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The North Korean Hunger Games: Famine, Rogue Regimes and the Ethics of Aid, 1995-1998 Microgame

by Emily Simon and Kelly McFall

Portions of this page are still under construction, pending more details from the Game Authors. Reacting Consortium Members can download game materials below.

In this Reacting to the Past microgame, students will take on the question of humanitarian assistance in an environment fraught with complications. It is late 1998, and a wide range of government representatives and aid organizations have gathered to discuss the future of assistance to North Korea in Musgrove, Georgia. While no one can deny North Korea’s need, students will debate the severity of the famine, the type and amount of aid that will be most successful, the proper response and role of non-government organizations (NGOs) in North Korea, and the terms under which North Korea will even qualify for international assistance. While the issues underlying the game are difficult enough, students will also need to juggle the political baggage and history these East Asian countries bring to their arguments. Additionally, the short time allotted for such a discussion and a couple of surprises along the way will make this a challenging--even stressful--but memorable experience for all students involved.




20th Century




Microgame (what's that mean?

Using the Game

Class Time  
This microgame requires about 120 minutes total. Depending on the course’s schedule and class length, the game could be fit into two classes or stretched to encompass a whole week.

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive. North Korean Hunger Games may pair well with:


Class Size and Scalability 

Read more about scaling this game for different class sizes...

Complete guidance on role assignments can be found in the instructor's guide, and questions can be directed to the game author. The main way this game can be scaled up or down is by eliminating or expanding the journalist roles. Since journalists do not ordinarily give speeches during regular class meetings, this does not affect the time needed to play the game.

CLASSES BELOW 14 In small classes, the instructor may assume the function of the journalists or eliminate the role of journalists altogether.

CLASSES WITH 14-36 STUDENTS Classes with 14-36 students can use the basic roles, available for download below or from W. W. Norton.

CLASSES WITH 37-61 STUDENTS Additional roles are available for download to Reacting Consortium members. Of these additional roles, eleven are delegates, four are protesters, and ten are journalists. Some of the assignments for these roles are specialized. For example, Theodore Meir Phil Ochs should sing instead of giving speeches. Warren Hinckle and Abe Peck should help journalists to assemble and disseminate their stories.

CLASSES WITH 62-67 STUDENTS AND/OR MEDIA EMPHASIS The expanded roles also include roles for William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal as well as the cast and crew for an experimental film, “Medium Cool.” These six roles are supplemental to the functioning of the main game. Since these players record their work, it could be shown during the debriefing or players could watch it asynchronously to conserve class time for game play.

CLASSES WITH OVER 67 STUDENTS Press Secretary and Press Stringer roles can be paired with delegate and journalist roles. In order for them to have the opportunity to interact, the instructor may need to help them to schedule press conferences outside of regular game sessions. By pairing each of the 25 delegate roles and 20 journalists, 45 more roles can be added to the game, for a total of 112 roles. To create even more roles, assign individual roles to pairs of students, beginning with the protester roles (which brings the total to 128). Increasing the number of crew members for “Medium Cool” could bring you easily to 130.

The game can be run with even larger numbers than this by expanding the size of the teams playing different roles.




Read more reviews from instructors...

"This is a game that teaches a lot about the process of political coalition building, the pressures on expansive coalitions, and introduces notions of protest and counterculture as a part of a pluralistic, democratic society."

"Wrapped up Chicago 1968 on zoom/slack, and it was a really wonderful experience. I worried about how some mechanics would work virtually, but we had the same arc and escalation of tension that I've seen several times in the classroom."

"The game has a shorter class-time investment than other simulations, which might be appealing for some new to Reacting."


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

Game Materials

VERSION 1.0. Updated March 2021.

Additional Resources 

Resources for Introduction and/or Debrief



Emily Simon

Emily Simon

Reacting and Related Titles

Kelly McFall

Kelly McFall

Reacting and Related Titles

  • The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994
  • Changing the Game: Title IX, Gender, and College Athletics
  • Monuments and Memory-Making: The Debate over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 1981-82
  • Peacemaking, 1919: The Peace Conference at Versailles
  • The Question of Algeria in 1950s France
  • Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Major League Baseball


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


Japanese Exclusion
Japanese Exclusion in California, 1906-1915

Food or Famine
Food or Famine, 2002: The Debate over Genetically Modified Crops in Southern Africa

The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations, and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994


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