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This course was offered in Fall 2015 and Fall 2017 at Arkansas State University.


POSC 4003: Special Topics: War Games and Simulations


Description: This is a participation-based course in which students will take part in a variety of games and simulations, each focusing on different aspects of international relations. Students are expected to be good with computers and will occasionally need to devote significant time outside of class to the simulations.


Objectives: The course objectives (although they will sometimes be accomplished stealthily) are to increase your knowledge of international relations theories and to increase your appreciation for the theory-building process. Theories of international relations make simplifying assumptions about the world in order to explain the passage of history as efficiently as possible. Similarly, games and simulations based on international relations such as Risk, Diplomacy, and Statecraft simplify international relations by setting the rules, limiting the number of turns, determining players' objectives, etc. Much of the variation in those games and simulations mirrors the differences between international relations theories.


In the process of conducting and evaluating different simulations, we will consider 1) what distinguishes each simulation (rules, objectives, etc.), 2) how players tend to behave in each simulation, and 3) which behaviors lead to better outcomes in each simulation. We will contrast the simulations with international relations theories, including 1) the assumptions and logic of each theory, 2) the factors that motivate decision-making according to each theory, and 3) the behaviors that lead to better outcomes according to each theory. Doing so will provide students with a greater appreciation for the development of international relations theories, an increased ability to critique those theories, and an increased ability to apply those theories to real-world events; to understand how those theories explain the passage of history and what each theory portends for the future. Students will also develop their writing skills via short writing assignments throughout the semester, as well as their ability to work in teams.

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