The New States of Atlantis
The New States of Atlantis is a type of role playing game that can be played with a large number of people concurrently. It is designed for educators to bring the deep level of motivation found in role playing games into an education setting. All you need to play the game is found on this website, and is free to use, remix, and share as you wish.
This specific game focuses around a pretty vital question for our age: "How do the decisions I make affect the community, and how do decisions my community makes affect me?". In this game, each learner operates as a new 'owner' of land on a mythical island. Over the course of a dozen turns they may develop their land as they see fit, with an understanding that the choices they make have economic, social, and environmental impacts.
The game was designed specifically to cater to two challenges the world of education faces in light of the COVID-19 pandemic: keeping the intrinsic motivation high among students, and bringing learning offline as much as possible. As a Role Playing Game, learners quickly dive into their new personas, and from my experience in the past it is hard to get the learners to stop thinking about it! All the independent work in this game can be done without a computer, but the social element of the game demands a high degree of social interaction, which can be be held in synchronous sessions or through discussion forums asynchronously.
The Rulebook is a pretty important component. It is really helpful to have a printed version to reference, but you can also keep it digital. The Improvement Table will be referenced regularly...
Rulebook - Digital Version (PDF, 9.5Mb)
Frequently Asked Questions
What age is this game for?
I originally designed this game for Middle School students in Green School, Bali. Here at REAL School Budapest I have considerably younger learners, so I have modified some dynamics so that they would be suitable for kids as young as 9. In effect, the game was designed with kids 9-15 in mind, although I have had pleas from High Schoolers who wished to play the game after seeing the fun the Middle Schoolers were having.
How much time is needed to play?
The game is designed to take ~15 hours if you include the introduction and a reflection at the end. I generally block out a period a day for the course of 3 weeks. The real joy is allowing for social interactions to occur following the various scenarios that are put in place, and I would say the majority of interactive time happens like this. The learners may choose to put care into their improvements, so there is the opportunity for work outside of class.
Can the game be adapted?
YES! As an educator part of the joy is being creative, and this provides a great platform to throw relevant and customized scenarios at the students. I can clearly imagine a pandemic event being a great way to internalize the global events of our day, or can imagine taking local issues (flooding, logging, migrants, etc) and turning these into scenarios or events.
Why is the game set in the tropics?
I originally designed the maps while living in the tropics, and when revisiting the game this year (I am now in a very untropical place) I decided to keep it so since many of the environmental issues of our day are intensified as you go towards the equator. Within 5 minutes of showing my current students a sneak peek at a map the question came up 'what are mangroves?' and I knew we would be learning a ton about the critical life support tropical biomes provide us
Can you share a crazy event from playing the game in the past?
You betcha! My favorite story was from our second time playing this game in Green School. We had ~80 kids playing concurrently in 5 different classrooms. One student asked if they could build a nuclear missile and the educator in charge said sure and threw out a ridiculous price. The kids got together and pooled their money and bought the nuke. The following day, every other class (which represented independent island nations) was asking to buy a nuclear weapon out of fear of the class with the weapon. The kids had unintentionally started a Cold War!
Any tips for interested educators?
Let's talk and share. My hope is that with the global state of education being online we can collaborate and have our island states interact in meaningful ways. I am always reachable by email at email@example.com