El Prez in class? – Tropico 5 as a case study at university | Kalypso Media Blog

21. February 2023

El Prez in class? – Tropico 5 as a case study at university

Tropico 5 in class University Warsaw Blog header 750x290

Find out how the University of Warsaw incorporated Tropico 5 in their classes in the field of Political Science and International Studies

Jacek Ziółkowski, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Theory and Political Thought from the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Warsaw and Piotr Rutkowski, MA, have been conducting innovative classes for students of Political Science, Internal Security and other departments (e.g., part of general university classes) and have included computer games and gamification mechanisms in education since 2013. This semester, the software used included our city building and political simulation game, Tropico 5! For which, we at Kalypso Media were thrilled to provide some keys for educational use. Of course, it’s known worldwide that El Presidente has a PhD in AwesomenessTM! 😎

The research team at University Warsaw kindly took some time to answer our questions about the classes and incorporating Tropico 5 into them. 👇

IMG 20221128 122215
The students dive straight into the world of Tropico 5.

You successfully included Tropico 5 in your political science lectures. What makes Tropico 5 a useful tool for teaching in your field, in your opinion?

Piotr Rutkowski: “Tropico 5 in my view is a strategy game and very interesting social reality simulator with a slightly humorous tone, which engages the players all the more and develops all their competences. It is an ideal game for our classes, as it allows students to develop something that Professor Ziółkowski and I call political imagination.”

How do you define ‘political imagination’ and how does this manifest in Tropico 5?

Piotr Rutkowski: “It is the awareness of multidimensionality, multilevelness of social reality, realizing that decisions in one aspect affect all others, that dilemmas do not have a perfect solution. In Tropico 5 we find all the features that allow us to achieve this – we have economic, political and international elements that the student must deal with at the same time while playing the game, and each decision has consequences for what will happen next.

IMG 20221128 124337
Time to play Tropico 5!

Decision-making is a key issue here, and in the entire course, one of the goals is to improve the optimization of decisions (as competencies) from the perspective of goals assumed by students. Tropico 5 also offers many possibilities here. The idea behind the classes is that the students, having familiarized themselves with the game, play a multiplayer session, where they will be able to specify what is important to them and what attitude they will adopt – will they help each other, or will they be competitive? Each of these approaches will require different priorities while dealing with day-to-day management.

In addition to purely practical values, our classes and Tropico 5 have a self-reflection function. They enable students to get to know themselves and their approach to tasks and problems. Choosing a cooperative or competitive approach, with no predetermined goals from our instructors, tells us a lot about ourselves and our societies.”

IMG 20221128 124201
Not just El Presidente has a watchful eye – Piotr Rutkowski as well!

So, what can students take away and learn from Tropico 5?

Professor Jacek Ziółkowski: “Thanks to Tropico 5, students acquire competencies and skills that are very much needed on today’s labor market. It is a very good complement to traditional forms of teaching. I especially notice this as the head of Internal Security studies. All this is maintained in a young people-friendly environment of computer hardware and computer software, as well as using role-playing, which strengthens learning outcomes and makes students enjoy classes. Tropico 5 has a lot of mechanics that enable the acquisition of competences necessary on the labour market.

The basis here is the optimization of the decision-making process from the perspective of the player’s goals, but also those proposed by the game. Secondly, these decisions are subject to the functioning of the player with a deficit of resources and a deficit of time. Thirdly, we have elements of crisis management in the form of unexpected events, cataclysms. Most importantly, players cannot forget about any of the aspects, because the game can remind us at the least expected moment and teach us from mistakes (rebellion, superpower attack or lost elections).”

How does this translate into reality?

Professor Jacek Ziółkowski: “Tropico 5 adequately reflects the realities of the social world and what students will have to deal with in everyday life as managers, employees in private economy or political institutions and even politicians. I would like to mention that after each game we discuss the players’ feelings, their approaches, strategies, decision-making processes, doubts, problems they encountered, which makes them reflect on their decision-making processes in front of themselves and their colleagues, which further strengthens competences they acquire by playing games such as Tropico 5. We are very excited about cooperation with Kalypso Media and using Tropico 5 in our classes.”


We’d like to thank Professor Jacek Ziółkowski and Piotr Rutkowski for taking the time to explain their approach and to provide us with some images of the practical implementation of Tropico 5 into their classes!

👇 If you want to read more, head over to their Facebook post 👇


Now, El Presidente dismisses you for the holidays – stay safe (and keep voting for El Prez)!