Slugs and Worms
This is a simple little game to help students explore and understand some of the dynamics of a parliamentary system (especially the EU's European Parliament). They are given some preferences and identities, which they can then use to discover how one works towards producing collective outcomes, both as an individual and as part of a larger grouping. The subject matter is a little yucky, but when run as purely a matter of numbers, it can be hard to grasp (as I've discussed here).
45 minutes, then 15 minutes feedback.
The game needs 20 people in this variation, but it's simple to scale up or down, as long as there is no obvious majority for any one outcome.
Each student should be given a copy of the instructions below, together with the values for their country: only the instructor should have all the information, although quickly much sharing will occur. It doesn't have to be introduced as a game about parliaments, but this can be brought up in the feedback.
Objective: To gain a qualified majority in agreement on values for funding research on slugs and worms. Aim to get values for each that match your preferences.
How to Play: You have been given information on how many votes you hold and your preferences for funding each piece of research. You need to find an agreement with the other players on numbers for funding, as close to your preferences as possible. You should start sitting with others from the same country, but you can talk to anyone.
· There are 100 votes and the qualified majority is 67
· you can appoint a chair
· Each participant can chose what information to disclose to others
· To calculate your score, add the difference between your preference and the agreed funding for the two issues together. So if your preferences are £5m and £6m and you agree on £2m and £7m respectively, then your score is (5-2) + (7-6) = 3 + 1 = 4.
· The time limit for the game is 45 minutes
Some aspects to discuss:
- Was the outcome a good one? Was it optimal in any sense?
- Did the group move from national bargaining, to a free market, to groupings of identical preferences? How does this relate to parliaments and other political institutions?
- Did the choice of funding topics influence matters at all, or was it just about the figures?
- This game can be changed in the number of players, the voting majorities, and the number of issues to be discussed. Note that complexity will increase exponentially, so each new element will add a lot of difficulty, so a more modest approach might make sense in a first instance.
- The choice of issues might also be relevant, especially if you also let students play as real-world groups. However, this moves the game into different territory, away from the more abstract approach here.