case study

Statecraft is The Best Tool I've Ever Used in a Classroom


Rory Simpson used Statecraft for the first time this semester, sharing a world with his three high school classes. He had a mix of Freshmen, Sophomores and Seniors all playing together. 

In order to make that format work he had to be flexible, but that was exactly what he most loved about the Simulation! It created situations that prompted new lessons and interesting discussions. The simulation demonstrated many different international relations and government lessons that he could adapt to each class based on their knowledge level and what they were currently learning. Students experienced the complexity of running a country first-hand and their struggles were potent learning opportunities. 

Plus, students really enjoyed Statecraft as an online interactive activity. It had a huge impact getting them engaged and participating. 

His Freshman and Sophomore students stated they’re already excited for a chance to play Statecraft again. Now they have experience they can apply towards more evolved playing strategy in future semesters.


January 21, 2021; reflecting on Fall 2020 class experience


Rory Simpson has been teaching for 11 years and is currently a Social Studies teacher at Griswold High School in Helix, OR. 


Mr. Simpson ran one Statecraft International Relations simulation shared by three classes: Freshmen Global Studies, Sophomore American Studies and Senior U.S. GovernmentEach class was broken into two countries to create one world with a total of 27 students. 

For the Fall 2020 semester students attended in a hybrid format. Some students and classes were nearly all-online, and other classes had in-person meetings. 

Rory Simpson Teacher Photo

The game is going to take its own turn depending on the students. It can go in any direction. By being flexible and able to teach different lessons as the game develops I can get the real benefits and capitalize on teachable moments.

I could say: “Okay, this is what's happening in your world, this is how this is like our real world” or “This this is how things were in history.” I was able to take their sim experience and apply it to what we were learning or could learn later.



I was looking for something fun that I could incorporate to online teaching, since this was an all-new format. I didn’t want my classes to be bland: “Log-in, do some homework, here’s some notes.” So I started to do research.

When I found Statecraft I thought: “Okay, this is online and looks like it will bring something fun to class.” I decided to incorporate Statecraft as an interactive activity.

For me, it was really exciting to give my students something new that they could do beyond standard classwork.


I like to incorporate games in my teaching as much as possible because our kids play video games and online games. So when I offer them those features, it speaks to them and what they like to do.

As a result, for some of my students, it was huge. They talked about it all the time, would log in often and would ask questions. Statecraft was what they most wanted to do, that’s what they wanted to focus on. “Oh, we’re doing some Statecraft stuff” was even the reason that some students would show up for in-person learning.

I was able to take things that we were covering in class, and put it into the context of the game. They were learning by playing, which was a lot of fun. It was pretty beneficial.


I ran Statecraft as one game between all three of my high school classes: Freshmen Global Studies (a geography class), Sophomore American Studies (early U.S. history class) and a Senior U.S. Government class. It came out to two countries per class and they all had different ebbs and flows.

A lot of their time spent working on the game was when I had them one day a week in-person. That time playing together in class allowed those two countries to work together closer. I thought maybe Sophomores would collude, and the Seniors would collude, and the Freshmen would collude. I felt I saw that… but in talking with students, they didn’t feel that way.

It was very interesting to see the different styles of play. Both of my Senior countries were very laid back: not worried, taking events as they came. The Sophomores were in the middle: a little reactive but also trying to build up their countries. The Freshmen were the most reactive: they built up a huge military, and it ended up leading to a lot of warfare, including another country being completely taken over.


After the debrief we discovered why the Freshmen were so militaristic: they felt very threatened by an upperclassmen who said that they were going to attack them. So they built up huge militaries, and then at the end of the game, they had nothing to do but use them.

The threats came from a Sophomore who was teasing one of the Freshmen. This person who initiated the threats, he wasn’t a president of a country. His own country teammates didn’t even want him to have the access code to do anything. He didn’t have any real power. He just went rogue, and it set the wheels in motion for it to be a very militaristic simulation. 

I loved the chance to get to talk about that: how fear can easily escalate and something one person said taken out of context can impact an entire world.


The Seniors have taken US history, and they’ve taken global studies, and they understand a little bit about world politics. Plus, they have a good grasp of what’s going on in the world with current events. So for them the lesson in this situation was easy to see and it made a lot of sense. For the Freshmen, we haven’t covered enough material for that to be as relatable. 

