In Trading Races, gameplay consists of speeches delivered by players on a number of race-related issues, who attempt to convince the other players to side with them through the force of their knowledge and use of rhetoric. Each player takes on the role of a Student Assembly member at the University of Michigan. Votes on these issues are taken after each game session to determine which faction wins. This primary game mechanism is in line with the Reacting to the Past game series, developed at Barnard College.

Issues up for debate during gameplay include:

1) the publication of a University of Michigan recruitment flyer with images of predominantly minority students,

2) the possible expansion of the Great Books curriculum to include writers of color,

3) whether a native American symbol should be adopted as a university mascot, and

4) The future of affirmative action at the University of Michigan.

Players need to base their speeches and arguments on the ideas and philosophies contained within the core texts for gameplay. These core texts include a variety of readings drawn from history, sociology, anthropology and literature on race relations.

Some players may be assigned role-specific readings which should inform their characters and their victory objectives.



Players are divided into characters made up of three different factions on the Student Assembly:

1) a faction that is highly attuned to the politics of race and who advocate race-conscious policies,

2) a conservative faction that promotes “color-blindness,” and

3) a group of characters who are indeterminate—i.e. they have not made up their minds on these issues.

Despite being in the same faction, each character is designed with individualized concerns drawn from their own ideological orientations and personal experience. These individualized concerns inform their victory objectives.

Additionally, ideological worldviews are not defined by ethnic group, gender or sexual orientation in the game. (For example, not all white students will be against affirmative action, and not all African-American students will support it.) Players can only win by making arguments consistent with their written roles.


How to Win or Lose

Players either win or lose the game based on two factors:

1) if the goals of their individual faction are achieved (i.e. the votes on the resolutions are passed in favor of their factions), and

2) if they succeed in the individualized victory objectives which their characters have been given.


Classroom Use

The game is designed to take up NINE class sessions (between 1 hour to 75 minutes a session). Four sessions at the beginning will be devoted to “set-up”, where the instructor will go over the issues in core texts and historical setup. The next four sessions are actual gameplay, where student players will present their speeches and vote on each resolution. The final session is a wrap-up, where the instructor will explain how the game, and the play of the game, may have diverged from any historical circumstances at the University of Michigan at 2003.


Game Development

A gamebook and instructor’s manual is currently being developed, and a prototype is planned for October 2013. An electronic version of the game is also being planned. If you would like to playtest this game, please contact the game developer Adeline Koh.

One Response to “Gameplay”

  1. Allison Mathews April 18, 2013 at 3:59 pm Permalink

    I teach Race and Ethnic Relations in the sociology department at UNC. I would LOVE to test play the game for my summer course and/or fall 2013. Please get in contact with me!

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