McGill public affairs made a mini-doc on Rex Brynen’s fabled peacebuilding simulation this spring, and I finally tracked it down. It does a good job of capturing the elements of the sim, from formal meetings to whispers in hallways. The only problem is no one looks tired enough.
The simulation remains one of the most valuable experiences of my master’s degree, and not only because it was when this guy and I became ridiculously close ridiculously fast. (We’ve since concluded that one week of sim bonding is like being friends for three years in real life. It also explains why, more than a year later, we still reminisce about the sim with the excitement of recounting a crazy three-day bachelor party in Vegas where we met Bono and stole a private jet, instead of the 18-hour-per-day laptop-and-coffee marathon that it really was.)
The simulation gave me my first taste of what it’s like to actually go out there and work in development, instead of reading in my cushy office and criticizing what’s going on in the field. Turns out, the world out there is incredibly complex and confusing, even when it’s just a bunch of 20-something McGill students playing make-believe. There are so many choices to be made, and the options are rarely ideal. There are the relationships and informal channels under the surface that foreigners can’t see at first, or may never see at all. And finally, you just can’t know if the information you’re getting is reliable. It felt like running blindfolded and backwards into a minefield.
I can’t say enough about how useful and valuable simulations are, and I think they should be incorporated into the classroom more often. I actually loved the sim so much that this year, I put together an item for CBC Montreal, as well as harassed Brynen until he rewarded me a minor role as a political prisoner — which mostly meant I wrote revolutionary poetry and checked my email 95 times a day. (Bonus: I make a guest appearance in the mini-doc.) The year I participated, I was the head of the U.N. mission. Looking back, it would have been way more fun to be a rebel, so I’ll keep that in mind as a career path if this journalism thing doesn’t work out.
Finally, what I imagine will be the highlight for POLI450/650 students: we finally get to see inside Rex Brynen’s torture chamber, where he is literally rolling the dice. Honestly, I expected it to look a little more like a panic room.
Rex Brynen runs a blog on simulations, if you’re intrigued.