Changing the World, One Game at a Time

Summer Reading Program Committee member Ian de Mederios plays _Pandemic_ with other students in MacMillian Hall, on Thursday. The students met to play games influenced by the UN's _Year of Water Cooperation_ and the student's summer reading

Students met Thursday, November 21, in MacMillian Hall to celebrate and meditate on the United Nations’ (UN) Year of Water Cooperation.

According to the UN’s official website, the UN’s Year of Water Cooperation focuses on “raising awareness, both on the potential for increased cooperation, and on the challenges facing water management in light of the increase in demand for water access, allocation and services.”

Associate Director of The Center for American and World Cultures Jacqueline Rioja Velarde, kept this in mind when orchestrating the events that took place on Thursday in conjunction with the Miami Geek League, which included board games focused around survival and speeches by students from countries struggling with clean water access.

“The major goal here is to give the students opportunities,” Rioja Velarde says.

Velarde says the emergence of video games in correlation to the summer reading book “Reality is Broken,” written by this past autumn’s commencement speaker Jane McGonigal. “Reality is Broken” focuses on bringing the playful and artful aspects of teamwork, ease and cooperation that have been so-driven into the narratives of video games into real life.

In her book, McGonigal argues, “The human race needs to play more hours of video games to solve the larger problems in the real world.”

McGonigal believes the good in video games includes: being motivated to do something that matters, being inspired to collaborate and being driven to solve problems. McGonigal, who graduated with a PhD from the University of California Berkley in performance studies, wants to apply her studies and research together to bring these subtle human qualities so easily brought out in us while playing video games into real life.

Such was the focus of the events in MacMillian Hall. The board games, which included titles such as “Settlers of Catan,” “Pandemic,” “Forbidden Desert,” “Eco FluXx” and “Santiago,” are all survival-based games that position themselves around the acquisition of water for survival. The event balanced itself between these two discourses, creating one clear message to the students who participated: “social action.”

The program directors, who were also members of Miami’s Geek League committee, stressed the dual meaning behind the board games to get students thinking about water conservation. The event was complete with bi-fold questionnaires sitting atop each table with a board game to get students thinking about water, cooperation and survival.

“It’s a call to action,” Rioja Velarde said.


Photo by: Kyle Hayden

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