My Board Game Antidote to Overt Competition: Pandemic

Pandemic-Board

Photo Credit: https://geekdad.com/2013/11/pandemic-ipad-vs-board/

Due to poor planning on my part, I purchased Pandemic yesterday and asked my boyfriend and guinea pig, Ben, to play the brand new board game at 9pm last night. I cannot confirm or deny that our rushed game play was an effort to complete my play journal assignment today.

Pandemic is a cooperative, strategy game that has a large learning curve. The goal is to work as a team to travel the globe eradicating deadly viruses by continent. Each player has special talents that the team needs to use wisely. For example, a quarantine specialist can stop outbreaks by their mere presence, while a scientist can discover a cure faster than other players. Given the cooperative nature of the game all players are racing against the clock or deck of cards to rid the world of the outbreaks before they conglomerate into a pandemic. Players are all in it together.

As we were struggling through the game last night, Ben said, “Why didn’t you pick an easy game like Parcheesi?” I explained that my choice was based upon our past, not-so-fun experience with Chess. I thought Pandemic might be a good solution to our overly competitive natures, while appeasing our love of strategy.

Although my timely execution of the game was not on point, my long-term planning was. Per Pandemic’s online reviews, I could see it as was a well-designed game that aligned with Gee’s (2004) games and learning principles to “create motivation for extending engagement and preparing for future learning,” (p. 67). Additionally, the clerk at the Wizard’s Chest where I bought the game said the game “left him wanting to play more.” I decided Pandemic was a game Ben and I could grow into.

In a quest to “up my game” I not only purchased the game, but I also aspired to pick a game worthy of my experience with the Games and Learning course at CU Denver. I have seen my peers and classmates really savoring their gaming experience and I wanted to adopt this discourse for myself. My observed benefits of gaming includes the following:

  • Mental Stimulation
  • Developing Playfulness
  • Social Interactivity
  • Affordable Entertainment
  • Community Building

In regards to playful learning, Pandemic as a learning tool in the schools reminds me of the game/study To Pave or Not to Pave as published in the book Mobile Media Learning: Amazing Uses of Mobile Devices for Learning. This place-based design for civic participation was a study executed by James Mathews and Jeremiah Holden. It required students to create a learning experience around a civic issue of whether or not to pave a public path (Dikkers et. al, 2012). Playing Pandemic and the creation of To Pave or Not to Pave directed participants to achieve a common goal. In Pandemic the goal was to prevent a worldwide epidemic, while To Pave or Not to Pave’s goal was to engage participants civically. In both games, working together forces participants to see multiple perspectives and ways to skin a cat. In fact, playing Pandemic allowed me to glimpse into Ben’s brain and see his strategic thinking. His preferred method was to travel and diffuse the problem in each hot city together, while I suggested we divide and conquer. I was pleasantly surprised that one, I was able to let him take the lead, and two, when we stuck together, we were more effective.

This was my first experience with a board game focused on collaboration over obliteration. A perfect example of obliteration was our course’s first group game, Small World. The goal was to completely destroy a culture of people/creatures in order to win their land and resources. I know Small World is just a game, but is it really? When I think about the reality of ruined cultures and such things as the resource curse, I have a hard time playing out an age-old struggle of the haves and the have nots. (Yes, I should probably calm down.) In playing Pandemic, it was refreshing to step outside of obliteration and my competitive self. I enjoyed the gaming perspective of cooperating with my partner in a playful, save the planet sort of setting. Thanks to Pandemic,  I now have found an unexpected antidote for the overt competition that many other games promote.

References

Dikkers, S., Martin, J., & Coulter, B. (2012). Mobile media leanring: Amazing uses of mobile devices for learning.

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. New York: Routledge.

2 Comments

  • I really appreciate your discussion of cooperative gaming, Susannah! It’s such a different experience. And it’s a really great option for maintaining balance with other players that competition can sometimes upset. I find this true within my family, as well. Cooperation and coordination is not a bad goal for the World, either:-)

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