Blue Donut Games is working with the University of Manchester and Nottinham& Trent University to develop an educational resource for teaching principles of law in society using a board game and supporting course material.
What is the game?
The game requires players to make choices about the legal rules which govern their goblin society. Do they want to protect vulnerable groups, or advance the interests of those in power? The goblin leader has free reign to decide which road to take, but will have to live with consequences of their decision. If too many fellow players are dissatisfied with the regime, they will find themselves on the receiving end of a revolution. Such an uprising may result in a new leader imposing a different set of legal priorities, but as in our world, it might equally result in failed coup, leaving the dissents consigned to fetid swamp as a punishment.
The precarious position of a goblin leader makes it challenging enough to strike the right balance between social justice and personal gain, but there is another sting in the tail. Not all goblins have the same characteristics, and rules which benefit some groups will disadvantage others. In other words, it isn’t good enough to tread the right line between the interests of the leader and the needs of the general population, there are conflicting demands to be considered. It’s nearly impossible to please all of the goblins all of the time!
Purpose of the Game
The core purpose is to launch conversations about the Rule of Law, Human Rights and Constitutions. Although the realities of the goblin world are stark, they reflect the dilemmas which human political and legal systems have to navigate. The game forces players to confront the clashes which can arise between majoritarian agendas, and the needs of oppressed minorities. Individuals are obliged to step into the shoes of a character with whom they may have little in common, and are given the task of enabling them to live their best life. Goblin society is brutal, and the discrimination faced by some members of society is as arbitrary as it is devastating. In experiencing this from the inside, participants can’t help but appreciate that our world isn’t all that different.
The game has the advantage of encouraging people to engage with human rights in an empathic way, but does so in a fun manner, which avoids preaching or judgement. Nobody is telling players to adopt a particular moral stance, and it is possible to experiment with different approaches in a safe environment. In this context, the worst outcome from poor choices is losing a board-game.
As well as getting to grips with the ethics of Constitutional systems, the game demonstrates the complexity of their mechanics. For instance, the Rule of Law is dependent on sufficient buy-in from the population, and the meaning of legal provisions isn’t always clear. Where the rules on the cards are ambiguous, the players themselves have to decide on an interpretation, much as courts do. Of course, the players aren’t entirely neutral, but then, could the same be said of human judges?
The game is designed to be a spring board to launch wider conversations about the issues covered. It is set up to reveal some of the injustices and conflicts within societies, and players should be indignant at times. Not everyone has an equal chance of winning, and this is intrinsically unfair. However, the objective is not to frustrate, but to spur discussion about the law and fundamental rights in our world. It is for this reason that alongside the game, its creators are developing learning resources to explore Constitutions, legal systems and human rights. These are aimed at a variety of age groups, and include topics such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Human Rights Act 1998.
Registration of Interest
If you represent a school or college as a teacher, or an interested parent sign-up to the development programme to get news and participate in surveys and join in with play-testing or provide feedback to develop the project.