CoverMedia Literacy Activities for Key Civics ConceptsDefining Critical Media Literacy1. Foundations of the United States Political SystemDemocracy in Social Media Policies and Community StandardsThe Internet as a Public Utility21st Century Women STEM InnovatorsMedia Coverage of Kings, Queens, and Royal FamiliesRepresentations of Native Americans in Film, Local History Publications, and School Mascots2. The Development of United States GovernmentDeclarations of Independence on Social MediaMedia Marketing and Government Regulating of Self-Driving Cars and Electric VehiclesRepresentations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the MediaPolitical Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American MusicalBill of Rights on Twitter3. Institutions of United States GovernmentHollywood Movies About the Branches of GovernmentWriting an Impeachment Press ReleaseMembers of Congress' Use of Social MediaPolitical Impacts of Public Opinion PollsWebsite Design for New Political Parties4. The Rights and Responsibilities of CitizensImmigration in the NewsPortrayals of Immigrants in Television and FilmCOVID-19 Information EvaluationWomen Political Leaders in the MediaOnline Messaging by Special Interest GroupsDigital Games for Civic EngagementSocial Media and the ElectionsMedia Spin in the Coverage of Political DebatesCelebrities' Influence on PoliticsPolitical Activism Through Social MediaMedia Recruitment of Public Sector WorkersImages of Teachers and TeachingRepresenting Trans IdentitiesMedia Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021Music as Protest ArtPACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media5. The Constitution, Amendments and Supreme Court DecisionsProhibition in the MediaThe Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social MediaCivil War News Stories and Recruitment AdvertisementsRepresentations of Gender and Race on CurrencyThe Equality Act on TwitterReading Supreme Court Dissents AloudTelevision Cameras in Courtrooms6. The Structure of State and Local GovernmentNative American Mascots and LogosA Constitution for the InternetMilitary Recruitment and the MediaYour Privacy on Social MediaPandemic Policy Information in the MediaGendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in PoliticsEnvironmental Campaigns Using Social MediaTrusted Messengers, the Media, and the PandemicOnline Campaigning for Political OfficeAdvertising the Lottery Online and In PrintLocal Governments, Social Media and Digital Democracy7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media LiteracyPress Freedom in the United States and the WorldObjectivity and the News from All SidesInvestigative Journalism and Social ChangeNews Photographs & Newspaper DesignHow Reporters' Report EventsRecommendation Algorithms on Social Media PlatformsFake News Investigation and EvaluationCritical Visual Analysis of Online and Print MediaMemes and TikToks as Political Cartoons

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

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