First, I did not want the games to detract from the project. The experience gained from working on a real world project for a real world decisionmaker trumped, in my mind, any value games might bring to learning the essential lessons of strategic intelligence. In addition, these projects have significant tangible value to the students beyond the knowledge they gain from them. In many cases over the years, these projects have led to jobs (or at least job offers) either directly or indirectly.
Second, I did not want the course to become about the game or games. I know from experience that games can be genuinely compelling. There are many good strategic simulations (Diplomacy, The Total War series) around which a strategic course could easily be built. In these cases, I saw the games not just competing for time with the project but actually overwhelming the project completely.
To give a sense of how this worked in practice, in the class where we discussed strategic intelligence requirements (i.e. the questions that intelligence professionals are asked at the strategic level), students had to play World of Warcraft (WOW) or some other quest-based game. While there are many defensible answers to the question regarding the connection between WOW and intelligence requirements, I was able to leverage the student's experience with a well-formed "quest"(typical of the high-end MMORPGs) and contrast it with the consequences of poorly formed intelligence requirements. This, in turn, gave the students a unique perspective on their upcoming meeting with their decisionmaker where they would be receiving the intelligence requirement relevant to their particular project.
So, how did it all work out?
School Uses Video Games To Teach Thinking Skills