Video Game Prepares Students for Election Season

mapWith all eyes on this month’s upcoming presidential conventions, students across the country are getting a first-hand experience at the excitement and challenge of running a winning national campaign thanks to a former Supreme Court Justice.

iCivics, an educational non-profit founded by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, recently unveiled its updated version of Win the White House, a web-based video game designed to teach students grades four through 12 about the electoral process. The 2016 update includes enhanced customization features, allowing players to choose a candidate from an array of character avatars that reflect the increasingly diverse coalition of American voters. The game, which challenges players to run their own presidential campaign, draws more than 250,000 players monthly.

After deciding a candidate and political party affiliation, players must formulate a policy platform, tackling complex and contentious issues like gun control, immigration, and social policies. Players then articulate their positions directly to voters through a series of primary debates. If they succeed, the candidates must then devise a campaign strategy that incorporates a number of activities, ranging from fundraising and polling to media placement and candidate appearances, in order to build a winning electoral coalition.

The lack of civics education in American schools first motivated Justice O’Connor to establish iCivics in 2009. Today, amidst a political climate in which civility stands at an all-time low, the former Supreme Court Justice sees integrating civics-based knowledge and civil discourse into school curriculums as more important than ever.

“iCivics has been an effective way to reach young people, and give them an enhanced capacity to have critical thinking of their own,” she recently told the New York Times.

More than 110,000 teachers currently subscribe to the site, where educators can download lesson plans to complement the 20 interactive games in iCivics’ repertoire. Each resource also adheres to state and Common Core standards, and has drawn praise from educators for helping students experience and understand the compromises candidates must make to build a political coalition.

Regardless of the results of November’s election, interactive games like Win the White House are working to cultivate the next generation of informed voters by combining fun with learning.

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