Computer simulation “games”: Examples from the Social Sciences


Rob Garfield (Center for Teaching and Learning)
Tucker Harding (Columbia University)

The Millennium Village SimulationRob Garfield, Instructional Technologist, Center for Teaching and Learning

Created as an investigative study tool for students in a core undergraduate course in sustainable development, the Millennium Village Simulation is a web-based simulation of economics and survival for one family and their village in a sub-Saharan African village. In a virtual world of extreme poverty, disease, and environmental variability, students are challenged to help a family of two survive and prosper over a fifty-year period. By making decisions regarding the family’s allocation of time and financial resources, students develop a greater understanding of the manifold disciplines — such as agronomy, nutrition, economics, epidemiology, public health and development management — that constitute sustainable development and how those disciplines interact with each other in “real world” scenarios. By immersing themselves in the daily life of a family, students also tend to identify more deeply with the local experience of extreme poverty.

Country X Tucker Harding, Educational Technologist, Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (Columbia University)

Country X is a web-based educational simulation created in response to challenges surrounding the training and education of prospective genocide prevention practitioners and is designed to integrate with class discussions facilitated by an instructor. The simulation, developed in partnership with Professor Aldo Civico of the Center for International Conflict Resolution, takes place in a fictitious nation experiencing rapid instability called Country X. Students work in groups of four, with each student assuming the identity of one of four characters representing the perspectives of diplomatic, intelligence, military, and civil society communities.


Webcast Recording:


Additional resources:

CountryX Project Description:
CountryX Discovery Page:

MVSim Project:
MVSim Encyclopedia:
MVSim Project Description:
MVSim Design Page:

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