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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, Branchespho 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 29 games from the last 32 years, with 273 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to understand government.


 

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 6-10 year-olds

Release Date: 11/12/2020

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

Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Simulation

Accessibility: 31 features

Developer: @UsTwo

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Thousand Threads

Content Rating: Not rated by PEGI

Release Date: 30/07/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Action, Adventure, Narrative, Open World, Role-Playing and Simulation

Developer: @ThreadsGame

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney (Series)

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Skill Rating: 11-14 year-olds

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

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

Genres: Adventure, Puzzle and Role-Playing

Accessibility: 17 features

Developer: @CapcomUSA_

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Through the Darkest of Times

Content Rating: PEGI 16+

Release Date: 27/05/2020

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

Genres: Narrative, Role-Playing and Simulation

Accessibility: 15 features

Developer: @Paintbucket_de

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Sid Meier's Civilization (Series)

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

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

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Genres: Fighting, Open World, Strategy and Turn-Based

Developer: @Sid_Meier

Players: This is a single player game

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 building wonders to impress other nations.

One Hour One Life

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Release Date: 27/02/2018

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Genres: Action, Adventure, Creative, Fighting, Open World, Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @JasonRohrer

Players: This is a single player game. You can play with up to 100 players online

This 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 can soon fend...

Photographs - Puzzle Stories

Content Rating: PEGI 18+

Release Date: 03/04/2019

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @LucaRedwood

Players: This is a single player game

"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.

Treachery in Beatdown City

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Release Date: 31/03/2020

Platforms: PC and Switch

Genres: Action, Fighting, Role-Playing and Turn-Based

Developer: @aNuChallenger

Players: This is a single player game

Treachery in Beatdown City is a fighting game with a retro pixilated 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....

Papers, Please

Content Rating: PEGI 16+

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

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS Vita and iOS

Genres: Narrative, Puzzle and Turn-Based

Accessibility: 19 features

Developer: @Dukope

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Democratic Socialism Simulator

Content Rating: PEGI 16+

Release Date: 20/02/2020

Platforms: Android, PC and iOS

Genres: Narrative, Puzzle, Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @MolleIndustria

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Sim City (Series)

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

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

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Genres: Creative, Simulation and Strategy

Accessibility: 14 features

Developer: @EA

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Do Not Feed the Monkeys

Content Rating: PEGI 16+

Release Date: 23/10/2018

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

Genres: Adventure, Puzzle and Strategy

Developer: @Fictiorama

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Suzerain

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Release Date: 04/12/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Role-Playing, Simulation and Strategy

Developer: @TorporGames

Players: This is a single player game

Suzerain is a role-play strategy game where you are the president of the fictional country, Sordland. By choosing conversations and life path you use your skills of persuasion and political values to reform your country after the downfall of a dictator.

Headliner: NoviNews

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Release Date: 05/10/2019

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

Genres: Adventure, Narrative and Simulation

Accessibility: 18 features

Developer: @UnboundCreation

Players: This is a single player game

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 of the world outside. Which news...

Rivals

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Release Date: 21/09/2020

Platforms: PC

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Accessibility: 18 features

Developer: @TimSheinman

Players: This is a single player game

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,...

Pine
PEGI Rating 12+ for Pine

Pine

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Release Date: 26/11/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC and Switch

Genres: Action, Adventure, Narrative, Open World and Simulation

Developer: @Twirlbound

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Reigns (Series)

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Release Date: 11/08/2016

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Genres: Adventure, Narrative, Puzzle, Strategy and Turn-Based

Accessibility: 21 features

Developer: @DevolverDigital

Players: This is a single player game

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,...

Bad News

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Release Date: 01/12/2019

Price: Free

Platforms: Web

Genres: Narrative, Role-Playing and Simulation

Developer: @GetBadNews

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Not For Broadcast

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 18+

Release Date: 30/01/2020

Platforms: Mac and PC

Genres: Narrative, Puzzle and Simulation

Developer: @TinyBuild

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Aviary Attorney

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

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

Platforms: Mac, PC and Switch

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Accessibility: 7 features

Developer: @Sketchy_Jeremy

Players: This is a single player game

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, interrogating suspects and...

Harmony Square

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 16+

Release Date: 06/11/2020

Price: Free

Platforms: Web

Genres: Adventure and Narrative

Developer: @wijzijnDROG

Players: This is a single player game

Harmony Square is a text-based adventure game about fake news. You live in idyllic Harmony Square and are hired as Chief Disinformation Officer whose job is to disturb the square’s peace and quiet by fomenting internal divisions and pitting its...

Orwell

Content Rating: PEGI 12+

Release Date: 27/10/2016

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Genres: Puzzle and Role-Playing

Developer: @OsmoticStudios

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Digital Compass

Content Rating: PEGI 7+

Skill Rating: 9-12 year-olds

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

Price: Free

Platforms: Web

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @CommonSenseEd

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Civics! An American Musical

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Release Date: 04/11/2020

Platforms:

Genres: Adventure, Creative, Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @FableLearn

Players: This is a single player game

Civics! An American Musical is a narrative game where you create your own musical about important events in US history. You make choices about the look, style and historical accuracy of your production. Once you have finished your show you get to watch...

MP For A Week

Expected Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 11-15 year-olds

Release Date: 11/04/2016

Price: Free

Platforms: Android, Web and iOS

Genres: Puzzle and Strategy

Developer: @UKParlEducation

Players: This is a single player game

MP For A Week is a puzzle game where you play an MP for a week. That might sound sedate and a little boring, but things soon kick off as you try and survive a week in politics. Like Reigns, you need to balance keeping your party, your voters and the...

Branches of Power

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 10-14 year-olds

Release Date: 29/05/2020

Price: Free

Platforms: Android, Web and iOS

Genres: Puzzle and Role-Playing

Developer: @iCivics

Players: This is a single player game

Branches of Power is a strategy game where you control all three branches of US government. You run the country with the ability to introduce presidential agendas, write legislation, sign or veto bills, and even judge passed laws. It's a lot to deal...

Argument Wars

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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

Price: Free

Platforms: Android, Web and iOS

Genres: Narrative and Puzzle

Developer: @iCivics

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Do I Have A Right?

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Release Date: 28/03/2018

Price: Free

Platforms: Android, Web and iOS

Genres: Action, Puzzle and Strategy

Developer: @iCivics

Players: This is a single player game

Do I Have A Right? is a puzzle game where you run a law firm that takes pro-bono cases where client's rights have been infringed. It's like Diner Dash, with a stream of customers who's needs must be met. Only here each client needs legal advice on...

Immigration Nation

Content Rating: PEGI 3+

Skill Rating: 8-12 year-olds

Release Date: 31/07/2018, updated in 2020

Price: Free

Platforms: Android, Web and iOS

Genres: Narrative, Puzzle and Turn-Based

Developer: @iCivics

Players: This is a single player game

Immigration Nation is a strategy game about guiding newcomers to the country along their path to citizenship. You are in charge of Immigration Bay with an in-flow of boats, each with their own story to understand.


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