By Erin Isaac and Dr. Benjamin Hoy
For many, board games conjure up memories of time spent with family and friends around the dinner table. I remember, when I was young, drinking cream soda while watching my sister eviscerate my hopes of owning Park Place and my mom bend the rules to keep me out of bankruptcy. Years later, I still remember the stories those games created.
Yet, board games offer much more than a low-stakes evening of family fun or the indoctrination of capitalist principles—they can be used to teach and understand history. As primary documents, historical board games provide scholars with a glimpse into the past. Games made in the 1960s, for example, project ideas about American expansionism and female domesticity that seem distant from our ideals today.
As teaching tools, board games give players a stake in the narrative’s outcome. They bring to life concepts and ideas that are otherwise hard to teach. Games can help students understand the risks and benefits historical people weighed when making decisions. Would they smuggle? Would they participate in the Underground Railroad?
To explore these ideas, I visited Dr. Benjamin Hoy at the University of Saskatchewan to talk about his research and the ways he uses board games in his own classroom. Continue reading