CoverIntroductionAligning Activities to Key Civics and Government ConceptsDefining Critical Media LiteracyTopic 1. Foundations of the United States Political System1.1 Social Media Policies and Community Standards on YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and More1.2 The Internet as a Public Utility1.3  21st Century Women STEM Innovators1.4 Media Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal Families1.5 Representations of Native Americans in Films, Local History Publications, and School MascotsTopic 2. The Development of United States Government2.1 Declarations of Independence on Social Media2.2 Media Marketing and Government Regulation of Self-Driving Cars and Electric Vehicles2.3 Representations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the Media2.4 Political Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American Musical2.5 Bill of Rights on TwitterTopic 3. Institutions of United States Government3.1: Hollywood Movies About the Branches of Government3.2: Writing an Impeachment Press Release3.3: Members of Congress' Use of Social Media3.4: Political Impacts of Public Opinion Polls3.5: Website Design for New Political PartiesTopic 4. The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens4.1: Immigration in the News4.2: Portrayals of Immigrants in Television and Film4.3: COVID-19 Information Evaluation4.4: Women Political Leaders in the Media4.5: Online Messaging by Special Interest Groups4.6: Digital Games for Civic Engagement4.7: Social Media and the Elections4.8: Images of Political Leaders and Political Power4.9: Media Spin in the Coverage of Political Debates4.10: Celebrities' Influence on Politics4.11: Political Activism Through Social Media4.12: Media Recruitment of Public Sector Workers4.13 Deciding What Books Students Read in School4.14: Images of Teachers and Teaching4.15: For Whom Is and Could Your School Be Named4.16: Representing Trans Identities4.17: Media Framing of the Events of January 6, 20214.18: Music as Protest Art4.19: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media4.20 Brands and PoliticsTopic 5. The Constitution, Amendments, and Supreme Court Decisions5.1: Prohibition in the Media5.2: The Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social Media5.3: Civil War Era News Stories and Recruitment Advertisements5.4: Representations of Gender and Race on Currency5.5: The Equality Act on Twitter5.6: Reading Supreme Court Dissents Aloud5.7: Television Cameras in CourtroomsTopic 6. The Structure of State and Local Government6.1: Native American Mascots and Logos6.2: A Constitution for the Internet6.3: Military Recruitment and the Media6.4: Your Privacy on Social Media6.5: Pandemic Policy Information in the Media6.6: Gendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in Politics6.7: Gender-Neutral Marketing of Toys 6.8: Environmental Campaigns Using Social Media6.9: Trusted Messengers, the Media, and the Pandemic6.10: Online Campaigning for Political Office6.11: Advertising the Lottery Online and In Print6.12: Local Governments, Social Media and Digital Democracy6.13: Protecting the CommonsTopic 7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy7.1: Press Freedom in the United States and the World7.2: Objectivity and Reporting the News from All Sides7.3: Investigative Journalism and Social Change7.4: News Photographs & Newspaper Design7.5: How Reporters Report Events7.6: Recommendation Algorithms on Social Media Platforms7.7: YouTube Content Creators7.8: Fake News Investigation and Evaluation7.9: Paywalls and Access to Online News7.10: Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print Media7.11: Memes and TikToks as Political Cartoons7.12: Women Reporters in the Movies7.13: Design a 21st Century Indie Bookstore

4.6: Digital Games for Civic Engagement

Youngsters from elementary school to high school and college play digital games for entertainment on gaming devices, computers, and smartphones. NIM, the first mathematical game on a computer was introduced at the World's Fair of 1939-1940. NIMROD, the next version of that game, was created in 1951. In 1962, Spacewar! became the first game playable on multiple stations. Space Invaders arrived in 1980 in advance of a huge expansion of gaming on the then newly created Internet. Xbox was released in 2002; Nintendo Wii in 2006; Angry Birds in 2009; and Pokemon Go in 2016 (see The History of Online Gaming, Medium, January 20, 2017).

Online gaming is now everywhere, with mixed and virtual reality experiences emerging as the newest innovation in the gaming industry. But can game play influence young people to become voters and actively-engaged democratic citizens?

Sketch of voting land which is a red white and blue version of candyland
VotingLand by Elizabeth Mooney & Leanna Van is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Many educators and game designers believe so and are developing serious games to promote civic awareness and participation. 

iCivics, founded in 2008 by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, offers a wide-ranging collection of online games about all aspects of American government and law.

In the run-up to the 2020 Presidential election, the organization Rock the Vote created the game Build the Vote in Minecraft.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction published Stop Disasters! - games that challenge players to take governmental and environmental actions to prevent floods, earthquakes, and other natural calamities. 

Spent is an online game about surviving poverty and homelessness.

Image preview of a YouTube video
Watch on YouTube

In these activities, you will evaluate a currently available, politically themed online digital game, then design your own game about voting and politics.

Activity 1: Evaluate a Politically Themed Digital Game

Activity 2: Design Your Own Game

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Example 1: Sorry not Sorry: How to Vote by Caroline Gabriel, Ruihan Luo, & Sara Shea 

Example 2: VotingLand by Elizabeth Mooney & Leanna Van

Example 3: Memory Matching Game: Voting 101 by by Sophia Hajjar and Kayleigh Francis

Example 4: CivicsLand by Liv Sanfacon, Brendan Sarles, & Christopher Spinozzi

Image of the Sorry board game but at the end of each route it says "the polls" and the example card says "uh oh! one of your opponents sent in an absentee ballot, but they missed the deadline. Choose an opponent to send back to home"

Sorry not Sorry: How to Vote by Caroline Gabriel, Ruihan Luo, & Sara Shea is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

CivicsLand is a copy of candyland but with different obstacles like gerrymandering and polarizing politics
CivicsLand by Liv Sanfacon, Brendan Sarles, & Christopher Spinozzi is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0
Screenshot of the memory matching game with cards for voting and polls
Memory Matching Game: Voting 101 by by Sophia Hajjar and Kayleigh Francis is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Describe how a democracy provides opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process through elections, political parties and interest groups. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T4.5]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Digital Citizen
      • 2c: Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Innovative Designer
      • 4a: Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
      • 4b: Students select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
      • 4c: Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
      • 4d: Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6c: Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Ethics and Laws (CAS.b)
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.5
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7