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 explores U.S. Government functions, including Argument Wars, Branches 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 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 85 games from the last 34 years, with 1,230 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to understand government.