April 16, 2001
Diplomacy is the name of Emory's World Game
By Eric Rangus
For more than four hours on April 5, Emory ruled the world.
About 70 Emory students, staff and faculty traipsed around the globea
large map of it on the Cox Hall floor, anywaytaking part in the
World Issues Workshop. They assumed roles as world leaders and representatives
of nongovernment organizations, and they role-played their way to solving
the worlds problems through negotiation, diplomacy and inventive
The event ran about 30 minutes long, but for the entire time, the players
were treated to a unique experience.
5:30 p.m. The
evening begins with a walkabout. As an introduction, players wander around
the game board (a 40 x 70-foot Fuller Projection map of the world thatwith
its large, interlocking trianglesresembles a geographical origami
project of the Jolly Green Giant) identifying several of the worlds
cities, mountains and waterways. The topographical map lacks national
boundaries, which ups the difficulty. Beijing, one of the scavenger hunt
cities, is listed as Peking, which pretty much places the
maps production date sometime during the Ford administration.
6:05 p.m. Players
select game cards, which contain the region they will represent, and they
list some statistics about that region: literacy rate, gross national
product, rate of AIDS infection, etc. The regions include all the continents
on a Risk board, plus a few extra (Japan and the Middle East are their
own regions, Southeast Asia is connected to Australia, etc.). A pair of
hosts, Jim and Henry, from the World Game Institute, the nonprofit organization
that developed the game, give a brief overview of what the game will entail.
Were going to be world leaders today, says Jim, whos
dressed in a blue blazer, khakis and no shoes. Stocking feet are one of
the games requirements. For most of you this is going to be
a promotion, he jokes.
6:18 p.m. Jim
and Henry offer up a brief history of the world. On his or her game card,
each player has an entry year ranging from 2000 B.C. to 2001.
Players are instructed to step onto the map in their assigned region when
their year is reached. The visual effect works well, as the map explodes
in population at the tail end of the lesson. When everyone sits down,
Asia and the Indian subcontinentthe most populous regions on earthare
packed like lemmings. North and Latin America, on the other side of the
room, are rather spacious. Again, the visual effectnot to mention
the discomfort of sitting shoulder to shoulder with a complete strangermakes
quite a point.
6:50 p.m. Players
empty team baskets containing game pieces (blue technology
and green natural resources cards made of construction paper,
play moneyin billion-dollar incrementscandles representing
energy, plastic food suspiciously resembling the contents of a Playskool
kitchen, and tables outlining each regions goals for food and energy).
Some teams basketslike North America and Europeare horns
of plenty. Others, notably Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent,
are pretty meager.
7:04 p.m. The
official start of the planning round. Players turn over their game cards
and refer to the rules. Many cards have symbols where the instructions
should be. Jim says anyone with a card like this will be considered illiterate
and cannot speak for the first three minutes, rendering about a third
of the players (and a significant part of the Asian, Indian and Sub-Saharan
Africa teams) silent. Another of the worlds problems rarely seen
in the United Statesand certainly not on the Emory campussmacks
everyone right in the face.
7:20 p.m. Teams
get a look at a chart detailing who has what in terms of energy and food.
The figures that jump out are Total Energy and Total Food (100 each) and
Needed Energy and Needed Food (137 and 116, respectively). Scarcity, it
is now understood, will be a problem.
7:31 p.m. Imagine
the floor of the New York Stock Exchangeand everyone has to go to
the restroom at the same time. That about sums up the chaos at the start
of the games first round. Players, unsure how to proceed, wave bits
of construction paper and colored play money like an angry mob of Monopoly
players. Every minute or so, a representative from the United Nations
(UN), the World Health Organization (WHO) or the World Bank drops off
problems for teams to solve: AIDS epidemics, illiteracy, clear-cutting
of forests, poor pre-natal carepick your issue. The unfortunate
person to receive the sheet, along with its purple warning card, is given
four minutes to come up with a solution, which he or she must defend when
the official returns. If successful, they receive a yellow well-being
card, reflecting improved conditions in that part of the world. If unsuccessful,
or if the player ignores the problem, he or she is scolded and handed
another purple card. Shame and angry teammates keep people in line.
7:56 p.m. The
first round ends and the Global News Network (four correspondents with
late-night disk jockey names like Sunny Winters and Johnny Comelately)
update the world on snippets of news gleaned from media representatives
from each region. Few regions are satisfied with how they are portrayed.
8:02 p.m. The
second round starts, and it is quite a bit smoother, as players figure
out how to play the game. Negotiation is crisper, certain teams are identified
as more approachable (or more gullible, depending on your point of view),
and solutions to global and regional problems come much quicker and with
considerable creativity. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)
team, for instance, attacks skyrocketing cancer rates caused by the Chernobyl
disaster with early-cancer detection programs through workplace screening.
8:25 p.m. The
end of the second round. Everyone takes a break, and the players are asked
to envision how they want the world to be 20 years in the future. The
idealistic crowd comes up with a lot of the usual ideas (basic human rights,
no poverty, increased life expectancy), but the discussion was not without
contention. At one point, a loud battle ensues concerning which of the
termscultural tolerance, understanding,
or acceptancewas most appropriate. All three make it
onto the board. Just two suggestions are applauded: destruction of nuclear
and biological weapons andthe only truly impossible dreamon-time
airline flights with no lost baggage.
9:03 p.m. The
final round. Negotiation, cooperation and teamwork ascend to a new levels.
Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa put together a somewhat complicated plan
in which Europe will receive several natural resources cards in return
for food and energy. Since the technology and natural resources cards
are basically for show, the Europeans get the short end but go along willingly.
The Chinese also approach the Sub-Saharan Africans and give them several
natural resources cards in exchange for basically saying nice things about
them at the final press conference.
9:26 p.m. Round
3 ends, and each team elects a representative to stand and explain, in
three sentences, the teams accomplishments. The explanations end
up running about
9:47 p.m. The
outbrief. Jim and Henry ask the players for their impressions of the game.
Uniformly, the answer is that it was fun and educational. One player says
he enjoyed the different problem-solving styles, another liked the lack
of red tape in negotiation. One interesting observation was the feeling
of nationalism within teams, and how in some cases they took on their
regions persona. Most agreed that the North Americans, for instance,
came off as a little cocky.
10:03 p.m. The
players scavenge the last bits of free food, gather their papers and file
out of Cox Hall in ones and twos. But who won? One member of the Sub-Saharan
Africa team says her group did. All winning is, is you
do what you have to do as a group. A teammate disagrees, noting
the group came up one candle short of its energy goal. That, after all,
is the most quantifiable way to score. Maybe it was Latin America, which
reached its goals early and spent the second half of the night trying
to make the world a better place, or maybe it was the Japanese, or the
North Americans, each of whom finished with a stack of money so high it
could be used as a doorstop.
A consensus is never reached. And isnt that the way it always is?