“The research, time, and intentionality that went into this game design is truly incredible.”
Here are what some of our clients – and their students – are saying about 42EdGames!
I used Ray’s game Eyeball to Eyeball (simulating the Cuban Missile Crisis) in my college American history survey in April of 2021. Ray’s generous and thoughtful support helped ensure it was a successful learning activity. Ray sent numerous emails with clear and careful advice tailored for the circumstances of my particular class (and offered to communicate or participate in any other ways I might find helpful). The simulation game and accompanying online software are already structured to make instructor setup and startup simple and straightforward, but at moments where I needed clarification or where the game took an unexpected turn, Ray was extraordinarily helpful and responsive, demonstrating a real commitment to making sure the game ran effectively for my students. Their collective feedback attested to how much they learned from the game about not just the specifics of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the global perils of a cold war between nuclear superpowers, but also more broadly about how government bureaucracies work to navigate crises, the stakes of weighty decisions necessarily made quickly with insufficient information, the challenges of diplomatic communication, the diversity of oft-conflicting goals pursued by actors within shared institutions, and the real power imbalances both within individual governments and among states and non-state actors that shape policy outputs potentially affecting everyone. For any instructor interested in teaching about the Cold War, 20th century American (or Soviet or Cuban) diplomatic and military history, or the nature of bureaucratic decision making in times of crisis, this is an excellent learning activity, not least because of the attentive guidance Ray is sure to provide.
Dr. Corey M. Brooks
Associate Professor of History
York College of Pennsylvania
The activity in class that helped me understand the course material the most was the cold war full-class discord game. I feel that it brought together everybody in the class and really made us feel like we were working towards a greater goal and really kept us on our toes.
I have used “Eyeball to Eyeball” twice previously in-person in my American foreign relations case-study class. It was a huge success each time and a valuable learning experience for my students. In Spring 2020, we had shifted to remote learning by the time we came to this topic. I ran the simulation through our LMS and Zoom that semester – with decidedly less success. For 2021, I approached Ray Kimball for advice, having play-tested the new on-line edition the previous summer. To say that Ray stepped up is a huge understatement. Ray explained all of the options to me and offered to run the entire “back of the shop” operation for me so that I could focus on managing the game itself. We actually ran the class twice for two sections. Both were successful from an educational perspective and gained very positive reviews from the students. The success was largely due to Ray’s management of the software and his guidance as we both prepared and as we ran the simulation. It’s technologically daunting. Having Ray’s experienced had on the tiller was the key to success.
Terry A. Breese
School of Politics, Security and International Relations
University of Central Florida
The activity that was the most informational to me was the Cuban Missile Crisis activity. It helped me to understand firsthand how difficult it is to come to a compromise and work with other leaders. It also got me thinking about the unit on technology because it dealt with nuclear war. This simulation was great because it held my attention and allowed me to think and discuss with other people.
From our first conversations, Ray focused on creating a rich educational experience. To that end, he always enthusiastically welcomed suggestions from me, my students and professional colleagues.
As a developer, Ray is a joy to work with. He can see a potential topic or game scenario both as a designer and a historian. I could focus on my own passion—the story, the sources and the characters—because he handled the tech side. At the same time, his historical expertise helped assure that each role and variable “fit” the broader context.
When I asked about tweaking game parameters, he responded within hours—suggesting a creative way to better encourage students to use primary sources and think in character.
Ray offers support tailored to my classes and institutional needs. He’s a quick study of class dynamics, and offered helpful advice to me as an instructor before and during the game. Students found him approachable and responsive. One student said they wished Ray would introduce all role play scenarios!
Finally, Ray is seemingly unflappable even in the heat of the moment. Whether it’s a technological glitch or a human miscommunication, Ray sees solving and learning from a problem as inherently intertwined.
Dr. Kimberly Redding
I absolutely adored the Cuban Missile Crisis simulation. It gave me a better understanding of what goes on behind the hectic curtains of conflict and set my view in a place other than that of a citizen.
Professor Ray Kimball was our game development editor for Korea at the Crossroads of Civilizations: Confucianism, Westernization, and the 1894 Kabo Reforms, a Reacting to the Past historical-role playing game. Although the game has been extensively play-tested at numerous universities over the past decade, we needed fresh eyes to update the game according to the current RTTP format (often referred to as Reacting 2.0). Ray went over the game closely and helped to make the game more accessible for Reacting gamemasters and students who are not necessarily East Asia specialists. He also helped us cull through the many different primary sources and streamlined the game. He was especially mindful of our wish to adhere to as much accurate history as possible, and we are very pleased with our experience working with Ray. We were also impressed with Ray’s attention to detail as well as his eagle-eye vision of the game. And most of all, he was an excellent communicator and kept in touch with us through each step. We recommend Ray for other RTTP game authors as well as anyone else who is developing innovative, game-based pedagogy.
Dr. Jennifer Jung-Kim
UCLA Department of Languages and Cultures
Dr. John Duncan
UCLA Asia Pacific Center
We enjoyed the game very much. It was fun and interesting and kept us engaged. The game helped give a good idea of the dilemmas people face when making decisions like these.
