iCivics Games to Teach Government and Civics


iCivics games provide an engaging and interactive way for students to gain an understanding of government and civics. Conceived by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, this free curriculum challenges declining civic education levels while encouraging students to engage as citizens actively.

iCivics’ new game, Branches of Power, allows learners to explore each branch of government and its respective roles and responsibilities. In contrast, other games, such as Argument Wars, let players debate landmark Supreme Court cases.

Branches of Power

The Constitution divides the federal government into three distinct branches, including legislative (Senate and House of Representatives), executive (President and Cabinet), and judicial branches (Supreme Court and Federal courts). This power distribution ensures no single person or group exerts too much power over the nation, creating “checks and balances” to maintain stability within our system.

At Branches of Power, players take on the roles of an executive, legislative, or judicial avatar and travel through a symbolic political landscape to develop issues (empty lots) into laws (golden towers). Along the way they hold press conferences to raise awareness for their issue(s) while organizing town hall meetings between voter factions that represent different values like competition and cooperation. Once an issue becomes popular enough, its legislator creates a bill that Congress either passes or rejects; otherwise, the President may issue Executive Orders and Proclamations, but the judicial will deem such acts unconstitutional.

Congress serves the people by legislating, taxing, and ratifying treaties. As their most responsive branch, Congress is given broad powers to legislate, raise taxes, and ratify treaties. Meanwhile, the executive branch oversees foreign affairs and commands the military, while the judicial branch interprets Congress laws and actions taken by the executive and legislative branches. While some specific powers are listed in the Constitution for Congress to exercise via the “necessary and proper clause,” Supreme Court precedent has recognized Congress may assume implied powers through “necessary and proper clause.”

iCivics designers do an excellent job at helping children grasp the concept of checks and balances through this game, even though its emphasis on legislative branches may seem uneven. Town hall and law-making portions provide valuable civic participation activities that demonstrate congressional compromise; its sequencing of lawmaking process steps is also accurate despite inconsistent presentation; families can also use Branches of Power as a means of discussing civic participation as well as what qualities a leader needs to fulfill multiple responsibilities simultaneously; it comes equipped with activities and teaching tools designed for English and Spanish learners alike!

Court Quest

Court Quest is a free online game designed to educate students about the structures and jurisdictions of state and federal courts. Re-released for 2020, this version now features cases that address issues pertinent to students from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds; bonus objectives and events have also been implemented to boost player engagement levels. Moreover, Court Quest now incorporates changes in public policy being debated in Congress or the Supreme Court that have altered gameplay significantly.

Jump aboard the Justice Express and help passengers navigate local, state, and federal court systems in this iCivics simulation game! Players learn about the complexity of the US judicial system by collecting legal cases and dropping them off at their proper courts – points are awarded for correct answers quickly! Plus, teachers get a dashboard and valuable tools to track progress!

The game is simple to use and adapts well with multiple curricular topics. For example, it can be combined with the Branches of Power game to teach about each branch of government. Furthermore, this educational game can introduce or reinforce constitutional law concepts like separation of powers and judicial review.

QUEST is an open and customizable solution that unifies all aspects of the judicial branch into one comprehensive system. It enables jurisdictions to select functionality best suited to their needs before adding more as they grow. Agencies can share resources across disciplines while creating an environment of efficiency, effectiveness, and excellence; finally, it offers a consistent case management approach across levels within the judicial branch.

Argument Wars

This game from iCivics challenges players to put their persuasive abilities to the test in an immersive simulation of a Supreme Court case. Each player takes on the role of an attorney arguing on either side in fundamental issues such as Brown vs Board of Education or Miranda v. Arizona; those successful will earn points, while those losing will receive penalties for poor arguments. It provides an enjoyable way of teaching how laws operate and how decisions made by the Supreme Court impact daily life.

iCivics provides many teacher resources, including a detailed lesson plan with links to articles and Supreme Court cases; pre- and post-game activities covering the Constitution, legal procedures, and court cases; as well as pre-and post-game activities that cover legal systems and court cases – as well as an in-game glossary of critical terms. Teachers can use the login feature on the iCivics homepage to add classes and view class activity, assign simulations directly to their students via Google Classroom accounts, or pull existing courses in.

Students can either play each case individually or as a team. Students begin by selecting a historic Supreme Court case they wish to debate and selecting their side in it, then using playing cards to present arguments supporting it – the more convincing someone is, the more points they’ll earn! At last, a judge determines who wins their case!

Pros for this game include its intriguing mechanics, using real Supreme Court cases, and rewarding good arguments with points. Cons include being text-heavy for students with low reading proficiency, no level-up opportunities available, and confusing rewards and punishment mechanisms within the game. Still, engaging students with subjects they may not typically think about–such as the Constitution and law – is impressive and could keep their attention beyond five minutes.

Citizenship Nation

Citizenship Nation from BYU-Idaho educates users on their rights and responsibilities as American citizens. The app features a video on citizenship’s history and all three branches of government, enabling users to name their senators and congressional representatives before writing them a letter about an issue of national concern, finally showing your representative this letter and any responses received back to you.

Counselors at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center often use tug-of-war to demonstrate how constitutional checks and balances operate before sharing a real-life national controversy that involves all three branches – like when Congress approved legislation that allowed free ice cream on Fridays. Still, the president vetoed it due to being lactose intolerant.

Even though most Scouts are too young to cast votes or join the military, Citizenship in the Nation merit badge requirements can help guide them towards leading more involved and engaged civic lives. Citizenship in Society and Citizenship in the World also feature this theme.