By R. Garry Shirts
Since its creation in 1969, StarPower has been our most popular simulation. By conservative estimates, three million people have played it. Some instructors have used it with more than 100 different classes or groups. It provokes participants to rethink their assumptions about the use and abuse of power.
What is StarPower?
StarPower is a real time, face to face, non-computer based simulation of an organization or system in which leaders are given unlimited powers to make and change the rules of the simulation.
What happens in StarPower?
Participants have a chance to progress from one level of society to another by acquiring wealth through trading with other participants. Once the society is established, the group with the most wealth is given the right to make the rules for the game. The power group generally makes rules which maintain or increase its power and which those being governed consider to be unfair. This generally results in some sort of rebellion by the other members of the society.
Who is it for?
It can be used with any students from 8th grade and older. There are three general types of groups within educational institutions and charities that use StarPower:
- Groups concerned about the ethical use of power. This generally includes peace groups, classes on racism, diversity, ethics, and almost any other course or activity concerned with making the world a better place to live.
- Teachers of business, sociology, psychology, political science, economics, or history, who believe that it is important for their students to experience and understand power as a concept.
- Those who are interested in teaching people who have power how to use their power in an appropriate manner.
What are the unique features of StarPower?
The most unique feature of StarPower is the strength of the impression it makes on the participants. It sneaks up on them. During the first two rounds, the atmosphere is very social. People are laughing, talking, exchanging chips, and having a good time. When the announcement is made that, "because the squares have worked so hard, they now have the right to make the rules for the game" participants begin to sense that more is going on than the exchange of a few chips. Then, when the Squares pull their chairs in a tight circle and begin whispering conspiratorially about the rules they want to make, the social atmosphere evaporates and the players become very earnest about the game. Without really being aware of it, "winning" the game has become very important. And because it is important, the actions, decisions and behaviors are important.
What does StarPower teach?
- Each of us may be more vulnerable to the temptation to abuse power than we realize. Power can be amazingly seductive.
- To change behavior, it may be necessary to change the system in which that behavior occurs.
- Few people are likely to participate in an endeavor if they feel powerless.
- If rules do not have legitimacy, they will not be obeyed.
- What seems fair to those in power is not likely to seem fair to those who are out of power.
- Persons who are promoted rarely remember those they leave behind.
- Power is like fire, it can be used to help make the world a better place to live or it can be terribly destructive.
- In any system, there needs to be checks on power. If there are no checks, power will almost certainly be abused.
How long does StarPower take?
It is best to plan one and one half-hours for the playing of the game and a half to one hour or more for discussion. If time is an issue, it can be played in one fifty-minute period and then discussed the next period.
How many participants does a StarPower kit accommodate?
A minimum of 18 and a maximum of 35 can participate. It can be run with as few as 12 participants but we recommend a minimum of 18.
How much preparation is required?
Preparation requires approximately one-half hour to one hour for the inexperienced gamer; less for the person who has been through it or is an experienced simulation facilitator.
Are any consumable forms or special equipment needed?
No. All materials to run the simulation are included in the kit.