I played the “Eyeball-to-Eyeball” Cuban Missile Crisis game with my Honors Modern World History class in Spring 2021, and it was a fantastic experience for everyone involved. From the first time I reached out about incorporating the game into my class until the game clock ran out, Ray was available and ready to help. Thanks to his “running the show” behind the scenes on the ExSim platform, the game itself could not have gone more smoothly. His knowledge of the Cuban Missile Crisis and its development is truly impressive, but even more incredible is how well he distilled this historical expertise into a game accessible to college students not majoring in History. Thanks to the rich selection of written and visual primary sources and the ingenious use of the ExSim platform, students can put themselves into a character’s shoes and make real-time decisions as they would have (or could have) unfolded in history. I know of no better way to help students understand—and actually experience firsthand—the intersection of contingency and agency. In sum, I wish I could have played a game like “Eyeball-to-Eyeball” when I was an undergraduate!
Ray and I met virtually several times in the weeks and months leading up the game, and during these conversations, he asked great questions and clearly wanted to understand my class and the context in which we would be playing the “Eyeball-to-Eyeball” game. Because we would be playing the game toward the end of a broad survey course, the classroom time available for the actual game was rather minimal. Undeterred by these limitations, Ray put together a 75-minute version of the Cuban Missile Crisis game for 20 students, so that I would be able to offer it to my Honors History students.
The research, time, and intentionality that went into this game design is truly incredible. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Ray thought of everything! The Gamebook contains a concise, yet also in-depth background to the Cuban Missile Crisis, gives detailed instructions for each player, and offers a wide range of relevant primary and secondary sources. The ExSim platform manages to recreate the communication avenues available to the people at the time, while also sending real-time messages, updates, and decision prompts to the characters involved. This is no small feat! The combination of the historical resources and the ExSim technology results in a fabulous tool for teaching history and making it come alive. In my classes, I try to emphasize the role of contingency and agency. I remind my students repeatedly that nothing in the past was predetermined; rather, people acted and made decisions based on their context at the time. Games like “Eyeball-to-Eyeball” take contingency and agency—often abstract concepts to students—and turn them into a lived and experienced reality.
At every stage of the game process, Ray was available to provide support, instruction, and clarity. Leading up to the game, Ray and I met virtually several times to talk through the game logistics and answer my questions. During the class meeting before the game, Ray joined us via Microsoft Teams to explain the game and offer a brief sneak peek/tutorial of the ExSim platform. This ten-minute preview of the game made things run more smoothly on the day of. While the students were playing, Ray was available the entire time via text message, offering clarity, answering questions I relayed from my students, and explaining different options to shift the game’s direction. Thanks to his support before, during, and after the game session, everything went seamlessly.
Dr. Stefanie Woodard
Assistant Professor of History
Kennesaw State University
I really enjoyed the Eyeball-to-Eyeball game. Throughout history, there are situations like this, and it showed me how hard dealing with them can be.
It likely comes as no surprise that teaching in the year of the pandemic has been rough, for faculty and students. When I decided to run the Cuban Missile Crisis simulation with my World History since 1500 class, I was very hesitant – I’ve run some microgames and full Reacting to the Past games in normal classes, but never a game that had an integrated web-based messaging system. When I reached out to Ray to see if he could give me some tips, and to request use of the ExSim website for my class periods, I couldn’t believe how quickly he responded, how much he offered to help (he offered to run the entire game for me! I felt too guilty asking another teacher to run my class for me, especially in the pandemic, but I will never forget feeling so floored by the offer), and how useful his instructions were leading up to the game. He ran “tech support” for my students on Discord for the first day, and helped me get set up with ExSim. Whenever I had a quick question about anything, I’d send him an email and he’d respond within hours, sometimes minutes. He helped move students who were unfamiliar with Discord to the spaces they needed to be, and lent a hand with walking them through the platform. Some were comfortable with it, others were brand new. Without his help, i don’t think I could have juggled Discord and ExSim and been there to prod my students.
ExSim in and of itself is brilliant – it keeps the pace of the simulation exciting for the students.
Overall, my students loved the simulation. On their final exam, I asked them what in-class activity they found the most impactful. Of those who answered, about half said the Cuban Missile Simulation was #1. That wouldn’t have been possible without Ray’s guidance, help, and tech/game mastering.
Ray Kimball helped make a pandemic semester fun (and experiential) for my students!
Dr. Averill Earls, PhD
Assistant Professor of History
Director, Mercyhurst Center for Teaching Excellence
I really enjoyed Cuban Missile Crisis game. It has been hard to have interactive classes with COVID so I thought this was fun. The Cuban Missile Crisis game also helped me understand better what was happening during that whole issue.
Eyeball to eyeball was actually a lot of fun. It bettered my understanding of the Cuban Missile Crisis because it put all of us in the time crunch and intense atmosphere like it was in the 60s.
I really liked the Cuban Missile Crisis game we played this semester because it allowed me to learn more about certain topics and it allowed me to interact and engage with other students which I feel like I have not gotten the chance to do in a while.
I really liked playing the Cuban Missile Crisis game this semester! I think they helped with having more of an understanding of what was really happening and the process behind making historical decisions.