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The Blockchain Game (w New Alt Version)

Intro: The Blockchain Game

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

The exercise leader will want to download the following files:

  • 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.

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.