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Screenshot from Government In Action game

Government isn't a game, except when it is

I’m currently working on a feature story about games and gamification in government for an upcoming issue of GCN. Because I’m also a bit of a gamer (huge understatement), I know how engaging game technology is and how it can, with a little work, support learning and training.

Today I wanted to point out a really cool find I made, in the form of Government In Action. The game was created by Muzzy Lane Software, which I first encountered by playing its amazing Making History series, where players play the roles of countries involved in World War II and try to get them to survive, and even thrive, during the war. It’s quite an eye opener. 

But Government In Action is a little different. Government In Action is aimed at college freshmen taking their first college-level citizenship classes.

The game is designed to show how government works, and why it’s so difficult for new legislators to get anything done when they first get to Washington. Players begin as a newly-elected members of the House of Representatives. They have to work with the media, interface with their colleagues and try to get the right things done while still planning and raising funds for their next election in two short years. They even have to fly home and deal with issues in their local districts. And, like most members of the House, they have to do all that with very limited resources.

CNN reported that the game was designed in conjunction with real members of Congress, such as Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.).

"The ability to interact rather than just reading a text in this technology-driven age will probably drive more interest," Tierney told CNN. "Video games with a core educational component may supplement traditional materials, such as textbooks, and may enable students to improve their understanding of certain subjects."

The game itself seems to hit many of the key gaming principles -- exploration and discovery, badges and awards to be earned, a multiplayer version for those who like to be social and a leaderboard to laud the greatest, well, leaders. Although the game is made by a private-sector company, it provides a great blueprint for agencies trying to come up with games or game-like interfaces for their education and outreach efforts.

Muzzy Lane is expanding Government In Action to run on Android and iPad tablets. It was showcased at the South By Southwest educational conference last week, which  should probably serve to open up the game to more students.

This is a great educational game, because people love to complain about government, without truly understanding how it works. Government In Action might help shed some light on that. Perhaps we should let a few of our real representatives have a crack at the leaderboards?

Posted by John Breeden II on Mar 11, 2013 at 9:39 AM


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