Trading Races is a paper-based elaborate role-playing game set at the University of Michigan of Ann Arbor campus in April 2003. It is designed to be a Reacting to the Past game, where players are transported to a time period in the past and play historical characters. Through careful study of key texts and learning modes of argumentation, student players learn to engage with big ideas, and to empathize with points of view different from their own.
The game is is set two months before the Supreme Court landmark decisions on affirmative action in 2003. Players take on the roles of multi-ethnic and multi-national members of an imaginary Michigan Student Assembly, and present speeches on race related issues based upon their characters’ social and political orientation in gameplay. By asking players to assume the ideological worldview of people different from themselves, the game encourages players to “trade races” intellectually and emotionally.
Trading Races is designed to be used in both undergraduate courses on race and ethnicity, as well as in advanced high school curricula. It has been funded by the Duke Humanities Writ Large grant, a Mellon grant aimed at redesigning undergraduate education in the humanities, and by the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. The game was play-tested in April 2013 in at Duke and Richard Stockton, by students in courses taught by Eileen Chow and Sharon Musher, respectively.
The red link below launches the project’s main website. For videos and photos from the play tests, please visit the Trading Races Facebook page. Plans for an electronic version of the game are also in the works.