Division One Uses "Great Powers" to Simulate World War I

By 6th grader Luca

From the start of this exciting new trimester, Division 1 has been rapidly learning about the first World War. It’s exciting and captivating to learn about such a tragic and significant conflict. At the beginning of the Great War, there was a great sense of anticipation, since many countries expected and even hoped for a war. This feeling was very similar to what I, and other Division 1 students, were feeling before we started our “Great Powers” simulation.

The Great Powers simulation is a game where each student is assigned a country, and some of us worked in pairs. We all were given a certain amount of colonies, army, military, and industry, which reflected those of our real nation. Jack and I were given the role of the Ottoman Empire. Each country got a sheet describing which countries we were friends with, our enemies, and our main goals. Jack and I were confident; we had good colonies and industry, plus we had not done anything to make any enemies. Catherine then announced that the first year of the game had started. The countries scrambled to make allies and plan their attacks.

The main goal of the game is to obtain more power -- obviously, for this game is called “Great Powers.” One way to do this is to go to war, since the victors can take anything they like from the defeated. The Ottoman Empire, being opposed to war, was confident that we would be safe…boy, were we wrong.

Great Britain declared war within in the first year of the simulation (a “year” is about 5-10 minutes). The Ottoman Empire was unprepared, although Japan and the United States joined us in war. Great Britain and her allies slaughtered us, leaving us with nothing. They took everything from us. Jack and I sadly slumped back into our chairs, examining our one remaining industry card. Soon one of our closest allies, France, approached us; they were breaking their alliance with us for we had no purpose anymore. Now that made us angry. At our worst, France, a long-held friend (at least according to our country sheet) had broken their alliance with us.

Jack and I spent a year (remember, that’s a “year”) rebuilding our country. We made alliances with Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. We were so desperate for help that we stopped paying attention to our country sheet. It was two years after the first World War when France declared that we shall fight in battle against each other, but little did they know were prepared. Our trusted allies had informed us that Jance (a new country formed when France and Japan combined) were going to war against us. At this point, the game started to feel more personal and intense. I got mad at my friends and really competitive. When France declared war, none of their allies went with them because they were allied with us. Every single country stood by our side in war. We slaughtered France, and Germany invaded them. France was left as barely a country. It had to give up all its resources, and Germany was in control. I felt bad for France, but I realized -- and it was a scary realization -- that I liked feeling mean more than feeling sad. I felt in control.

I decided that Jack and I should follow our paper better. We broke alliances with several countries and tried to stay out of the other wars. Germany got even more powerful and eventually overran even the United States and Great Britain. But having stepped back from the action, I felt relaxed. I realized that no matter what, even if it's a game, I did not enjoy any aspect of war.

Germany declared the last Great War. It was brutal and left us with nothing but our army. We had to surrender. We were no match for Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Germany combined.

The simulation has taught me a lot. World War 1 was so dark and intense, even getting a tiny glimpse into what it was like between 1914 and 1918 was educational. I got the chance to be at the top and the very bottom, and get some small perspective on what it felt like for countries in both situations. When I was winning the game, I felt mean and dirty, and when I was losing the game, I felt sad and mad at everyone. Did the real leaders of the World War One powers feel this way? Can losing a Great War -- like we did in the simulation -- make a country act as we did, using our weakness and hurt only to justify revenge?