educational roleplaying

I need some help finding out about educational roleplaying. What I want is a gamesystem that allows the students to experience and understand the strain of living in a totalitarian state without basic rights people in democratic countries enjoy. like freedom of speech etc.

Anyone know anything about this?


There’ve been some psychological studies on the subject. Check out work by Zimbardo. There is no game that can truly simulate the psychological oppression one feels in such a setting.

The one that instantly jumped into my mind was Final Fantasy Tactics, but you should probably get an opinion from someone with more knowledge on the subject than me.

The first example of “totalitarian government” that sprang to my mind was Half-Life 2, but, uh, you aren’t playing as someone who really experiences the oppression except second-hand. And anyway it’s not an RPG … and the rocket-propelled grenade launcher doesn’t count …

Usually there’s a psychological burden if the state in question is starting numerous wars, but in peacetime, most people care more about working and supporting their families than about some seemingly-vague idea of “freedom.” Many people in democratic countries don’t exercise their freedoms anyway, or even voluntarily offer to give them up, so if the goal is to scare students with some kind of dystopian nightmare, I really don’t think it would be accurate. But if the goal is just to look at a game with a dystopian atmosphere, I think Deus Ex runs somewhat along those lines. It’s definitely not what I would call “educational,” though.

I can’t think of any game that has the specific purpose of educating about the dangers of possible totalitarianism. Most games are made to entertain rather than to provoke some sort of deep psychological experience, after all. While role-playing games have elements of the latter more than other genres, you’re probably better off sticking to books. If you think dystopias by Orwell, Huxley, Atwood, or Bradbury are too overused (which they are but with good reason), or if you’re looking for something other than a book, there’s the more recent and pressing <i>The Iron Road</i> by Mawdsley, which is a first-hand telling of his stay in a Burmese prison cell and subsequent rescue(s) by the British-Australian embassy, and of course, the movie <i>V for Vendetta</i>, although it’s quite disgusting how well North American audiences received it because it was a <i>British</i> dystopia. God forbid that America, <i>land of the free</i>, should <i>ever</i> become something like that.

Don’t worry…we’re slowly making progress in that general direction. >_>

As you said gamesystem and not game, I think you might mean pen & paper RPGs. is a site more focused on P&P so you could also check their forums, asking for a preferably rules-light system.

I’d second 1984 because its ideas and observations run deeper than a simple lack of political rights.

What a dangerous (and un-American!) sentiment… You can’t mitigate the oppression felt by a large fraction of a totalitarian ruled populace simply because “most people” don’t care, however true that may or may not be. The people who DO care are usually minorities and outcasts of various sorts and most especially the intellectual minority who think above the herd. This is in fact the most precious group within a society and the most at risk of being eliminated by an authoritarian dictator.

It’s not a “sentiment,” it’s a “fact.” I didn’t say it somehow excuses authoritarianism. On the contrary, I tend to criticise people who, for example, support the vile “Patriot Act” on the grounds that the draconian provisions contained in it won’t affect them. I’m just pointing out the obvious fact that, since that measure is regrettably in no danger of being repealed anytime soon despite our ostensibly democratic government, it would appear that most people don’t feel oppressed by it at all. That they should feel oppressed by it is a whole other discussion. Far from being “un-American,” which these days is an utterly meaningless term, American society has long had a tendency toward self-censorship of precisely this kind. Of course, such a tendency is present in every society to some degree.

But, despite its own susceptibility to this trend, Western society still views itself as the world’s only source of freedom. This leads many Americans and Europeans to make a show of caring about the supposed psychological oppression allegedly suffered at all times by all people living under all other forms of government, which in turn soon leads them to the lamentable idea that they can “liberate” everyone in the world if they only murder enough people with depleted uranium and cluster bombs. My point in that connection is that war is a much greater source of psychological oppression than a form of government, which is why, for example, a majority of Iraqis now believe, and rightly so, that they were better off under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship than under the so-called “democracy.”


If you want a great game set in a totalitarian government, try Paranoia. It’s not a SERIOUS game, but it can raise serious issues for students.

Tossing in a vote for Paranoia. Totally need to get a game of that going sometime.

I second pretty much the entirety of that post, TD.

Thanks you everyone for all the helo. I have come to realise that the exercises goal can be reach very efficiently with a simple prisonguard scenario, so I think I will try that out. But thank you everyone, and I will test out Paranoia for my own personal entertainment.

btw Sephiroth Katana, I totally agree with you that the majority in our western society is ignorant to their basic freedomes and that is part of what I want the kids to understand, but otherwise you are completely right, and I see your point. Being European I donæ’t have to deal with the patriot act, but I would not have been very happy if my Norwegian govrnment tried to impose something similar on my country.