Warning: If you allow your students to play a social deduction game in class, be prepared for them to ask to play it every day!
Social deduction games often involve players having hidden roles. For example, Mafia (and its derivatives Werewolf and the popular online game Among Us) are social deduction games. Players must use their wits and wiles to determine the other players’ allegiances. The “bad guys” among the group slowly eliminate the “good guys” in secret, while the good guys try to determine the identity of the bad guys.
How can this tie in with your curriculum? A social deduction game is perfect for setting a certain mood. For example, Witch Hunt, my most successful social deduction game centers around the Salem Witch Trials. The game operates from the point of view that there truly were witches in Salem Village, and the other villagers must determine their identities before they bewitch the entire town. The game creates a sense of paranoia mimicking what the real life citizens of Salem Village, Massachusetts might have felt.
Another game I use is called Caesar Must Die. In this game, one player is Julius Caesar, and he must decide who is loyal to him and who is secretly plotting his assassination. As his loyalists dwindle, he slowly realizes who is on his side and who is trying to stab him in the back–literally.
Not only are these games crowd-pleasers (my students literally beg to play them for months afterward), they build anticipation for our content. Julius Caesar and The Crucible are suddenly topics of interest because they tie into the gameplay. The games also teach important communication skills. Students look one another in the face and declare their innocence (either honestly or with a bit of bluffing). They analyze each other’s verbal and non-verbal communication.
I once had a teacher comment, “It's a fun game, but I wish it aligned more with the standards.” What standards are we trying to teach? If students are engaged in content, they are much more likely to learn it! I also use social deduction games when teaching the Legends of King Arthur and The Canterbury Tales.
Social deduction games are more than just a “filler.” They teach non-verbal and verbal communication, course content, and critical thinking–and, hey, they’re fun, too!