by: Sophia Mathias

Boardgame developed in the Citizenship and Communication subject. Image by: Sophia Mathias

In summary: 
  • Citizenship and Communication Subject Coordinators Jenna Price and Christina Ho have developed an assessment that sees first-year students create board games to learn about Australia’s political landscape and what that means for citizen communicators
  • The subject explores the successes and failures of the current political landscape, and asks students to dissect and reflect on the social institutions that shape the world 

It’s time to abandon your preconceptions, put on your game face and roll the dice.

This year, Citizenship and Communication Subject Coordinators Jenna Price and Christina Ho have turned university teaching on its head. They’ve adopted the unconventional assignment format of a board game to teach first-year students about the political landscape and what that means for citizen communicators.

“Board games force us to interact with each other; and developing the skills to make that possible is a key goal of this assessment,” says Price.

“Essays are lonely activities. Chris and I thought that the combination of the board game and the exegesis – a reflection on the theory and the game – would really help first-years engage with each other and the ideas.”

The subject explores the successes and failures of the current political landscape, asks students to dissect the social institutions that shape the world around us and reflect these ideas within their game board.

Journalism/law student Rayane Tamer explains that her game, Prime Time, comments on and criticises aspects of the journey to becoming the Prime Minister of Australia.

“Each 'sitch' card dealt to a player will determine if they should move forward or back – these events can be positive or negative for these candidates. Players also need to be articulate in the event they need to debate about a controversial current affair, which could happen if they pick a 'debate' card.”

Tamer admits she initially had her doubts about the assignment. But having finished the subject, Tamer says she was fooled by what she thought would be a simple task.

“At first, I thought making a board game at uni was a pretty amateur way of getting university-level concepts across. But when it came to the crux of the game construction, I think every group realised that expressing social ideologies with creativity, with accuracy, with realism was much harder than anticipated.”

Media arts and production student Sam Jones was thrilled to have his board game, Pass or Participate, facilitate his theory. “Personally, I’m a really visual learner and it was great creating something that had a huge visual component.”

Public communication student Emilie Davila, who created the board game Progression, adds, “The assignment was beneficial to helping us cover content in a more approachable and fun way.

“Many subjects teach you the necessity of practical work and experience, yet never give you the opportunity to explore this. A board game gives a practical approach to concepts and ideas that aren’t always as easy to interpret in an essay.”

Ho says watching her students in the final classes of the semester playing each of the board games was gratifying.

“Most of the students were proud of what they'd created, and were pleased to see others enjoying the game play, and in many cases, getting quite competitive!

“Given that each game addressed the content of the subject, the players were engaging in social and political issues and processes without even realising it. One of our first readings of the semester was about ways to 'make democracy more fun'. We think our game assignment achieved this.”