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Get Children Developing Civic Identity

Success in video games is often framed at the personal level: the last person standing in Fortnite, achieving high viewership on a Twitch stream, the best player in Rocket League. However, many video games choose to focus players on a wider view, on working for the greater good of the world in which they live.

Games can develop a deep sense of civic identity. Civics is the study of the rights and obligations of citizens in society. Our civic identity comes from situating oneself within a larger group, often committing oneself to public action. Games give children a chance to try out taking public action within society for the greater good.

This list of games offers space for players to develop a sense of civic identity. We put it together with Barry Joseph, who has worked in many contexts to empower children to achieve this. Whether at Global Kids, Inc, where he helped youth to acquire leadership skills and engage in efforts to address global issues through the production of digital media, in founding Games For Change, where he worked with video games as a form of youth media, or at Girl Scouts of the U.S.A, where he piloted digital engagement for girls around the country.

There are many mainstream games, not created specifically for education, that are a great way to engage with civic identity. This includes games that invite players to take control of civic space, like Alba, One Hour, One Life, Civilization, Sim City, Thousand Threads and Pine.

Then there are games where civic space is presented as dysfunctional and in need of repair, like Papers Please, Not For Broadcast, Do Not Feed The Monkeys, Orwell. Other games let you take civic space in questionable or futile directions, like Headliner: NoviNews, Beholder, Bad News and Photographs Puzzle Stories.

Finally, there are some games specifically created to teach children about civics. The always-growing collection of games from iCivics explore U.S. Government functions, including Argument Wars, Branches of Power and Immigration Nation. There is the novel Civics! An American Musical that teaches US History through creating a Hamilton-style musical. Digital Compass teaches digital citizenship through an interactive story and MP For A Week that teaches children about being an MP in UK Parliament. Finally, the Democratic Socialism Simulator is a puzzle game where you run for office and then run a country.

This list includes 76 games from the last 34 years, with 1,009 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to understand government.


 

Orchids to Dusk

Release Date: 03/12/2015

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Orchids to Dusk is a short wandering adventure. You are an astronaut stranded on an alien planet, with only a few minutes of oxygen. You explore the world and discover fantastic gardens on the planet.

The Tomorrow Children

Release Date: 06/09/2016, updated in 2022

Platforms: PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

The Tomorrow Children is an online strategy game where you collaborate with other players to build, explore and develop communities. Unusually, it uses social economics and a Soviet Union-themed post-apocalyptic dystopia as the setting. You play a...

Lil Gator Game

Release Date: 14/12/2022

Platforms: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Lil Gator Game is an adventure set on an island playground where a young brother invents exciting fantasy adventures to try and get his older sister to play like they used to. You guide your waddling gator's unusual movement to help them explore the...

Road 96

Release Date: 16/08/2021

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Road 96 is a narrative adventure where you play a teenager trying to escape an oppressive, authoritarian country by reaching the border. Through a series of vignettes, you experience the most important and poignant parts on an epic road trip through a...

Rainbow Billy

Release Date: 05/10/2021

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan is a role-play adventure where you save the world from a colourless darkness. Unusually, battles are won through listening and conversation rather than traditional attacks. It combines the excitement and...

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Release Date: 11/12/2020

Platforms: Apple TV, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is an adventure game where you play as a young girl who starts a wildlife conservation club. When Alba visits her grandparents on a Mediterranean island, she is excited for a summer of exploring with her friend Ines. But when...

Papers, Please

Release Date: 08/08/2013, updated in 2017

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS Vita and iOS

You play the role of a border-crossing immigration officer in the fictional dystopian Eastern Bloc-like country of Arstotzka. You review each immigrant’s and returning citizens’ passports and paperwork according to an increasing list of changing...

Thousand Threads

Release Date: 30/07/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Thousand Threads is an open world game of consequences. You are free to interact with the world, animals and people however you like, give, take, save, kill, inform, hide, befriend, betray. But how you do this will have ongoing and unavoidable...

One Hour One Life

Release Date: 27/02/2018

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

One Hour One Life is a civilisation survival game where each player lives a whole life in an hour of play and then passes away. Born as a baby into the care of anonymous other online players, you initially depend on them for food. Quickly growing, you...

