BaFa' BaFa'

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BaFá BaFá is a face-to-face learning simulation (game), invented by Dr. R. Garry Shirts in 1974,[1][2][3] who also invented StarPower, and is published by Simulation Training Systems, Inc. The simulation is intended to improve participants' cross-cultural competence by helping them understand the impact of culture on the behavior of people and organizations. Participants experience "culture shock" by traveling to and trying to interact with a culture in which the people have different values, different ways of behaving and different ways of solving problems.


There are three versions, one for high schools, charities and universities,[4] one for middle school aged children called RaFá RaFá,[5] and a professional version[6] for business and government agencies.


"Around 1971, the U.S. Navy became very concerned about the behavior of American Sailors on leave in foreign ports, specifically Greece and Japan, and determined to do something to avoid incidents that were threatening relations between the United States and its allies. The Navy Personnel Research and Development Center approached Garry Shirts for assistance in creating a simulation that would teach naval personnel about the specific cultures where incidents had occurred.[7] The Navy had created print material, readily available to the sailors, that explained Greek culture, so a lack of information was not the problem; it was the apparent failure to put it to use.

Shirts decided that educating people was only part of the answer; it was also necessary to help them understand the nature of culture itself and its impact on human interaction. This would, he postulated, motivate them to learn how to interact effectively within any cultural environment. The result was the simulation game BaFá BaFá, which was originally accompanied by training modules, a comic strip, and language tapes. This was the first intercultural simulation, and when it was made generally available in 1974, it became the most widely used and well-known simulation in the field (Shirts 1974, 1975). It was founded on the idea of having trainees learn and become members of two contrasting cultures, Alpha and Beta, and then visiting each other. One is a more collectivist, people-oriented, touching culture, and the other, using a different language, is more individualistic and task oriented. The point of the interaction between members of the two cultures is to teach "that what seems irrational, contradictory, or unimportant to us in our culture may seem rational, consistent, and terribly important in another culture" (Shirts, 1995). Other simulations have been created in the field, but all owe some credit for inspiration to this one, the classic that has provided a model for intercultural simulation games."[8]


BaFá BaFá is adaptable[9] and has been used in many different settings including with any groups that have different cultures, whether because of geographical location, political beliefs, race, organizational structure, mergers, sexual orientation, etc. Some examples of ways it has been used:

  • Training or teaching about diversity/inclusion.[10][11]
  • Sociology classes.[12]
  • Management Training.[13]
  • Preparing people to travel to different cultures (Peace Corps,[14] missionaries, military[15][16]).
  • Medical professionals,[17] staff and educators.
  • Orientations (student[18] and staff).


  1. ^ Dukes, Richard L.; Fowler, Sandra M.; Dekoven, Bernie (October 2011). "R. Garry Shirts Simulation Gaming Exemplar". Simulation & Gaming. 42 (5): 545–570. doi:10.1177/1046878111424335.
  2. ^ Dekoven, Bernie. "Garry Shirts - A Life Created".
  3. ^ Gonzalez, Blanca (May 16, 2011). "Educational psychologist was pioneer in simulation training". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  4. ^ "BaFa' BaFa' - Culture/Diversity for Schools & Charities". Simulation Training Systems. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  5. ^ "Rafa' Rafa' - Cultural Diversity Game". Simulation Training Systems. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  6. ^ "Professional BaFa' BaFa' - A Cross Culture/Diversity Simulation". Simulation Training Systems.
  7. ^ Yellen, Ted M I; Hoover, Margaret W. "In-Country Experience: Navy Personnel Stationed in Greece". Archived from the original on June 20, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  8. ^ Bennett Dan Landis; Janet M. Bennett; Milton J., eds. (2004). Handbook of intercultural training (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. p. 20. ISBN 9780761923329. Retrieved April 30, 2015. (subscription required)
  9. ^ Bennett Dan Landis; Janet M. Bennett; Milton J., eds. (2004). Handbook of intercultural training (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. pp. 62–63. ISBN 9780761923329. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  10. ^ Shirts, R. Garry. "BaFa' BaFa' Train The Trainer: When Used For Diversity" (PDF). Indiana State University. Indiana State University office of Diversity. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 12, 2015. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  11. ^ "Using Exercises and Simulations to Engage Students". Learn Center-Diversity and Inclusion-An Approach for Teaching Diversity-Triggers. University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  12. ^ Persell, Caroline H; Gerdes, Jennifer. "Lesson Plan for NYU Intro to Sociology". New York University. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  13. ^ Bickley, Maureen. "Using an Experiential Simulation to Build Cross Cultural Understanding: a Qualitative Study of Graduate Students". Curtin University. Curtin University of Technology, Graduate School of Business. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  14. ^ Sauer, Janet; Sauer, Chris (2010). "Challenging Pre-service Teachers' Understanding of the Intersection of Disability and Cultural Diversity" (PDF). Journal of Praxis in Multicultural Education. 5 (1): 23–35. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  15. ^ Yellen, Ted M. I. "The Cross-cultural Interaction Inventory: Development of Overseas Criterion Measures and Items That Differentiate Between Successful and Unsuccessful Adjusters" (PDF). Navy Personnel Research and Development Center. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  16. ^ Abbe, Ph.D, Allison; Gouge, Melissa. "Cultural Training for Military Personne l- Revisiting the Vietnam Era" (PDF). United States Army Combined Arms Center. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  17. ^ Blackburn, Donna S. (2009). "Nursing Students' Perceptions of a Simulation Game to Promote Cultural Sensitivity". Virginia Henderson International Nursing e-Repository. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
  18. ^ Cook, John; Martinez, Sergio. "Diversity Dimension Report" (PDF). University of Texas at Brownsville. Retrieved May 1, 2015.

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