Game theory is the science of interactive decision making. It has been used in the field of international relations (IR) for over 50 years. Almost all of the early applications of game theory in international relations drew upon the theory of zero-sum games, but the first generation of applications was also developed during the most intense period of the Cold War. The theoretical foundations for the second wave of the game theory literature in international relations were laid by a mathematician, John Nash, a co-recipient of the 1994 Nobel Prize in economics. His major achievement was to generalize the minimax solution which emerged from the first wave. The result is the now famous Nash equilibrium—the accepted measure of rational behavior in strategic form games. During the third wave, from roughly the early to mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, there was a distinct move away from static strategic form games toward dynamic games depicted in extensive form. The assumption of complete information also fell by the wayside; games of incomplete information became the norm. Technical refinements of Nash’s equilibrium concept both encouraged and facilitated these important developments. In the fourth and final wave, which can be dated, roughly, from around the middle of the 1990s, extensive form games of incomplete information appeared regularly in the strategic literature. The fourth wave is a period in which game theory was no longer considered a niche methodology, having finally emerged as a mainstream theoretical tool.
Frank C. Zagare and Branislav L. Slantchev
Amanda M. Rosen
There are seven key considerations for instructors and scholars using simulations and games (SAGs) to teach conflict and political violence: learning outcomes, conflict stage, scenario choice, role assignment, time required, gameplay mechanics, and postgame reflection. In each of these areas, there is a new typology or categorization in an effort to provide a standard language for work in this field moving forward—an essential effort as SAGs grow in acceptance in the college classroom. Learning outcomes are divided into content and skills, while there are five stages of conflict: preconflict, crisis response, active conflict, war termination, and postconflict. Scenario choice ranges from historical and contemporary simulations grounded in the “real world” to fictional, representative, and abstract exercises. Considerations for role assignment include whether roles are necessary, the level of analysis of different roles, and how to conduct simulations in large classes, while “time required” divides exercises by their level of intensity. Gameplay mechanics divide SAGs by those with board game–style mechanics, those that involve negotiation plus round-based actions, and those that focus on negotiations to craft agreements. Finally, postgame reflection considers the value and drawbacks of conducting formal assessment of SAGs. More work is needed to create simulations focused on individual authors, increased attention to adapting physical classroom games for the online and hybrid environment, more authenticity in simulation design, diversifying the student experience in simulations, and creating common criteria for effective simulations to teach conflict and political violence.
Entertainment technologies are not new, and neither is their relevance for international studies. As studies evidence, the impact of entertainment technologies is often visible at the intersection of “traditional” international relations concerns, such as national security, political economy, and the relation of citizens to the nation-state, and new modes of transnational identity and social action. Thus the study of entertainment technologies in the context of international studies is often interdisciplinary—both in method and in theoretical framework. Moreover, the production, regulation, and dissemination of these technologies have been at the center of controversies over the flow of news and cultural products since the dawn of popular communication in the nineteenth century. These entertainment technologies include video games, virtual worlds and online role-playing games, recreational social networking technologies, and, to a lesser degree, traditional mass communication outlets. In addition, there are two primary emphases in the scholarly treatment of entertainment technologies. At the level of audience consumption and participation, media outlets considered as entertainment technologies can be discussed as means for acquiring information and cultivating attitudes, and as a “space” for interaction. At the more “macro” level of social relations and production, representation can work to reinforce modes of belonging, identity, and attitudes.
Carolyn M. Shaw and Amanda Rosen
Simulations and games have been used in the international studies classroom for over fifty years, producing a considerable body of literature devoted to their study and evolution. From the earliest use of these techniques in the classroom, instructors have sought to identify and characterize the benefits of these tools for student learning. Scholars note, in particular, the value of simulations and games in achieving specific learning objectives that are not easily conveyed through lecture format. More recent writings have focused on what specific lessons can be conveyed through different types of exercises and have included detailed descriptions or appendices so that others can use these exercises. As simulations and games have become more widely incorporated into the classroom, a growing body of literature has provided instructions on how to custom design simulations to fit instructors’ specific needs. Although initial evaluations of the effectiveness of simulations were methodologically weak and flawed by research design, sampling, or other methodological problems, newer studies have become more sophisticated. Rather than simply arguing that simulations are (or are not) a better teaching tool than traditional class formats, there is greater recognition that simulations are simply one technique of many that can promote student learning. Scholars, however, are still seeking to understand under what conditions simulations and games are especially beneficial in the classroom.
Jeffrey S. Lantis, Kent J. Kille, and Matthew Krain
The literature on active teaching and learning in international studies has developed significantly in recent decades. The philosophy behind active teaching approaches focuses on the goal of empowering students and promoting knowledge retention through engagement and experiential learning. Teacher-scholars in many different disciplines have contributed to a wide and increasingly deep literature on teaching with purpose. They identify best practices, including the importance of designing exercises that have clear educational objectives, exploring examples and alternative ways of engaging students, detailing clear procedures, and implementing assessment protocols. Examples of popular and successful active teaching and learning approaches include teaching with case studies and problem-based learning in international studies, where students confront the complexities of an issue or puzzle, and reason through potential solutions. Other instructors employ structured debates in the classroom, where students are assigned common reading materials and then develop arguments on one side or another of the debate in order to critically examine issues. More teachers are engaging students through use of alternative texts like literature and films, where reading historical narratives, memoirs, or even graphic novels may help capture student interest and promote critical thinking and reflection. In addition, simulations and games remain very popular—from simple in-class game theory exercises to semester-long role-playing simulations of international diplomacy. Studies show that all of these approaches, when implemented with clear educational objectives and intentionality, can promote student learning, interest, and retention of knowledge and perspectives. Finally, teacher-scholars have begun to embrace the importance of assessment and thoughtful reflection on the effectiveness of active teaching and learning techniques for the international studies classroom. Evidence regarding the achievement of learning outcomes, or potential limitations, can help inform improvements in experiential learning program design for future iterations.