Updated: Jun 27, 2021
What's going on everyone?
Alright, so usually I am very intentional when I decide to bring a video game into my class. I look at the curriculum and brainstorm about where exactly I want my students to be at the end of the unit. Then I think of different games that could be a good fit into my unit. Bringing in a video game has never been something for me to do just for fun or to pass class time. That being said, we finished our final projects two class periods early this year. So I asked my students what they wanted to do for those final classes and they unanimously wanted to play a video game. So I started thinking about what we can do on short notice and I landed on The Republia Times. You can find my lesson plan for The Republia Times here.
The Republia Times is a great little free game by Lucas Pope where you play as a minister of propaganda in the fake country of Republia. It can be played in any web browser. You control the headlines and layout of the country's newspaper and your aim is to increase both loyalty and readership numbers. You can choose to follow the very direct guidelines provided by your government, or you can foster disloyalty in order to help an ongoing rebellion. Helping the rebellion however, will put your family at risk. The lesson gives students the opportunity to not only critique newspapers and their biases and influence, but actually interact and take part in said influence. Plus it gets your students to read.
Usually I teach with this game during a unit on media literacy or propaganda. The reason I decided to go with this game in this instance is that The Republia Times is very short with a normal playthough only taking about 10 minutes. This gives students the opportunity to play multiple times while making different decisions in order to experience the different endings. With only two days left we needed to play something that could be finished fairly quickly. This was the only game that made sense- so we spent a day playing the game and then a day discussing what happened.
The objective of this activity is for students to consider how the news can shape public opinion. They played through the game a couple of times, sometimes listening to the orders of the government and other times aiding the rebellion. This first student here for example preferred to help the rebellion overthrow the government, but ended up losing their family. They even noted that starting a revolution is "cool." One message of the game is that overthrowing governments is often a cycle of violence that constantly continues. We can hope for the best, but those that replace a government are not always better fit to lead. This theme actually led to a nice little conversation about Author's Purpose which is a topic they were learning in their English Language Arts classes. When asked how the news can shape public opinion this student had the following to say.
News, social media can change people’s opinion. For example in politics for voting some people tend to change sides and vote for another person. The media can shape our attitudes towards many things, from the things we buy, the people we admire (and the people we don’t admire), our views on political issues such as immigration and healthcare, to concerns about diversity such as ethnicity. Social issues, gender, sexual orientation and age.
Whenever I teach a lesson, these written excerpts are only one aspect of a student sharing their thoughts. The student took this answer and then verbally shared with the class more at length about how media shapes public opinion. The student then continued to make a connection to the past two presidential elections.
The majority of the students in my class wanted to help the rebellion during their playthroughs of the game. They said that it felt like an underdog story and that the rebellion would be better to help than the authoritarian government. They learned, however, that is not always case. This student's final written analysis was not as in depth as the first student, but they did make a connection to real life by saying, "the news sometimes publish pro-government stories even when the government is oppressively." Again many students made connections to our former president and talked about how many people really tried to make President Trump look good despite numerous human rights violations over the course of his tenure.
This lesson actually served as a really nice reflection on the year and everything we had studied. Some of the topics we covered in my class this year were redlining, gentrification, urban renewal, immigration, civil rights speeches, segregation, displacement, eminent domain, etc. During the second day of this lesson we reflected on and thought about how the news and media portrayed these topics as they were actively happening (or currently taking place).
Sometimes it's good to ask your students what they want to do and how they want to spend their time learning. Playing another video game at the end of the year was not a part of my plan. But since they specifically requested it, how could I not put something together? And once again, it was one of the most engaging activities of the year. And that's a true feat considering how close to the end of the year we were. I was ready to just put on a movie.
Thanks for reading,
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