That Terrible Gamification Problem

An old and very bad idea I had was the gamification of the overland trails and something called the Indian Removal Act. Yes, I made the same mistake 20 years ago and is what John Meehan is selling today in his new book, “EDrenaline Rush.”  Yes, it is actually called Edrenaline Rush and this picture is from his Twitter Profile. And yes, you guessed it, the book is published by that famous band of pirates. A genuine thanks to Benjamin Doxtator to bring this to all of our attention. 

John Meeham from his Twitter Profile demonstrating what “Edrenaline” must feel like.

To be clear, this was the year 2002 and I was 22 years old in a history teaching pedagogy class at Arizona State University where this was my direct assignment. 

Before you read, here is my own analysis, looking back almost 20 years into my own history as openly as I can. 

  • I would never ever think to gamify human experience in the class, in fact the gamification of content is not on my to-do list generally. 
  • It strikes me how old the idea out of John Meehan’s book actually is — his content and book just doesn’t have new ideas as this is just like what I did 20 years ago as a student and what my pedagogy teacher was teaching, two decades ago. 
  • I’m shocked that I didn’t question the assignment, especially as a student of education because I had some excellent, hard-hitting minority female history teachers that were absolutely teaching me better than this. 
  • The course was called HST 481-M Methodes Teaching History: Comm Resources
  • I still remember the visceral reaction of my classmate and Navajo/Diné tribal member who had transferred from Diné College that year I believe and was student teaching at the same middle school as I was.

Following the specific assignment directions to make a game, where my school group was to focus on the Indian removal act of 1830: 

I made an American Indigenous/white expansionism game but I rigged it. Dice decided if you were White or Indigenous, a map with game pieces showed where whites lived and where Indigenous populations lived and the gameplay began with even odds for taking and holding territory. Each round of play was an event on a timeline with the odds on the dice changing each round, more and more likely that genocide of Indigenous peoples would happen. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 pivoted the odds for good, making it impossible for the randomly selected Indigenous players to win. Nobody knew that this was coming when I demonstrated this with my uni classmates — the horror grew within the room.  My Diné classmate jumping up and shouted, “See! This it what it’s like! This! This is what happened!”  

  • Territory as conquest on a map as gameplay is totally flawed and a broken perspective of course. Real humans and their real experiences shouldn’t be classroom gameplay, ever. 
  • Looking back on my Diné classmate’s reaction now I see the position I put her in. I see her anger differently now. Back then, I just thought I successfully stuck it to classmates who pushed the white narrative/dominant culture’s narrative. I thought I was so smart. 
  • So, this was almost 20 years ago when I was 22 and I hadn’t thought about it since I turned in the assignment until I saw how similar this was to John and his book, via @doxtertab
  • Also, why is the Organ Trail still around? It is only a white narrative as a game involved in a period of genocide? The Organ Trail is on nearly the same topic as my game, @desmos even has a fresh version we can use in classes right now. Think about that.
  • Oh, and I teach math and science. I never ended up as a history teacher after all.

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