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The Ribbon Simulation Game

Project undertaken by B.C. Teachers for Peace and Global Education (PAGE) Surrey and the Johnston Heights Secondary School Global Issues Club

Discrimination based on ethnicity, social status, gender, age, religion or disability is a world phenomenon. We can lessen or eliminate the harmful effects of discrimination only with education. The aim of the Ribbon Simulation Game is to do exactly this; by putting a group of youth through a role playing game—to feel the injustice of discriminating treatment and make them think and discuss ways to heal this world problem.

Since the game is highly flexible, it can be placed in any local or international setting. It is the role of the trained six youth facilitators to steer the focus onto local or international problems of racism at the end of the game at the debriefing section. Since this is the most important part of the game, it is highly recommended to prepare a list of questions ahead by student leaders and their sponsor teacher.

History of origin

The idea of the game was first created during the Premier’s “Your Voice, Your Choices” youth forum focusing on multiculturalism for secondary school students in November 1998. Each school was asked to draft a solid plan to promote diversity within their own school. Johnston Heights Secondary sent six students, all active members of the school's Global Issues Club. Their efforts resulted in the Ribbon Simulation Game which was performed first in 1999 and afterwards several times within the school and in the neighbouring high schools. Each year the game became more refined into its present form, which won the Year 2000 End Racism Award.

Racism is a product of ignorance and has many different forms. The students decided to tackle “discrimination.” Discrimination is the unfavorable treatment of individuals or groups based on race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, disability or social status. The students designed this interactive and fun-filled game around discrimination based on financial status. Their reasoning was that the students themselves belonged to a great variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds; they did not want anyone to walk away with hurt feelings.


4 poster-size signs – painted to describe the market town of ADANAC where the game will take place, as follows:
     “Market” (representing the rich market and painted elaborately)
     “Market” (representing the affordable market and painted accordingly)
     “Market” (representing the poor market and sparsely scribbled)
Merchandise sold at the markets – a collection of house hold items such as toys, clothes, empty cereal and cookie boxes, books, or anything gathered by the students.
Red, Yellow and Blue ribbons – a dozen of each colour to hang around the participants’ necks.
Paper ‘Money' – coloured construction paper works well for this. A single denomination is all that is required.
Several empty boxes or storage bins – to store and carry the above items.


Facilitators – six students who are trained to lead the game and who play changing roles through the course of the game: 3 shop keepers
1 police officer
1 judge
1 casino owner
2 robbers, one rich, one poor
1 lawyer
Participants – a class or a group of 20 to 30 students, 14 to 19 years of age.

Description of the game

The Game starts with a brief introduction of goals and objectives. The facilitators attempt to warm up the atmosphere with an icebreaker named “Ultra Being” (explained on video) to reduce the discomfort between the students. After five minutes each participant is assigned one of the identities made of red, yellow and blue ribbon, which during the game will affect how they are treated by the facilitators. The three groups are then divided, at which time the student facilitators give the participants their currency according to their placement in the rich, middle, or poor class. The student facilitators then explain the rules of the game. The students are directed to the markets in the town of ADANAC and are encouraged to ‘shop’ at all of the markets to purchase items. However, they should soon realize that the facilitator’s attitudes differ greatly depending on their different financial status indicated by their coloured ribbon. Sometimes the tension grows so high that vigorous protest will arise from the participants. The participants react to the over dramatized actions of the facilitators and the inequality that they witness. The “Robbers” get caught by the police and put into ‘jail’ (a square delineated on the floor somewhere with masking tape). After 15 to 20 minutes of activities, the ‘poor’ market is taken away from its owner, who cannot pay his rent, to open a casino. The participants at this time are instructed to settle down and to sit down on the floor in front of the judge.

The court scene. During the court scene the lawyer defends the case of the ‘rich’ robber. The ‘poor’ robber gets no representation and therefore gets convicted. Often at this point the participants will voice their sense of injustice. It is at this point that the facilitators remind the participants that this is only a game.

Debriefing. The debriefing is the most important part of the game. Facilitators should assist in reflecting upon the game by asking questions:

“How did you feel during the game? Were you treated special because you had money? Were you treated rudely because you were poor?”

“What is discrimination? Why do you think that people discriminate? Did you notice different forms of discrimination?”

Ask students to bring up examples from their own lives, experiences from school, community, or even their homes.

“What can you do to combat discrimination? In what ways might you be able to prevent this kind of hurt?”

Debriefing should take approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

Further suggestions

The game is highly adaptable and flexible to modification or changes. The success of the game greatly depends on the facilitators. To train the facilitators we suggest natural student leaders, members of the multicultural club or global issues club, senior drama students, etc. Creativity and improvisation is encouraged.

 The Antiracism Video

The Ribbon Simulation antiracism video visually explains the game with a shortened 'sample play'. Here are some excerpts from the video: An introduction shows each stage of the game (2:06).

The roles summary explains the role of each facilitator (2:07).

The casino takeover depicts a staged confrontation between two facilitators (0:20).

The debriefing explanation describes this vital stage of the game (0:32).

Students express their thoughts during the debriefing (1:15).

The video is available for purchase from Peace and Global Educators, Surrey chapter for $15, postage included. To order, or for further information contact Beata Hittrich at 604-433-9765 or at bhittrich@hotmail.com.

Project funding supplied by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s Global Education Grant Project (International Program) with support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

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