Boardgames in the News: How to Get a Publication in Nature by Playing Games

With an Impact Factor of over thirty-six, the academic journal, Nature, is one of the leading sources of information on current science.  Many academics would give their eye-teeth to publish in such a high profile journal, yet Stuart West, a Professor of Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Zoology, Oxford, has done just that1 simply by playing boardgames!

Evolution
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Prof. West wants to use boardgames as a teaching tool and needs a game that models the process of natural selection that takes place in a dynamic ecosystem.  The group of two twelve year olds, a sixteen year old, three graduate students, two post-doctoral researchers and three professors evaluated three games:  Evolution, Evolution: Random Mutations, and Terra Evolution: Tree of Life. Although they enjoyed all of them, they comment that “Evolution is our favourite by far. It looks amazing, with evocative artistry in everything from the cards to the little animal drumsticks that the predators eat.”

Evolution
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

Prof. West goes on to say, “The game play is simple to grasp, but can get very tactical. In particular, as with real evolution, the best strategy depends on what everyone else is doing. If there are a lot of herbivores, there is an advantage to being an efficient forager, with traits such as cooperation, but lots of herbivores also means a big advantage to becoming a carnivore.  When carnivores appear, herbivores need defences, which carnivores try to get around — and so on, in a co-evolutionary dance.”  He concludes by adding, “All the games, and especially Evolution, deftly capture how natural selection produces organisms adapted to their environments.”

Evolution
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor henk.rolleman

1 West, S., Nat. (2015), 528, 192; doi:10.1038/528192a.

2 thoughts on “Boardgames in the News: How to Get a Publication in Nature by Playing Games

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