Censorship - Language Arts - Play

Learning Objective

Censor is a dynamic, small group board game that engages students in cooperative play as they strategize a chase around Manhattan to capture a player who has been deemed a “violator” of free speech and expression. The historical storyline and actions of the game can provide a springboard to real-world First Amendment case studies.

Historical Note: This game is inspired by a true historical organization—The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, whose founder Anthony Comstock initially advocated for laws banning obscene material regarding birth control and sexuality on grounds of obscenity. Comstock later engaged personally in moral vigilantism and broadened his interpretation of “obscenity” to include art. He was responsible for the censoring of paintings, plays, and books.

Basic Strategy

Six agents are on a mission to catch a rogue artist who is attempting to publish three artworks of purportedly questionable taste. This game is set up as a board game where only the agents' movements are visible as they try to guess the artist’s trail. Both, artist and agents keep each other guessing by using decoy artwork and decoy agents as a strategy to mask their paths on the board. There are multiple board game pieces to assemble before playing, so allow ample time to prepare the game before playing.

Detailed Teacher Instructions are included in the Censor game materials.

  1. Once the games are completed, have all the students return to their seats in the circle for a debrief.
  2. This is an opportunity for you to guide the students’ reflection and prepare them for research on the literature you will be studying.
  3. Guiding Questions (Adapt depending on how you may be approaching the literature.)
      • What do you think about playing the CENSOR game today?
      • What surprised you?
      • What happened to you and your teammates as you played?
      • Thinking about your experiences with each other at the beginning and then at the end of the game—did anything change? If so, what changed?
      • How did the agents treat the artist? How did it feel to have the power of the agent?
      • How did it feel to be persecuted for being an artist?
      • What do you think is the role of an artist in society? Does society need artists? Why?
      • Who decides what a vice is in our society or community? What are some activities that are commonly understood as vices in our society?
      • When should people question their government or the government’s motives? Why?
      • What are the conditions under which we might question authority?
  4. After the students have discussed their experiences with the game, transition into the lesson by asking the following questions:
      • Has anyone heard that the Chinese government banned Facebook? (If not, explain the government’s reasons for implementing that policy – to inhibit social discourse that could lead to civil unrest.)
      • Do you think attempting to limit the access to social media can give governments more control over their citizens?