Video games are the most recent technological advancement to be viewed as an educational panacea and a force for democracy. However, this medium has particular affordances and constraints as a tool for democratic education in educational environments. This paper presents results from a study of the design and content of four iCivics games and their potential to meet the goals of democratic education. Specifically, we focus on the games as designed experiences, the nature and accuracy of the content, and the nature of intellectual engagement in the games. We find that the games, while easily accessible and aligned with standardized curriculum, do not provide opportunities to engage players in deliberative decision making on contemporary issues or to apply concepts from the game world to their role as citizens in training. Further, the game content is more “textbook” than the potentially dynamic and authentic types of civic engagement the medium of games can provide.

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24 Democracy & Education 1-12 (November 2016)