Can Battlestar Galactica Roleplay Boost Political Engagement? The German Government Thinks So

80 frackin’ participants are learning all about politics and civic responsibility through the lens of BSG

image via (cc) flickr user thmorgenroth

When Roland D. Moore and David Eick rebooted classic ‘70’s cheese-fest Battlestar Galactica in 2004, they took a series known for clunky robot costumes and transformed it into a complex, morally ambiguous meditation on life, politics, and human nature. At its best (something not always the case in its waning episodes) the Battlestar reboot is considered by many to be one of – if not the – gold standards by which other science-fiction franchises can measured. But while the show may have provided us with hours of moderately thought-provoking entertainment, one German organization thinks Battlestar Galactica has something much more substantive to offer: A model to help train aspiring politicos through live action role playing, or as it’s more commonly known, LARPing.

According to the English-language information page on their website, Projekt Exodus is:

“An educational live role-playing game” [which] analyses [sic] the narrative structure of the TV series Battlestar Galactica in its re-imagined version of 2003, carving out socially relevant topics—particularly analogies to western societies from 11 September 2001 to today—and implementing these in form of a political educational live role-playing game.

The game, which started on February 4th aboard the retired naval warship Mölders (playing the role of the space freighter Hesperios), is being conducted entirely in German for the 80 participants who registered, and consists of three phases:

-- A day and a half preparatory workshop.
-- Two and a half days of actual role play.
-- A day of post-game reflection.

During the role play itself participants will:

make intense emotional experiences, reach difficult decisions, and learn to deal with their consequences. Constructs of interpersonal relationships will be revealed or break down, and new structures and orders will emerge from the chaos of an apocalypse.

Presumably the game’s narrative with follow the basic plot outline of Battlestar Galactica, in which a space fleet carrying the last of human civilization must create a cohesive society and governing body, while fleeing from/fighting with enemies both foreign (as well as robotic) and domestic. But this isn’t simply a group of enthusiasts coming together to reenact their favorite science fiction series. Projekt Exodus is sponsored in part by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education. On their website, the agency describes itself as

providing citizenship education and information on political issues for all people in Germany [...] promoting awareness for democracy and participation in politics.

In this instance, awareness-promotion and political participation means getting off the frackin’ sofa, and reporting for duty in an imaginary CIC.

image via Projekt Exodus

As The Verge points out, Projekt Exodus’ politically sponsored LARPing isn’t entirely without precedent – The Swedish government, for example, has grant money available for role playing and hobbyist groups. What’s more, Battlestar Galactica itself has intersected with real world politics on a number of occasions, including having been honored at the United Nations, and inspiring a now-New York City councilman to create a BSG-themed Passover seder.

As to whether Projekt Exodus will actually inspire participants to deepen their involvement in politics remains to be seen. Still, credit is due to the German government for their willingness to experiment with out-of-the-box ideas in the hopes of a more educated and engaged populace. That’s something all governments should aspire to. So say we all.


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