Curated List of Games for Civic Identity

Updated: Aug 23


This month I had the pleasure of working with Andy Robertson, who founded and runs the amazing Family Video Game Database, to highlight a collection of video games that can develop a deep sense of civic identity.


If you are new to FVGD, you have to go check it out. It’s the Common Sense Media of video games… or the Board Game Geek of video games – depending on your frame of reference. Over 1,200 games are reviewed and detailed, giving parents (or educators) everything they’d need to know.


The sites features game lists, to help families go deep in different subject areas. Andy asked me if I would partner with him to make a list of civic games. I am excited to share that it’s now live, and will be kept up-to-date right here.


But if you prefer to see what it looked like when it first launched, just take a scroll on down and enjoy:


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 271 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to understand government.


Each game then gets the treatment you see above: an image from the game, a description, and lots of details. To view those for all 29 games you will have to go here. But if you’re just curious to see what made it onto the initial list, check below:


Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

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

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

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.


One Hour One Life

This is a civilization 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

“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.


Sid Meier’s Civilization

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.


Through the Darkest of Times

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.


Papers, Please

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…


Treachery in Beatdown City

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….


Sim City

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

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…


Democratic Socialism Simulator

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…


Headliner: NoviNews

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

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,…


Suzerain

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.


Pine

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

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.


Bad News

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…


Aviary Attorney

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…


Not For Broadcast

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…


Orwell

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…


Harmony Square

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…


Digital Compass

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.


Argument Wars

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.


Branches of Power

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 j