Resources: The Blockchain Game

Overview

Blockchain technology is being applied—or attempting to be applied—in many new areas including law, shipping, contracts, government, healthcare, etc. Putting aside the issue of whether all these applications are really a good fit for blockchain technology, more people want to know how a blockchain works. As an educator, I am very interested in how to teach students about blockchain technology without overwhelming them with technical details. So I set out to develop a hands-on exercise that could be used with any group of students from high school students to adults. This is my effort, and it seems to be working well enough for wider use. It is also time to see how other educators use this exercise and get some feedback to make it better!

Basics of the Game:

  1. A hands-on exercise. Like MIT’s “Beer Game” which demonstrates some supply chain principles.
  2. Simulation centers around a blockchain for student grades (discussion at the end of the simulation about why this would not be a good application for blockchain).
  3. No computers. Participants are the computors and calculate blocks.
  4. As such, some aspects are left out of the simulation but may be brought up by participants or discussed at the end of the simulation.
  5. The game seeks to teach core concepts about a distributed ledger, but can be modified to take in whatever direction the educator wants (smart contracts, supply chain applications, etc.)
  6. Additional elements could be added if you want to play the game with a computer.

Blockchain concepts taught by the game:

  • Distributed Ledger
    • No central authority to hold ledger or be attacked.
    • All people (aka nodes) have complete ledger.
  • Transparent but anonymous Ledger
    • Ledger can be public while concealing identity.
  • Append-only Ledger
    • Each entry (aka block) is linked to the previous entry via some math (aka hash).
    • Some nodes (aka miners) are paid for performing calculations (aka proof of work).
  • Immutable Ledger
    • Attacks to ledger are impractical due to the need for a majority of nodes (aka 51% attack) to agree to a change and the computational power required.

Game Materials

I have provided all the materials in one large zip file. Here is what you will find in that file (organized by folder)

  • The Blockchain Game. This is the slide deck that you will use to lead your audience through the exercise. Apple Keynote and MS PowerPoint versions are provided.
  • Game Printouts. These are handouts that you will want to print out and have for your participants. If you are playing with six main players (all nodes, but three of them are miners), and seven students, then you can just print the entire file and you should be ready except for the ledger. Apple Keynote and MS PowerPoint versions are provided.
  • Blockchain Ledger. This is an MS Excel file with a ledger that has already been calculated along with a blank ledger.
  • NEW: Attendee Handout. This allows those who are not miners or nodes to follow along and understand better what is happening.
  • German Translation: Much thanks to Dominik Sigmund for translating the materials. Mr. Sigmund has several other excellent resources on Cryptography on his website.
  • Alternative Version: The original version of the game involves storing grades on a blockchain, which I think is a great exercise for explaining a blockchain to students. At the end of the game, a discussion can be had about the appropriateness of using a blockchain for storing grades (not a good idea). However, when I have been showing this exercise to educators, they often get very excited about problems with storing grades on a blockchain, often interrupting the exercise. So much that it gets in the way of the explanation of the exercise. So I have another version in which the blockchain stores counts of steps in an employee wellness program. 

Teaching Materials Needed

  • Pencils
  • Student key pair sheets (one for each student (total of seven students in this version))
  • "Node Packets" consisting of:
    • Node instruction sheet (print from Game Printouts)
    • Blank grade ledger (print from Blockchain Ledger)
  • "Miner Packets" consisting of:
    • Miner instruction sheet (print from Game Printouts)
    • Blank grade ledger (print from Blockchain Ledger)
    • 6X Miner Worksheet (print from Game Printouts)
  • Prizes for Miners (at least six nice prizes)

Other suggested windows to have open and ready to view:

  1. Blockchain Ledger excel file
  2. Blockchain scanning tools such as: etherscan or blockchain explorer

Optional

I have not tried this, but one could have a couple of "plants" who might be bad actors trying to hack the ledger, one a faculty (node) and another a student who might try to bribe a node.

A couple of notes on modifications that I am thinking of doing:

Download Game Files

No thanks, just take me to the download

Blockchain Workshop

The Blockchain Game is a great starting point for a conversation about blockchain in your organization. I have used it with lots of different groups and industries. I offer workshops from 1 to 4 hours, with time for discussion and brainstorming. 

Blockchain Workshop

Need more blockchain education? I can also train your staff to use the blockchain game and teach others about how blockchain can be used in your organization or industry. 

Contact me to discuss!

Enjoy this Exercise?

Here are three more things you might like:

  1. The Free-Range Technologist: My monthly list of resources, useful apps, book reviews and must listen to podcast episodes. Subscribe here.
  2. YouTube channel: I post lots of technology talks and useful videos for teaching technology. Subscribe here.
  3. Speaking: Hire me to speak or lead a workshop about Blockchain, Smart Everything and the Internet of Things (IoT), or project management.