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We the GamersHow Games Teach Ethics and Civics$

Karen Schrier

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780190926106

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2021

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190926106.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 October 2021

We the People

We the People

Chapter:
(p.3) 1 We the People
Source:
We the Gamers
Author(s):

Karen Schrier

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190926106.003.0001

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the main arguments of the book We the Gamers. It provides an overview of why ethics and civics matter, why games matter in the practice of ethics and civics, and why these types of skills need to be taught at this particular moment in our lifetimes. The chapter provides the necessary context for the book—including the COVID-19 pandemic and concomitant health, economic, and social issues. To help solve these systemic, complex problems it is necessary to connect, civically engage, and ethically evaluate and deliberate. People need to not only learn these skills themselves, but teach their neighbors, community members, and leaders. This chapter reveals how games and gamers are already engaging in civics and ethics. Games are communities and public spheres where people come together to play, practice, deliberate, solve problems, and repair our world. The chapter also reviews the variety of games that may enable the practice of these skills, from in-person card games to big-budget console games, and from classroom-based collaborative games to livestreamed competitive games. Finally, this chapter introduces the concept of practicing as a citizen, which is to grapple with the complexity of humanity and governance. How do individuals “citizen” together and play with, critique, and redesign systems? How do games help people to overcome the unnecessary obstacles and unjust inequities of our world? How do people help one another to flourish as human beings?

Keywords:   games, video games, civics, ethics, social studies, education, diversity, learning, citizen, character

In 2020, all of the world’s citizens were embroiled in a global pandemic. The virus, SARS-CoV-2, quickly spread to all continents, countries, and corners of the Earth. As the numbers of sick people increased daily, the world also started to realize how much we, the people, rely on each other. We depend on each other to stay healthy, or to stay home when not healthy. We depend on each other to make ethical decisions about how to live and work. If we are in a country that allows representative elections, we depend on each other to vote for people who will govern ethically, responsibly, and scientifically. We depend on each other to serve as first responders, essential workers, and caregivers, and to make sure that we are all fed, sheltered, and healed. And we depend on each other to help find answers and repair us—to connect and contribute to solving the world’s pressing problems. Whether it is a pandemic or an environmental crisis, we are all in this life together.1

Yet we also realized that even though we are all human, we are not all participating in humanity equally and equitably. The pandemic further revealed a systemic “survival gap,” where people differentially have access to the means to survive—such as the healthcare, social, and financial opportunities to be protected and safe. Beyond a health crisis, we started to see what was already there—a public in crisis. We collectively saw how systemic economic, social, and cultural chasms, like racism and oppression, were cracking at the façade of a shared, just world. We realized that we are in a values crisis, too.2

Ethics and civics have always mattered. But now, perhaps more than ever before in our lifetime, it is becoming evident how much they matter. We realize firsthand how much our decisions and actions affect and are affected by others in the world. Civic participation and ethical decision making have public consequences. What someone does in a mall in Idaho affects someone in a school in Bangalore, India, which affects someone in a church in Lagos, Nigeria, and so on. Who we elect, and how we govern, matters. Not only do we need to learn ethics and civics, but we need to teach each generation, model it for every peer, and share it with our neighbors, families, and faraway friends. Personal responsibility for ethical and civic education is a collective necessity.

Games in the Time of a Coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended how we do almost everything—teach, work, play, socialize, connect, give care, and even civically engage. It also upended how the (p.4) public thinks about games. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) added “gaming disorder” to their list of recognized psychological disorders.3 For years, pundits, parents, and public officials denounced games for a litany of civic problems—such as addiction, gun violence, and more.4

It’s surprising what a difference a pandemic can make.

Only one year later, in 2020, media outlets, companies, and social organizations were telling people to stay home and play games, touting playing as if it were an act of good citizenship.5 The #PlayApartTogether movement encouraged players to avoid transmitting the virus (and social isolation) by being together virtually through games. And in March 2020, the WHO reversed their previous anti-games stance and backed the #PlayApartTogether movement. While people have always played games, and many teachers have been innovatively using games for teaching, the collective stigma around them started to dissipate.6

Moreover, during the pandemic, games were used as virtual civic and social spaces. When people could not be physically together in classrooms, corporate offices, and community centers, teachers and professors held classes through games, colleagues held conferences and meetings through games, friends chatted and interacted through games, and grandparents and grandkids shared time and nonphysical space together through games. People celebrated birthdays and graduations through Minecraft, baby showers in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and weddings in World of Warcraft. Games have always been places where people have connected, engaged, expressed themselves, or healed, but they became the place.7

Games also were communities where civic deliberation, public demonstration, and values sharing took place. People did not only go to the streets—they also went to the games. In 2020, members of the US House of Representatives livestreamed their play of the online imposter game Among Us on Twitch, with over 400,000 viewers watching. The US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris created their own islands in Animal Crossing: New Horizons to support their election campaign. Gamers mounted demonstrations, rallies, protests, and debates through The Sims, Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite, and many other games.

Games have always been places where norms and values are negotiated, and they often have their own unique cultures that players need to learn to be able to fully participate.8 But the pandemic helped to ratify this. In the absence of physical civic spaces where ethics and values could be shared, games served as communal spaces where players could navigate the rapidly changing norms of our everyday, public lives. Through games, players were able to think and talk about how we should collectively behave beyond the game, such as whether to wear masks in public. Through games, players could practice these choices before enacting them in the real world. Or, they could enact risky behaviors in the game (like holding social events), which they could not do as safely in the physical world.

