Fantasy Geopolitics: The Gamification of Geography

How many of you think that fantasy football and politics go together? How about fantasy football and a modern day Settlers of Catan? While many of us may not have thought of combining these various things into one complex and engaging learning tool, teacher Eric Nelson did. A former high school civics and history teacher, Eric Nelson struggled to engage his technologically-distracted students with the very real world around them.

Nelson combined his love of fantasy football with the study of current events, allowing students to ‘draft’ countries and political leaders. Points were granted based on those people and nations being relevant in ever-changing current events around the world in the subsequent weeks. Nelson called his creation Fantasy Geopolitics.

Students became more engaged with the world around them, learning about past historical events and connecting them with the current events happening around the world. Even with an arbitrary point system, students became invested in the game but retained valuable information about the real world outside of their classroom. A few more batches of students allowed Nelson to refine his Fantasy Geopolitics idea and later led him outside of the classroom.

Nelson is now putting his time and energy towards expanding his Fantasy Geopolitics game into an online learning tool for a much wider audience. Other teachers can now access the game to use in their own classrooms, impacting more students and allowing teachers to effectively engage students with the happenings of the world around them.

Screenshot from FANGeoPolitics.

Screenshot from FANGeoPolitics.

The game is available online as well as mobile devices. Nelson and others are seeking to make learning as acceptable as possible, and with more and more students owning cell phones, this is becoming easier than ever before. Some classrooms may not have the technological resources to run a full scale Fantasy Geopolitics game, but teachers interested in using the game in their classrooms could find ways to do this.

Fantasy Geopolitics can engage students in civic, national, and international discussions, allow them to learn about US foreign policy in different locations around the globe, and even assist with foreign language learning. History is an important factor in the game, and players can learn more about the history of the countries they have drafted as well as the histories and current events of the countries of other users. Players are given points based on the countries they draft week by week and how many times those countries are mentioned in world news during that week.

Teaching is all about innovation in learning. Eric Nelson and Fantasy Geopolitics took topics that to many young students could be considered boring, and made them into something they could tangibly engage with. Learning about the world around us is an incredibly important lesson for students young and old; without the knowledge of our shared history, the future will become even more uncertain.

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