In the frenzy before final exams, 50 undergraduate students gathered in Saint Mary’s Hall for an intense study of microeconomics and . . . to play a game.
During the two-hour time span, there was a flurry of activity as students ran about the room and gathered resources (such as ore, textiles, food, wood) for their countries, partook in intense negotiations with other teams, and planned game-winning strategies.
This international trade game, called “Wealth of Nation Building,” was created by Michael Ratajczyk, assistant professor of business, as a fun and social way to learn about international trade and how to build a thriving society.
“The game brings people from multiple disciplines together to engage in learning how to run an economy, with religious, ideological, ethical, or scientific aspects,” Ratajczyk said. “As an alumnus of Saint Mary’s, I am able to reflect often on the general education I completed and used in my career. The game was designed based on my own experiences of world business travel, negotiating large deals in foreign countries based on supply and demand, predicting raw material prices, and making decisions on whether to wait or buy now.”
In the game, players are divided up into teams, and each team represents a different country with different resources and governments. The teams then go through a 30-second planning round to strategize and gather resources, a two-minute “production” round, and then a two-minute trading round for teams to barter with each other.
During each round, each team randomly picks an event card, which can either hurt or benefit the team. There are also other obstacles like when teams wage war on one another. All of these aspects work together to create an intense and fun learning experience. Whomever has the most points at the end of the rounds wins the game—and on April 19 that also meant prizes.
This game has been played by students during Ratajcyzk’s Microeconomics course in years past. A number of those past students came on Tuesday to play the game again, including sophomore Tara Nagy. “This game is a good way to see how international trade happens in different countries, and it’s a fun way to learn,” Nagy said. “Instead of sitting and reading a book, we are learning about it hands on.” Many students commented on how the version they were playing, which included 12 different teams, was much more intense than when they play during class.
Although many students had played the game previously, others were first-time players and had no idea what they were getting themselves into. “I was confused at first, but it ended up being a great way to learn more about economics,” junior Megan Ringsred said.
In the end, the team that prevailed with 970 points consisted of juniors Brad Hauser, Mike Mezzano, Phil Heinle, and sophomore Jared Johnson. “It’s a really cool game that puts you in a situation where you have to critically think about how to get the products you need to build up your society,” Heinle said. “It was also a lot of fun to negotiate with other teams.”
Win or lose, students and faculty alike agreed that it was a unique and fun learning experience.
“The game has something for everyone—science, business, art, philosophy, religion, healthcare, and more,” Ratajczyk said. “Students find the game connects them to the real-world decisions many of us and our government leaders make every day.”
Learn more about the game online.