History professor designs board game 

by Brendon Bryan 

Board games are known for being a great way to unwind, but it turns out they are also effective in the classroom. 

Troy University history professor Dr. Elizabeth “Scout” Blum uses board games in her classes to add context to moments in history, and now she is developing her own educational game. 

Blum regularly uses Monopoly to help her students understand the Gilded Age of the United States. Initially, students will play the game as usual. Then, Blum hands out cards that change the game by restricting players and their actions based on the norms and restrictions of race, social standing, and gender during the Gilded Age. 

 “You can have history that’s written in a book, you can have a movie like ‘Schindler’s List’ about the Holocaust that’s a part of history, and you can have board games,” Blum said.

Now,  Blum is developing her own board game, Rising Waters. It is set during the 1927 Mississippi Flood, and players must navigate the disaster through a unique lens. 

“I have the players play from the perspective of African Americans,” Blum said. “There are very, very few games that do that for players. 

“I felt that it was important to represent that perspective.”

 Blum’s interest in environmental disasters attracted her to design a game about the flood.

 “This is a game that I wanted to design to fill a gap in my classes, and I didn’t really have a game that dealt with the 1920s,” Blum said. “I wanted one for students to be able to play, but I wanted it to be from a slightly different perspective.” 

Central Michigan University is working with Blum to publish Rising Waters during the latter half of summer.

 For  Blum, games enhance the educational experience in the classroom.

“What I want to do is to be an advocate for other game designers coming up and to try to make sure that there are spaces for women to design and get published and for people of color to design and get published,” Blum said. “I want to help be an advocate in whatever way I can.”

Blum also encourages anyone who does not play board games to try them out due to their in-depth storytelling, mechanics, and overall enjoyment. She said Pandemic is her favorite game.

 For students interested in history and board games,  Blum teaches two classes every fall semester called “History through Games” and “History of Games,” where students are taught history through board games, as well as the history of board games.

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