Video Games Are Effective at Teaching Children Civics Lessons

Your Pac-Man cocktail arcade table is beneficial for a great many reasons: it helps you unwind after a long day, it challenges your reflexes and it awakens your brain. But does it teach you about how the government works?

If learning about the government sounds like a boring reason to play a video game, think again. 86-year-old Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and now, in her retirement, she’s determined to teach the next generation the principles of law in America. So far, it’s working.

iCivics Mass Appeal

When Justice O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2006, she took on a new mission: encourage schools to teach children how to be engaged citizens, a skill she believes will die off if not passed down from one generation to the next.

Even though she was not a big video game enthusiast before, she began to realize that interactive video games could be an effective learning tool to impart lessons to school-aged children. She founded iCivics, a nonprofit focused on civics education, in 2009.

iCivics has released 19 free online games with lesson plans included. 3.2 million middle school children played these games last year, learning about each branch of American government and the principles of the Constitution.

Filament Games, an educational game development company located in Wisconsin, designs the games for iCivics. One game is called “Do I Have a Right?” The gamer is role playing as the head of a law firm. When they take on a client, they have to figure out which rights apply to their case and argue their stance. Another game is called “Supreme Decision” and the gamer is a deliberating Supreme Court justice faced with making the swing vote in a difficult case.

The latest game, “Win the White House,” teaches students about how Presidential candidates have to stick to their particular views while competing against another candidate. It is generating considerable interest, with over 250,000 students playing the game in March alone.

Justice O’Connor is accomplishing what she set out to do: keep civics fun while imparting essential knowledge about American government to future lawyers, members of Congress, judges and Presidents.