Sunday, 25 September 2011

Rostows model and Sim city: a comparison

Whilst teaching my A2 U6th class the other day Superpower theories; Rostow's model of development, Wallerstein's World Systems theory and the Dependency theory i found myself thinking back to the late 1980s/early 1990s playing Sim City.

It seemed to me at that juncture that there were remarkable similarities between Rostow's model of development and the object of the game itself. For those not as well acquainted with SC or simply too young, SC was a platform computer game in which the object was to simply build a city, without specific  goals to achieve (except in certain scenarios like earthquake, traffic congestion, coastal flooding etc). Like Rostow's model, the savvy player would establish firstly the pre-conditions for take off (infrastructure, industry etc) and then rapid development of 'take off' would follow, which would enable the player to invest further and enhance the city through urbanisation and a drive towards maturity and stabilisation. Rostow's model though does have it's criticisms: outdated, over-simplistic, for poor countries capital is often in the form of development aid (which then leads to debt) and that it does not take into account neo-colonialism.

Nevertheless, I do feel that teachers in both sectors, state and private, often undervalue and overlook the use of computer games as a learning tool to aid their teaching - I am of course referring here to strategic games that are imbued with logic and history of course, as opposed to shoot shoot kill genre games.

For me Sim City, Age of Empires and other games of this ilk have value and are useful in the classroom. As Collier states in his book the bottom billion one of the fundamental traps keeping many of the poorest countries poor is the fact that they (and often their landlocked neighbours) lack a basic working infrastructure which keeps them poor. This is the basic principle of Sim City - if you do not invest in the necessary pre-conditions for take off, your city will perish!

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