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“The Long After Life of Simulation Software: Hidden Agenda”

Some folks are rather big on the use of games and simulations for learning. So were we.. back in 1995.

Here is another article from our Fall 2003 issue of the mcli Forum. In “The Long After Life of Simulation Software: Hidden Agenda”, we interviewed Jim Gasperini who had created in the late 1980s a role=playing computer game based on the politics of Central America. The game was described:

The images of Central America in our Newspapers and TV are mostly of conflict–warfare, assassinations, strikes, revolutions, disputed elections, military coups. What keeps this region in endless turmoil? Why can’t Central America settle down?

Now, with Hidden Agenda, your students can try their hands at governing a simulated country, Chimerica , and see for themselves. By taking a turn as president of Chimerica, students experience first-hand pressure facing a third-world country. They make decisions, make events happen, make headlines. As they become invested in the game, students will suspend their North American viewpoint and learn to empathize with the plight of a developing nation.

In 1995 we came up with the idea of having some of our community college faculty evaluate a few computer games and have them generate some ideas on how they might be used in specific learning situations. In the mix were a few of the SIm (SimCity, SmEarth, SmHealth), Myst, etc… and this game created by Jim called Hidden Agenda

Our article, based on an e-mail interview with Jim, reviews how the game to be, how some unintended actions by a government official resulted in wide software piracy, and most interestingly, how the software is still used today via a unique set up where Jim gives a free copy of the software in exchange for an “answer and a promise.”.

Briefly, in the 1990s the software company that had released Hidden Agenda went under, the software was absorbed and ignored elsewhere. Someone brought to Jim’s attention that the just-starting-to-buzz world wide web was revealing that people were still trying to find this software that was no longer commercially available, and one of those web sites generating e-mails was our review of Hidden Agenda.

Jim had contacted us and we set up the current system- he will email anyone a free copy of the software if the agree to provide some feedback or suggestions on the game and if they promise to make a donation to a non government organization working in Central America.

Even now, at least 15 years after the release of the software, Jim gets regular email requests (1 per day) for Hidden Agenda. He had kindly provided a few examples of these emails which we appended to the web version of the article.

Also very much with seeing are the stereographic images Jim is currently creating called Cockeyed Creations.

Well, I thought this was an interesting story. Long live Chimerica!

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.