What is Gaming World History?

World History

World History is a specialization within the academic field of history that examines the globe as a single unit of analysis.   It seeks to understand forces shaping the human experience that are axiomatic: forces that operate in all times, in all locations, impacting humans as a species.

History as a Game

Teaching history "as a game" is a cutting-edge pedagogy.  The technique uses computer games, role-playing games, table-top strategy games, card-games (to name a few)  configured to model situations, indivduals, institutions, economic systems and socio-political structures of the past.  During play,  students proactively "solve" for answers to historical dilemmas.   Working both individually and in groups, the "gamified" classroom encourages proactive, independent and student-centered learning.  

Gaming World History

Gaming World History: the First 50,000 Years is an introductory world history course.  It covers human history from the Paleolithic period to approximately the 14th century.  The course can be scaled from an intimate seminar-sized class of 12 -15 students to a large classroom of 60.  It can accommodate lesson-plans of 15 - 30 weeks.

This course does not seek to cover the "major civilizations of the world" in a comprehensive manner, as many introductory world history courses do.  Rather, it is an historical materialist exploration of the "political-economy of the calorie;" it asks students to solve for the rules that enable "energy" to circulate most efficiently within various social systems, and demonstrates which, why and how some of these systems become increasingly complex, productive, energy-expensive yet fragile.   Students use real historical data --  specific struggles and events from the historical record -- as examples and as "clues" with which to solve puzzles, beat the Boss, outplay their classroom colleagues and win the game!

Theory-Driven Themes and Frameworks

Gaming World History and the mechanics driving each game ("mechanics" are game structures and the arithmetic that result in particular outcomes during play) emerge from the research and theories of preeminent world historians Fernand Braudel, David Christian, Alfred Crosby, anthropologist Richard Sahlins, political scientist James Scott, and biologist Edward O. Wilson.  The course takes an historical materialist approach to political economy, positing that at root, the ecological conditions in which the human organism finds itself are the driving force behind human behavior and experience, in any location and in any period of time.

The Game Modules

Foraging the Wild

This map-based roll-playing game models the earliest and longest extant political economy in human history: kinship.  As members of an imaginary Hunting and Gathering band,  students work together to develop appropriate technological relationships with particular and specific ecological niches,discover the relationship between mobility and material culture, explore the rules determining the creation and  distribution of resources, and deploy political mechanisms that defend social norms and preserve group cohesion.  Forget about survival of the fittest!  What about survival of the most altruistic?

The Bosses and the Bossed

This map-based table-top game models early agrarian societies, and the early emergence of hierarchical political structure. As members of a small imaginary farming community, students work together to solve the technological and sociological problems associated with "hoarding," a new technology that emerged in some locations following the last Ice Age.  Students develop appropriate technological relationships with particular and specific environmental conditions. They use the resulting agricultural surplus (or deficit) in a battle to be  Big Men, manipulating the complex dynamic between "gifts" and "debts" to secure livelihoods and social status in an increasingly hierarchically ordered  society.  It's "good to be the king!"  Or is it?

Urbanity and Empire

This map-based roll-playing game models the most complex, energy-intensive political economy in human history prior to the emergence of capitalism: empire. Beginning with city-states, which rapidly consolidate into competitive kingly states and in some locations, condense into empire, students roll-play the administrative apparatuses of the state, shape and control vast bureaucracies, develop infrastructure, suppress internal unrest, and defend against foreign aggression in constantly changing environmental conditions.   Will they rule an Empire that puts Rome's to shame?  Or "of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sand stretch far away"?

About Me


Dr. Christienne Hinz received her Ph.D. degree from the Ohio State University in 2001.  Her fields of specialization are Modern Japanese History, World History and Business History.  She takes a particular interest in  the connections between gender, material culture and capitalism.

Dr. Hinz currently is Associate Professor of History, and Director of History Undergraduate Assessment at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Teaching Experience

Dr. Hinz has developed and taught original courses in SIUE's history undergraduate and graduate programs  including Comparative Asian Civilizations, Revolution in Modern China, Ideas of Empire in the Japanese Imagination, Gender and Nationalism in East Asia, History: Theory and Method,  Playing  with Time: The Craft of World History, and World History: the First 50,000 Years.

In Addition

Christienne is a parent, a fiber artist, a Master Gardener specializing in native ecosystem restoration, and she plays roller derby with Saint Louis' world-ranked ARCH Rival Roller Derby.