The Opening of the Frontier
My game would take place in the Old West, at the dawn of the frontier. As I envision my game, I am thinking about the things I would like a student to learn, what Player Characters there should be, and what Non-Player Characters there should be.
– The Homestead Act
– Bureau of Indian Affairs
– Policy on Native American territories
– Army role in the West
– Policy of “Manifest Destiny” implemented
– Expansion of the continental train system
– A new immigrant from Europe, eager to stake a claim on farmland
– A merchant from the East, looking for new opportunities on the frontier
– A Native American who finds her lands encroached upon by the Americans
– Army soldiers policing the West
– Local sheriffs (“the law”)
– Cattlemen who want to keep the land for cattle
– Mail order bride, eager to find a new life on the frontier
– Other families, who recently staked a claim to land and have begun to farm
– Cattle hustlers
– Chinese immigrants working on the railroad
– Railroad men, trying to buy/claim land for the railroad
– Native American Chief from a neighboring tribe
– Native American woman’s husband
The goal would be for a student to experience the West as each of these individuals might have. Ideally, each scenario would cover all of the key topics, so that a student could pick just one Player Character, and learn all of the material covered.
So, a student would be able to identify with a character, because she could pick her favorite one – what does she want to be today? An immigrant farmer, a businessman looking for a fresh start, or a Native American, anxious over her place in the West.
There would be an element of production and agency because the student would have to make choices, about buying property (businessman), claiming land (immigrant farmer) or choosing to leave her native lands or stay and fight (Native American).
Also ideally, there would be an element of challenging but doable to the game. The student would need to know a few things about the Old West, or she would learn them very quickly! Answering questions correctly, collecting tokens and items would enable actions.
For example, correctly answered question about the nature of the Homestead Act might enable the immigrant farmer to stake a claim to the first plot of land or the perfect plot of land (with a creek, etc.). An incorrect answer might result in the land already being claimed, or needing to move on because the railroad men had claimed it.
The game could be played over the course of a semester or in one sitting. The semester might take a student all the way through a first harvest, a successful business year, or to a new home in Indian Territory. One sitting might see the student simply stake a claim to farmland, settle in a new town or participate in a battle against the Army to retain her land.