Normativity Political Board Game
Watch out for the trap of normativity!

Dear Hegemonians,

So far, we told you about some basic gameplay mechanics and how those were inspired by academic theories which we deem as important for the game´s educational value. But, while reading all of this, maybe the following question popped up in your head: “You talk a lot about different theories you want to incorporate into your game. How do you ensure that you are not preaching in favor of one particular ideology?” This is the age-old question of normativity, something we want to address in this article:

This term, in essence, describes a mindset which looks at the world through the lens of internalized norms that make certain things (in our case, theories) seem more justified than others. And, indeed, this is a very tricky subject. In fact, basically all of our lives are governed by social norms: How we dress, how we greet each other, all the way to how we chew our food is influenced by what the society we live in regards as “acceptable”. Additionally, these norms also span into the way we think about the world in an abstract or generalized sense, especially in the form of theories. So how do we prevent that?

Generally, there are three ways in which we try to confront the issue at hand: First, by handling all concepts in a value-free manner, secondly, by focusing on common denominators of the theories we employ and thirdly, by presenting a wide scope of different theories. Let us talk about each of those elements:

Most importantly, we try to handle all concepts without evaluating them. In the field of academic theories surrounding politics or economics, this is a particularly important and difficult task as even the thinkers whose concepts we incorporate usually embraced the view that their concepts are truly best for society. Hayek, for example, explains the neoliberal laissez-faires economy very precisely but simultaneously advertises it as well. On the other side, Gramsci brilliantly described the cultural hegemony but additionally is normatively motivated by the fight for a socialist order. The important second step, hence, is to find the common denominator many theorists agree in to reduce the risk of giving the game a theoretical bias.

Let us, for example, take the policies which are being debated upon in the parliament: While the general directions we outlined in our last post are generally accepted in the academic community, we do not try to speak in favor of any of them. We present you policy proposals which have been put forward by different theorists, but it is up to you to decide which side to take based on the objectives you pursue as the player. In other words, our founder aimed to create a board game which is a fun tool to learn about politics, economics and the political economy and their applications in real life without an underlying agenda. Therefore, thirdly, we provide a range of different theoretical opinions, but we do not favor any of them.

Naturally, this is a process that is easier said than done as it requires constant self-awareness. But we are convinced that in order to make a truly educational game in the realm of politics and economics, one has to let the players learn about the concepts but let them decide for themselves which path they want to take. Of course, this is only one of the many difficulties one has to face while creating an educational board game. If you want to find out more about the multi-faceted challenges one will encounter and will need to address while pursuing such a project, click here.

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