Computer game puts Czech students in European leaders’ shoes
Not everyone has been happy with how the Czech government has planned for the country’s fast-approaching EU presidency, but have you ever wondered what, in such a situation, you would do differently? Well, now a new computer game is giving Czech high school students the chance to try out their own approach. Europe 2045 sees students trying on the shoes of Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown and Mirek Topolánek, and finding out, by extension, how the EU works. Early feedback points to the game being a success, with students reportedly promising to do each other’s homework in exchange for support in virtual Common Agricultural Policy talks. Earlier today, the game’s creator, Vít Šisler, gave me a demonstration:
“It’s an educational strategy game called Europe 2045. In the game each student is responsible for one member state of the European Union. He or she is responsible for the internal politics – so for setting taxes, for social policy. And if we look at the second screen here then you have your government. You have your ministers and you can very easily change the domestic policies for your state – so you can change taxes, but also the money you put into the environment and into education. But the simulation is not based only on economic issues; it is also based on ethical and more general issues, so you can decide whether to allow registered partnerships of same-sex couples or you can change your country’s drug policy.”
It all looks rather complicated – for what age group did you design this game?
“For 16-19 year olds, or 16-18 year olds. For students at secondary school.”
“Basically, the working of the European Union is quite unfamiliar to most Czech teenagers and, to be honest, it is really complicated – if you try to explain to high school students what exactly the structure of the European Union is, and what its activities are and what duties it has, then it is a rather huge and complex system. And so our aim was to create a simulation which immersed or engaged the student directly into the system, and directly into these activities.”
Presumably the way things work in Brussels is important to those working directly for the European Union, but why do you think it is important for Czech high school students to know as well?
“Well actually, it is important to know that this game was financed partially by the European Union, but it was financed not to be PR for the European Union, but instead within the EU’s programme to develop secondary education. And the game is open to many possibilities, some of the topics there are currently being discussed in the European Union, some of them are not. Actually, you can very easily transfer some of these topics from the European level back onto a national level. So, in the game actually, if the students really want to, then they can deconstruct the European Union and put these processes back into their own economic frameworks. The game is really open and it is not an advert for the European Union. But I think the crucial thing for students is this – that they are living in the European Union and they are living in Europe, period.
“It is not just about the EU – the game assimilates the conflict in Chechnya, it assimilates Europe’s relationship to Russia, it assimilates the conflict in Darfur. The relationships between Europe as a whole and the US and China are in the game as well. So it is not only about internal European politics. And I think that basically, you should know what affects you and what system you live in, and you should try to understand it.”