Sid Meier's Civilization (Series)

Release Date: 21/10/2016, updated in 2019

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Civilization is a long-running strategy game where you develop a society from hunter-gatherer to space travel. There are many ways to approach this challenge; socially, militarily, politically or perhaps by building wonders to impress other nations.

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney (Series)

Release Date: 12/12/2014, updated in 2019

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, Android, GBA, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a courtroom murder mystery series where you piece together clues to challenge testimonies and uncover the truth. It’s like a visual novel, although you must interact with characters and evidence to progress.

Garden Story

Release Date: 11/08/2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Garden Story is a role-playing adventure, crafting and farming game similar to Stardew Valley. It also features combat, dungeons and puzzles similar to the Zelda games. You defend your garden-home from an invasion on...

Sim City (Series)

Release Date: 02/02/1989, updated in 2014

Platforms: Amazon Fire, Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

SimCity is a series of city-building games, created by Will Wright. Since their inception as educational experiences in 1989, the games have enabled players to design ambitious cities. The attraction is the open-ness of play, where you can let your...

Stacklands (Sokpop)

Release Date: 08/04/2022

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Stacklands is a strategy game where you stack cards so that your village can survive. You combine cards to grow food, build structures and fight monsters. Each of these three actions is a choice, make the right choices and your village grows, make the...

Wytchwood

Release Date: 09/12/2021, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Wytchwood is an adventure in a land of gothic fables and fairytales. You are an old witch of the woods and must explore the countryside, collect magical ingredients and brew enchantments. That much is relatively common, here though, your role is to pass...

Photographs - Puzzle Stories

Release Date: 03/04/2019

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

"Have you ever made a mistake, or hurt people you care about?" Asks the Photographs trailer. It's a puzzle game that aims much higher than to distract you while on the way to work.

Reigns (Series)

Release Date: 11/08/2016

Platforms: Amazon Fire, Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Take charge of a kingdom, one decision at a time. Each choice is presented to you as a playing card with some advice or a question from one of the 38 different characters. Swipe left or right to make a decision that will impact the church, people,...

Through the Darkest of Times

Release Date: 27/05/2020, updated in 2020

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Through the Darkest of Times is a strategy game that conveys the sombre mood of the dark period of history between January 1933 and May 1945. With interactive drama, it tells the story and the struggles of average people living in the 3rd Reich.

Timberborn

Release Date: 15/09/2021

Platforms: Mac and PC

Timberborn is a construction strategy game where you control a population of beavers, building a civilization and preparing for drought. You build waterways, storage houses, dams and more in a densely packed city as you manage resources, allocate...

Democratic Socialism Simulator

Release Date: 20/02/2020

Platforms: Android, PC and iOS

Democratic Socialism Simulator is a puzzle game where you run for office and then run a country. It offers a flow of questions with a yes or no response. Each answer has consequences in the minds of the voters and the prosperity of the country. It's an...

Aviary Attorney

Release Date: 22/12/2015, updated in 2020

Platforms: Mac, PC and Switch

Aviary Attorney is a courtroom drama set in nineteenth-century Paris, populated with beautifully drawn animals. Guiding JayJay Falcon, defence attorney, you help investigate each case before each of the four court dates; combing crime scenes,...

Do Not Feed the Monkeys

Release Date: 23/10/2018

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Do Not Feed the Monkeys is an adventure game where you sit at a computer and spy on live video feeds of various events and characters. Your job is to gather information about "the monkeys" while also looking after your character's health and apartment...

Parkasaurus

Release Date: 13/08/2020, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Parkasaurus is a strategy simulation game where you create a dinosaur park for people to visit. You need to construct well-designed exhibits, research specialised technology and maximize profits so you can expand with more dinosaurs. It combines pet...

Headliner: NoviNews

Release Date: 05/10/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Headliner: NoviNews is a narrative-driven simulation game where you play as the person in charge of the headlines and stories that are released to the public. Each article you approve from your office has a direct impact on the world outside. Which news...

