choose your own conquest!

I taught a miniterm class over the last three weeks on the Spanish Conquest of the Americas. We met for roughly 2:30-3:00 per day, which posed its own set of challenges. Reading expectations were lowered with this schedule. And, I certainly wasn’t going to lecture for most of that time every day of the week. So, we balanced lecture and discussion with analyzing portrayals of Spanish imperialism in feature and documentary film.

For a final project, I gave the students the option of writing a paper on three films, critiquing the films using Matt Restall’s Seven Myth. I also gave them the option of forming small groups to put together a choose-your-own-adventure text game on some aspect of the conquest. An intrepid few chose the latter, mostly because they were fatigued by the notion of writing papers. Given the short time span, I was particularly impressed with a couple of the games.

We used Twine to write the stories. Twine is nice because it is multiplatform, and uses simple wiki syntax to construct the story. That’s because Twine is essentially a wrapper around TidlyWiki. It’s intuitive, and easy to work with, as long as you remember to name the first entry “Start”.

The students essentially turned the classic document collection Victors and Vanquished into text games, and conveniently one group chose the Spanish perspective and the other chose the Mexica. Click through those links to see the finished products.

One note on doing this– the process of writing such a story lends itself to reproducing the myth of exceptional men, in which individual decisions and actions are preeminent in making the conquest. We talked so much about that, though, that the groups noted it when they presented their work today.

At any rate, as a short order experiment over just a few weeks of class (15 class days!), I think it was successful. I’ll definitely do it again.

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Associate Professor of Early Latin America Department of History University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Posted in Digital History, Latin American History, Teaching
4 comments on “choose your own conquest!
  1. Great work indeed from a 15-day class! Most importantly, it showed that they understood the politics and the contingency involved in the conquest of the Mexica–that it was in no way foreordained. I’d love to see what a full semester class could do. Are you planning to use this method in other classes in the future?

  2. ctb says:

    I definitely will. The Mexica game is particularly good, in that its dead ends are very playful in a magical realism sort if way.

    With more time we would be able to get I to much more complex games and also more CSS customization and design.

  3. I look forward to seeing more gamified colonial Latin American history!
    BTW–Mexica link doesn’t appear to be working.

  4. ctb says:

    That’s so weird. I swear, I have fixed that link three times now and WordPress keeps stripping the href from the link tag. Fixed.

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Hacer juicio ú dictamen acerca de alguna cosa... significando que el objeto excita el juicio ú dictamen en la persona que le hace.

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Chad Black

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I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.
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