Our life chances are shaped by the positions we occupy, the resources we control, the ability we have, the effort we exert, luck, and any number of other possible factors. Games can help us to better see how such factors can shape outcomes, especially when, as in the case of some games, the deck seems stacked in favor of some and at the expense of others.

SOCiable – A Game of Life Chances is a card game inspired by the traditional Chinese card game Zheng Shangyou (争上游), meaning “struggling upstream.” Many variations of this game exist, including Dai Hin Min (大貧民) in Japan, Tiên Lên in Vietnam, and President in the United States. Unlike many games popular in the United States, starting positions in these games are hierarchical. Players do not begin with equal resources, power, or opportunities to win. SOCiable is a streamlined version of those games designed to speed up game play in order to fit more hands and games into a shorter period of time (such as a class period).

I’ve been experimenting with using SOCiable in class and thought I’d pass it along. I’ve found it to be helpful when talking about the relationships between structure, individual ability/effort, and luck. I’m hoping that others will give it a try and find it useful, too. I’d love to hear what worked and what didn’t, how students responded, what lessons might have been learned, etc. I would also welcome suggestions for changes or descriptions of how you adapted it to suit your purposes.

I am including both a PDF with full instructions (SOCiable – A Game of Life Chances – version 1.0) and the somewhat briefer PowerPoint file I used to introduce the game in class (SOCiable – A Game of Life Chances (PowerPoint) – version 1.0) . I hope you find them useful.

I talk about these kinds of games in the opening vignette for SOC Chapter 5 as a means of introducing the significance of structures, so it could be used in conjunction with that chapter, but I’ve also used it in my Social Problems course and plan to give it a try in my stratification course this coming semester.

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