May 10, 2021 TOPICS

Engaging in realistic negotiations in virtual international conferences: How GSG fosters global problem-solving skills

Global simulation gaming (GSG) is an educational program aimed at developing literacy related to the collection and processing of international information and cultivating communication skills. What is the significance of GSG-based learning in today’s complex international community and what roles does GSG play?

GSG: Allowing students to go beyond reality while keeping in mind the real international community

We spoke with Professor Tomoaki Nishimura of the College of International Relations at Ritsumeikan University who has been studying international treaty negotiations and teaching GSG for many years. The fact that GSG has been a trademark class since the establishment of the College of International Relations shows how highly the college values the educational effectiveness of GSG.

In GSG, all participants become actors (entities engaged in international affairs) and experience the entire process of identifying issues, policy-making, negotiation, and policy implementation amid ever-changing international political and economic trends. GSG can be considered a form of virtual reality gaming.

Professor Nishimura explains: “About five members come together to form a team for each actor in the simulation, such as Japan, the United States, or the United Nations. For the United States, for example, one student will serve as the President and another as the Secretary of State. For an international organization, one student will serve as the Secretary-General, and so on. In this way, roles are decided for each of the five members, and they work together to form an action plan. Next, they call on the other relevant actors to undertake negotiations in order to put their plan into action. If your team is a country, you must confirm the current situation in your country, such as the national budget, industrial structure, and which countries you have friendly relations with. Then you will create an action plan and consider a course of action to take. On top of that, you have to negotiate with other actors like international organizations, companies, and NGOs as needed.”

Students who participate in GSG research the background of the actors to which they belong and their assigned roles, and they internalize these as they develop their own arguments. Although the simulation deals with real themes, the results of the negotiations and discussions will vary depending on influences such as the students’ own values and cultural backgrounds.

“Let’s say your actor is an ASEAN member country. Then, you will conduct research to see which countries are close friends, which are hostile, and which have very close economic ties to the ASEAN region, and based on that those facts, you will undertake the necessary negotiations and discussions. However, the simulation gives students the option of negotiating and getting along with countries that their country does not get along with in real world. Although the simulation is based on the real world, students can use their heads to overcome any obstacles that might exist,” says Professor Nishimura.

Negotiation skills that students need to play an active role in the international community and the business world

The experience of internalizing positions and arguments different from your own and engaging in negotiations is indispensable in terms of developing global human resources. Meanwhile, some students feel that GSG is a useful tool to prepare them for the working world.

“In GSG, you may have to negotiate with someone you’ve never met before. When dealing with a hostile country or a country with which you have a bad relationship, you will not be able to solve the problem at hand unless you adopt an attitude of seeking to understand the other side’s argument even if you cannot agree with it. The process of getting to know your counterpart, understanding your own views, finding a compromise, and reaching an agreement is sure to be a useful experience for students who will go on to play an active role in the international community. It is also necessary for success in the business arena,” states Professor Nishimura.

When we interviewed students about GSG, many of them told us that they appreciated the educational style that requires them to conduct research and take action on their own, rather than just silently listening to lectures.
Recently, some high schools, have started to introduce simulation-based classes like the Model United Nations and active learning techniques. GSG provides an opportunity for students to experience exciting classes in a more academic way.
In GSG, Japanese and English are the official languages, and in situations where many actors participate, such as the United Nations General Assembly, statements are made and negotiations are actively carried out in English. English communication skills are essential for international conferences with many actors in attendance and negotiations with international students.

The vast potential of simulation gaming in education

Regular classes tend to end with the passive acquisition of knowledge, but in GSG, students can experience the work of applying the knowledge they have gained in class to the issues facing contemporary society and generating output. One can see how realistic simulation gaming like GSG could be applied to various educational situations.

A scene from the GSG class in 2018

“In GSG, students come to understand the importance of learning independently and dynamically. Students are constantly asked to respond to questions like ‘How would you solve this problem if you were the president?’ or ‘What approach would you take?’ I think this kind of problem-based education can be used in other classes as well,” says Professor Nishimura.
“For example, the College of Law could consider adopting mock trials, or the College of Economics could have a class where simulations are run based on various economic situations.
There are often times in GSG where the goals cannot be achieved. However, participating in the whole process up to and including the breakdown of negotiations enables students to experience the reality of your positions not being understood and the difficulty of negotiating in such a setting. This is something students cannot easily learn in regular classes. For the students, it’s important to experience and enjoy the process, so I tell them that winning or losing is not important,” explains Professor Nishimura.

The need for GSG in learning is increasing given the noticeable conflict in the world in recent years.

Professor Nishimura says that the current GSG class is not a finished product, so he will continue working to improve it in light of the possibility that it could be applied to other classes.

He explains: “The current GSG is not a finished product; rather, it is a work in progress that has been developed through trial and error. In the first place, GSG has no uniform rules and no formula for success, so it needs to be fine-tuned every time it is implemented. This, in and of itself, could be considered unique to GSG, but it still needs to be more enjoyable and useful for students. To this end, I would like to collaborate with academic societies focused on simulation-based education and other educators who are conducting similar classes.”

As typified by the recent U.S. presidential election, conflict in the international arena is becoming increasingly noticeable. Therefore, if we do not recognize the arguments of our opponents at all, these conflicts will never be resolved. The task of understanding each other’s opinions and negotiating differences to find a compromise will become even more important in the real world. In this sense, GSG, which provides this kind of training at an academic level, appears to be an extremely meaningful initiative for university education.

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