Hypnospace Outlaw

Release Date: 12/04/2019, updated in 2020

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Hypnospace Outlaw is a puzzle game where you explore a simulation of the internet in the 1990s. Your role is to enforce good behaviour by finding misconduct on the pixelated pages. It's not only a unique piece of historical fiction but because its web...

PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night

Release Date: 29/10/2021

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 4+ year-olds

PJ Masks: Heroes of the Night is a running and jumping game where young children play as the heroes from the TV show. Its simple controls and straightforward levels, which have lots of collectables to find, provide a simple yet enjoyable interactive...

Strange Horticulture

Release Date: 21/01/2021

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Strange Horticulture is an occult puzzle detective game where you run a plant shop. While you identify and sell new plants to your customers you discover and influence their interweaving lives. It's unusual because your power is in your knowledge of...

Disney Dreamlight Valley

Release Date: 06/09/2022

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Disney Dreamlight Valley is a world building game about restoring a broken Disney world. You interact with famous Disney Characters and decorate the valley with a wide variety of items and famous locations. Like a cross between [link to...

Not For Broadcast

Release Date: 30/01/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Not For Broadcast is a narrative puzzle game where you control the National Nightly News just as a radical government comes to power. By deciding the angles, adverts, images and censoring in the show you control what the people see and determine...

Argument Wars

Release Date: 16/09/2016, updated in 2020

Platforms: Android, Web and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Pieces: Cards

Argument Wars is an adventure game where you play a lawyer in a U.S. Supreme Court. It's a card game that recreates constitutional arguments behind some important historical cases.

Foundation

Release Date: 01/02/2019, updated in 2021

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Foundation is a city-building simulation game where you create networks of supply and consumption in a medieval village. You not only develop structures, gather resources and create your own unique settlement, but also manage the individual needs of...

Pine

Release Date: 26/11/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4 and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Pine is an adventure game where you play a primitive young man searching for new land for his tribe. You discover five tribes of anthropomorphic creatures that need to be understood and overcome to enable your tribe to have somewhere to live.

Treachery in Beatdown City

Release Date: 31/03/2020

Platforms: PC and Switch

Treachery in Beatdown City is a fighting game with a retro pixelated art style. It combines the popular beat'em up mechanics from games like Double Dragon, where you take on enemy characters with fists, kicks and weapons, with role play elements....

Digital Compass

Release Date: 07/08/2015, updated in 2019

Platforms: Web

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Digital Compass is an adventure game set in a fictional fantasy town. You choose from a series of eight young characters facing tough decisions about civic life: social media, homework, popularity, sports and romance to name a few.

Humankind

Release Date: 17/08/2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Humankind is a strategy game where you develop a civilisation through the many ages of humanity's existence, from the nomadic tribes of ancient history to the space age. In many ways comparable to [link to game/Sid+Meiers+Civilization The Civilization...

Orwell: Keeping an Eye On You

Release Date: 27/10/2016

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Orwell is narrative game where you play a fictional research using a surveillance program called Orwell. Through a series of episodes you are tasked with using Orwell to help solve mysteries like the bombing of a public plaza. To do this you trawl...

Rivals

Release Date: 21/09/2020

Platforms: PC

Rivals is a puzzle game where you piece together the story of Josh and Luke and the breakup of their band. Playing detective, similarly to Return of the Obra Dinn, but rather than murder it's musical betrayal you are sleuthing here. You inspect sources,...

Rog & Roll

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Rog and Roll is a running and jumping game where you fight enemies and avoid traps. Unusually, you play a former henchman on a quest to save his friends from re-emerging tyranny. It features retro-inspired graphics and a humorous story where characters...

Against the Storm

Release Date: 18/10/2021

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Against the Storm is a construction-based strategy game where you build outposts, towns and villages in an eternally rainy world. Unlike other city builders, this is a game where you attempt and fail over and over. Each run you use intricate gameplay...

Bad News

Release Date: 01/12/2019

Platforms: Web

Bad News is a role-play game about building a news media organisation. It's designed to highlight bias in the news by putting you in charge of a series of decisions to build a profitable company. All you do is answer questions, but as you do the...

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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