Teachers can have kids use posterboard or a digital mind-mapping tool to map the ways their decisions lead to different outcomes. They might also have kids study the actual decisions President Kennedy made during the crisis and try to reconstruct the real story. Then students can compare and contrast real-life outcomes with the outcomes they reach in the game. Students might also investigate the lives and histories of the characters in the game -- like the Soviet foreign minister, or some of President Kennedy's advisors, such as Kenneth O’Donnell and Secretary of State Robert Kennedy.Continue reading Show less
Cuba’s Days opens with a newspaper front page: Tension is rising as Cuban leader Fidel Castro seems increasingly cozy with the USSR. The game opens in the Oval Office at the White House, where users read a dialogue between President John F. Kennedy and Kenneth O’Donnell, one of his closest advisers. In the screens that follow, O’Donnell offers exposition about the recent detection of Soviet missiles in Cuba, and the user, role-playing President Kennedy, must choose how to respond. At the end of each “day,” users see J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Doomsday Clock, which ticks toward midnight if the user’s choices have escalated tensions and ticks backwards if the latest steps have moved the world toward peace.
Subsequent dialogues include vignettes that illustrate real-life situations, like the downing of a U.S. aircraft over Cuba, President Kennedy’s meeting with the Russian ambassador, and his televised speech to the nation. Within each of these real-life moments, the user gets to choose Kennedy’s next words (in the television broadcast, he can choose to exaggerate the Soviet threat or plainly state it) or his next steps (like choosing to inform the press immediately or wait a day).
Users’ choices lead to up to 18 unique outcomes, which range from total success for the U.S. to the ominous headline “No World for Tomorrow” (after choosing an immediate military response). Users track their successes in the Trophy Room, where they can review the imagined newspaper clippings for each outcome. They can also click question-marked images to view clues that reveal how to reach each of the game’s possible endings.
More than 50 years later, the Kennedy era can seem like ancient history to today’s students. Cuba’s Days does a good job of orienting a modern audience to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War’s high stakes. The immediacy of consequences in the app is great: The ticking Doomsday Clock and the ominous news clippings give instant feedback about the user’s progress toward maintaining peace. It’s conveniently easy to start over and play again and again, making this a useful tool for students who want to make multiple attempts at taking the right path. It’s also exciting to see how a single choice can so greatly impact the outcome.
One sour note in the app is the high-score list, where users’ choices are rated from “More outstanding than Lincoln” to “Just like W. Bush.” The U.S. presidents listed and their descriptors (like “federative” and “efficient”) offer less helpful, less rich feedback than the user’s points total (the highest score possible is 100) and the illustrated end-of-game newspaper stories. Some users might be turned off by this partisan and unnecessary feature.
Key Standards Supported
Reading History/Social Studies
Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.