1960: The Making of the President

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The election of 1960 was one of the most pivotal elections in American history. The country was walking into the arms of the cold war while also struggling to deal with issues of the economy and civil rights at home. That year also brought the campaign to the American public in a way never seen before, straight into their living rooms through television. 1960: The Making of the President revives this political struggle, giving it yet another novel introduction, on the tabletop. In the game, students take on the role of one of the presidential candidates as they strive win the support of the American people and propel themselves into the highest political office.
The game is played over nine turns, during which students use campaign cards to influence and strengthen their political standing. Each card features an event or individual which influenced the political environment of the time with appropriate primary source images for each. When played, these cards can either be used for the featured event or for the number of campaign points listed. The events make specific changes to the political landscape while the points can be used in a variety of areas including campaigning for support from the states, strengthening the politician's strength in the issues of the day or even investing in media support in different regions across the United States. Besides the difficult decision on how to use their cards, players also have to select one card each turn to set aside for the debates which are held later in the game. The debates are vital as they can provide a powerful boost to the candidate's support, even swinging key states their way.
Over the course of the game, each candidate's political standing is shown by support cubes that are placed on a map of the United States, with each state showing its electoral vote value as it stood in 1960. This gives students insight into how the political landscape has changed over the last fifty-plus years, as current powerhouse political states such as California are mere shadows of themselves. From the map, students can plan their campaign strategies, moving their candidates into key areas to campaign for support.
While 1960: The Making of the President is a longer, more complex game, the return on investment is well worth the time spent getting students engaged with the resource. Not only do students come to appreciate the variety of influences on candidates, they are able to participate with the electoral process in a way that is difficult to recreate in the classroom. And while the game is listed as a two player game, the complexity of play makes it a wonderful game for more. Groups of students can play as the campaign team for a particular candidate. In this case, each player on the campaign team helps make decisions on how to use the campaign cards while also being responsible for tracking one aspect of play such as: media support, the issues or a support in a particular region of the board. This approach reflects some of the best aspects of games in the classroom, as students work together, sharing strategies and solving problems.