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The Global Change Game is a large-scale boardgame devised in Winnipeg in December 1991 by a group of students from the University of Manitoba, including Rob Altemeyer. The game is played on "a colourful hand-painted world map the size of a basketball court".[1] It is a simulation that involves exploring, understanding and solving some of the global issues of its time.



A large map of the world is laid out. The game involves up to 70 participants or more (depending on the size of the venue). Each participant is randomly assigned to one of the 10 regions in the world: North America, Latin America, Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Africa, The Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, China and the Pacific Rim. Each player represents roughly 100 million people. Each region begins with realistic assets and problems. North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim are well off, but India and Africa are in extreme poverty. Food supply, medical facilities and employment opportunity tokens are distributed accordingly based on actual figures in reality. Likewise, military strength also mirrors that of the real world. The passing of time represents the number of years. Normally the span is around 30 to 40 years.

At the beginning of the game, the three nuclear powers are asked whether they wish to disarm their nuclear armaments. Players who do not have food, health care or employment are given one black arm band for each of those; any player who receives three will be declared dead. Regions can also declare refugees, however if no other region offers them asylum, they perish into the open ocean. When the game is in play, the facilitators will move around to determine if proposals for certain problems are feasible or not and reward or punish the groups accordingly. For example, the poor management of the environment can lead to famine, strife and pestilence. Facilitators will also announce random problems at specified intervals, ranging from ozone depletion to global warming.

Leaders are chosen in the beginning of each game to lead their respective regions; these leaders are given coats ties and hats to give them the aura of leadership. They control the finances and military strength and are allowed to pocket the wealth of their regions as they deem fit. To win, one must be the leader of a region and acquire the most wealth.

Leaders can also choose to declare war: victory is determined by the army tokens. Once victory is achieved, the loser's territory and assets belong to the winner. If the army tokens are equal then both sides lose not only the armies but also the wealth. A victor can control the invaded territory by stationing troops in the conquered land. Nuclear war wipes out the entire earth population.


Use in researchEdit

In a 1994 study by Canadian-American psychologist Bob Altemeyer, 68 subjects chosen as demonstrating high levels of right-wing authoritarianism played a three-hour version of the Global Change Game, and were compared to a comparison game played by individuals with low RWA scores.[2][3]

The game played by those with low scores resulted in world peace and widespread international cooperation. Seven men and three women made themselves team leader "Elites", and the Elites agreed to meet for talks on "the Island Paradise of Tasmania" whenever an international crisis arose. The three superpowers favored nuclear disarmament at the start of the game, and no wars occurred during the game. When an ozone layer depletion crisis arose, the world's Elites contributed sufficient money to resolve the problem through technology. The game ended with 400 million deaths to disease and starvation in India and Africa, but Altemeyer considered it "actually a highly successful run of the game, compared to most".[3]

In the simulation played by authoritarians, all eight Elite roles were taken by men. The game quickly became highly militarised, with no countries choosing to disarm their nuclear weapons. The game opened with the Elite from the Middle East doubling oil prices, and the Soviet Union investing in armies to invade North America. The North American Elites retaliated with nuclear weapons, instantly ending the game in a nuclear holocaust. When this happens in the game, the facilitators turn off the lights in the room and explain the consequences of the nuclear war, before giving the players a "second chance", turning the game clock back two years. The Soviet Union invaded China instead of the United States, and nuclear war remained a threat for the remainder of the game. Africa and Asia collapsed having spent their resources buying into alliances, and by the end of the game 1.7 billion people had died.[3]

Elites in both games had the option to siphon their country's funds to private accounts, with a prize being given at the end of the game to "World's Richest Person". The Elites in the high-RWA group siphoned more than twice the amount that the low-RWA group had, and Altemeyer attributed the disparity in game outcomes to this, as well as a tendency for high-RWAs to care more about their own group than outsiders.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Archive of original Global Change Game Website
  2. ^ Altemeyer, B. (1996). [The Authoritarian Specter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  3. ^ a b c d Altemeyer, Bob (2006). "The Authoritarians" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2016.