I took the opportunity to talk about proliferation. I covered what that is, what that means, and how that affects countries. I got to take stuff that normally I talk about just to Seniors and share that with other classes, which was nice.

ECONOMICS in action

The Freshmen treated the sim like a giant digital game of Risk. Towards the end, they realized their mistake: they had missed out on the economics component.

It really came to a head when the fighting started, and they had these huge militaries, and they first started to use them. Then in the next turn they didn’t have any resources, and they didn’t understand why.

At first it caught me off guard, and then I realized: it’s because they were paying for maintenance on their military. They had spent three or four turns using their resources to build up the militaries, and now on their next turn, their militaries were so big that it took all the resources they were developing just to maintain them. 

Ultimately they understood that they weren’t going to get any more resources unless they expanded. So it was interesting to cover that lesson of how economics works and how things have hidden costs.


The game is going to take its own turn depending on the students. It can go in any directionBy being flexible and able to teach different lessons as the game develops I can get the real benefits and capitalize on teachable moments. 

Some of the lessons that I had previously thought I’d be able to cover with them, they kind of got away from themselves as the game progresses. It was fun to take off those shackles of the original plan, see where it was going and turn that into teachable moments. 

I could say: “Okay, this is what’s happening in your world, this is how this is like our real world” or “This this is how things were in history.” I was able to take their sim experience and apply it to what we were learning or could learn later.

Flexibility is especially helpful when teaching all of these different classes. I’m able to incorporate different lessons in each one. For example, as the Sophomores were in need of different resources we talked about resource allocation, which they learn about as Freshmen. I had a chance to talk a lot about how it inspired these historical events to Sophomores. I was able to reinforce their past lessons. Plus, while we were doing this, we celebrated Pearl Harbor Day. So I incorporated that into a resource quiz, and I made them learn a little bit extra about Pearl Harbor Day and how it happened, and why it happened.


They all did fairly well. They did go to war, but they didn’t use any nuclear weapons.

They did eliminate all the terrorists. That was one of the things driving the warfare. It prompted a really fun discussion about what started the warfare.  

Was it the terrorists and the need to eliminate them? Or was the warfare inevitable and the terrorist situation was simply the excuse that one country used to begin the conflict? We had a long discussion about that, which was pretty fun.


The complexity of the Simulation is one of its strengths because our world is a very complex place.

Sometimes it’s hard to communicate that with the students, because we can only teach one thing at a time. By playing the Simulation and experiencing all of this stuff happening at once they realize how it all ties together. How one person’s threats, and one person’s need for resources, and one person’s desire to please their faction… all of those things lead to these situations and decisions.


This is the best tool I’ve ever used in a classroom, because it can be used so many different ways. You can customize it to fit your needs, especially once you’ve gone through it the first time and learned how it all works.

We played one turn a week with longer turns at the breaks, and I think it could be a game that could be done a little bit faster. For example, I could try a shorter game with turns every day in class.


The resource quizzes were optional but the students were motivated to do them. Kids are not normally motivated to do more work. Usually they do the minimum… but when they’re competing against their classmates, and they want those resources so they can build stuff, they’re going to take that quiz! 

Suddenly they have initiative and drive. I really loved that aspect.


For some of the students, playing as a team was difficult, because you have some strong leader personalities. I had a couple students that normally would be really engaged, but they weren’t the President so they felt like they weren’t doing anything and they disengaged.

I had to say to them: “Your world really needs you because you’re a voice of reason. You should probably talk to some of your classmates about stopping the war that’s happening.” I had to let them know that even though they’re not the leader of their country, that they’re all still important.

The Statecraft Experience

It was nice to play through it once and see how it all worked out, because this was the first time. I didn’t know what was going to happen at the end of each turn. I didn’t know what would happen at the end of the game. So I was rolling through it along with them.

Now, having gone through it once and seeing what the game has to offer (and some of the pitfalls that students fall into) it would definitely make it more enjoyable to go through again. I’d like to use it similarly in the future where I could have a whole school world again.

My simulation experience was really enjoyable. Plus, I’ve had a lot of students ask when we were starting the next game.

Experience Statecraft for Yourself

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