New academic board game covers topics of racism and environmental issues

The Center for Learning Through Games and Simulations has raised money for newest board game Rising Waters

| Author: Ellie Heron | Media Contact: Kara Owens

The Center for Learning through Games and Simulation (CLGS) met its Kickstarter stretch goal of $19,000 on November 3, for its newest game: Rising Waters. This Kickstarter launched on October 4 and has since received over 300 backers supporting the game. This is the second game that the CLGS has released, and is published through the CMICH Press, a board game publishing press run by CMU to produce academic games. Their goal is to help increase use of games in classrooms and promote games as scholarly endeavors that make meaningful contributions to their respective academic fields.  

Rising Waters is a cooperative board game set in the 1927 flooding of the Mississippi Delta. The players work together to manage the rising waters of the flood, while dealing with racism from the landowners of the area. The game was culturally consulted on throughout its formulation, as players take on an African American perspective, forced to confront systematic racism, one of the main struggles of the game, and environmental issues associated with flood control. It’s design sheds light not only on the struggles of the African American community, but also on the ways they banded together in “invisible” resistance, through prayer, music, education, and knowledge of the land.  

In addition to the cultural consultation relating to the game, it also has an intentionally diverse development team.  The tabletop game industry is largely dominated by white males, something this game moved away from in order to better represent perspectives not usually seen in gaming worlds. The game designer, Dr. Scout Blum, is a woman, and the artwork for the game has all been created by artists of color.  

Dr. Blum, a history professor at Troy University, has been working on the development of Rising Waters since the fall of 2020. The game has since been blind peer-reviewed for both scholarship and game mechanics and is designed for both hobbyist and academic play. Rising Waters was play tested at the 2022 Gen Con and was previewed on gaming podcast “Beyond Solitaire” It was also recently discussed in an article by the Guardian about how board games can teach us about climate crisis. 

The CLGS is already working on their next game as well, titled Five-Hundred-Year-Old-Vampire, and hope to launch their Kickstart for that soon after the production of Rising Waters is complete. They also offer a Game Design Thinking minor, and an Applied Game Design certificate through CMU in partnership with Gen Con, the largest tabletop game convention in North America.  

Rising Waters is available for pre-order and is expected to begin shipping in May of 2023.

This story is brought to you by the  Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

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