How it’s played

In the Refugee Megagame, the teams represent the different interested parties in our scenario, the DC government deciding to admit refugees from Syria and Iraq. Each team would have its own objective in the game: for example, while some church groups may want to support the DC city government’s decision, anti-immigration groups may want to block it. During the course of the game, these groups may meet with each other, take their case the court of public opinion, file lawsuits, organize demonstrations — they are free to select among the strategies that their real-life counterparts might pursue.


During the megagame, umpires will circulate among the teams, answering questions (“Can we do this?”) and making on-the-spot determinations (“What does our polling firm tell us about public support for admitting more refugees?”).


The participants won’t just be interacting with the umpires, however. Teams will be talking to each other, to learn their intentions, strike deals, make statements, and do whatever else is necessary for each team to meet its objectives.


The exercise is divided into turns. After a set amount of time elapses (say, 30 minutes), the turn is over. The press reports on what happened that day, which might include statements or interviews that the press team has collected. The umpires also make any special announcements.


While megagames may last for any amount of time, ours will run for approximately 5-6 hours. A lot will be happening during that time, so be prepared for an intense experience packed into those hours.

At the very end of the exercise comes the most important part: The de-brief. We will take time to talk about the outcome of the game, and how it reached that conclusion. Teams will discuss what they were thinking and doing during the exercise. We will discuss the lessons learned, both about the specific refugee-related issues, as well as general political lessons. In one recent megagame, for example, the participants learned the truth of the principle that the less you talk with people on the other side, the more paranoid you become about them. Even though the participants knew that principle to be true, they forgot it in the course of the game, which shows how challenging it can be for people to do the right thing under pressure.