There are other ways that people were engaged in gaming during the pandemic. In-person classes were rapidly transformed to hybrid and virtual configurations. Students participated in more distance learning, online courses, and at-home (p.5) activities. Simultaneously, educators of all types more frequently assigned and used games to teach. What was once perhaps an in-class bonus or side jaunt became much more central to the curriculum. Games have been used to teach everything from math facts to art history to civic institutions.9 But they have now become more frequently adapted and modified to be used at home, virtually, and from a distance to learn, connect, and share. For instance, iCivics, an organization that creates games to teach about civics and the US government, created a remote learning toolkit to support at-home learning.10

Games themselves also continued to help people to understand and learn about pandemics as well as viruses and their spread.11 Pandemic is a board game where players work together playing different roles related to containing a pandemic (e.g., medic, field operative, researcher). The players all play against “the board” to “save humanity” and conquer a viral illness, which rapidly and exponentially jumps from city to city. Leacock, creator of Pandemic, wrote that his board game teaches us that the solution to a pandemic is that we all work together “to play to our strengths, balance short-term threats against long-term goals and make sacrifices for the common good. If we can communicate, coordinate and cooperate effectively we might better overcome this uncaring, relentless and frightening opponent.”12 Likewise, the games Plague Inc. and Plague Inc.: Evolved are pathogen simulators, where players intentionally spread a virus or other pathogens such as fungi and bacteria. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Plague Inc. developers created a new version of the game that flips this around. In Plague Inc.: The Cure, players instead “try to save the world by controlling the global pandemic response,” through mitigating the outbreak, creating a vaccine, and making economic and social policies (see more in chapter 11). Moreover, Lofgren and Feffernan looked at a virtual viral outbreak in the game World of Warcraft, which helped them to model epidemiological responses to real-world pandemics. Researchers then used these results to better understand the COVID-19 pandemic.13

Games also served as a form of communication, helping to spread information on the coronavirus, and helping us to understand what we should do as a society to collectively solve the problem of its proliferation. The Washington Post posted simulations of the spread of the virus to help its audience visualize what would happen if we quarantine people or enforce social distancing: Would it flatten the curve?14 Likewise, Ahuja, Huang, Kovach, and Woods created simulations of viral spread, and applied it to college classrooms.15 Salathé and Case created “What Happens Next?,” a series of playable simulations about COVID-19 and its possible epidemiological spread.16 Kirby took a narrative approach, and used a Twine game to expose what it would feel like as a college student attending class in person in fall 2020.17 Game players also took collective real-world action, and worked together to try to solve the problem of COVID-19 through games like Foldit and EteRNA.18

Games have always mattered and do not need to be legitimized, but the pandemic further showed us that games can serve as publics: as places and communities for learning, for connecting, for problem-solving, and for ethical and civic engagement. (p.6) This book acknowledges and observes all the ways that people are already engaging in and learning about civics and ethics through games. It explores how educators can make the best use of games for teaching ethics and civics, given their limitations and strengths. It shares strategies and examples of using games in educational settings. It also imagines possibilities for how we might use games to reshape, repair, and remake our world, together.19

Defining Ethics and Civics

The world—and humanity—is messy, and that may be why we need to learn ethics and civics. When we talk about ethics and civics, what do we mean? Ethics are typically associated with the reflective, affective, and cognitive processes related to applying moral principles to choices, decisions, and scenarios. Ethics involves thinking through possibilities and deciding how to act when it comes to questions of “what our guiding ideals should be … what sort of life is worth living, [and] how should we treat one another.”20 This is distinct from morals or values, as morals often refer to “universal truths, or public rules or principles,”21 while values typically refer to the guidelines on what matters to someone, their family, an organization, or a society.22 This is also different from virtues and character. Character relates to the landscape of who we are, our traits and temperaments, and the attitudes that shape how we act, behave, and make ethical decisions. Virtues are personal traits or qualities that are intrinsically good, like generosity, courage, humility, gratitude, or respect.23 In this book I focus less on the distinctions among these terms, and more in how we, as educators, can shape and inspire all facets of moral behavior, ethical decision-making, and the development of character. How do we help our students to grow?

Civics relates to governance and how the public participates in governance; it involves understanding how people work together to decide how a society should function. Civic participation includes all different types of necessary—though often unpaid—activities, including volunteer work, community planning, attending town halls, voting, protesting, writing letters to officials, and solving local problems.24 It also relates to day-to-day respect and humility; the care of others; and how we treat our colleagues, neighbors, and community members. It includes all the big and little individual and collective decisions as to how we should live together.

Why put ethics and civics together in the same book? I argue that it is because they are so intertwined. To fully participate in civics, we need to be ethical thinkers and moral arbiters. We need to cultivate moral wisdom, navigate moral complexity, and excavate ethical nuances.25 Likewise, to be living as ethical citizens in a community, we also need to be civically engaged and civically active.

Being a good citizen is not just about having necessary knowledge, “but being able to participate in affecting the policies, societal behaviors, and practices around that knowledge.”26 “Citizen,” however, is a problematic word, and by citizen, I do not mean someone’s legal status or role in a nation. Rather, Muñoz and El-Hani describe (p.7) a citizen as someone who thinks “critically about their actions and society’s actions.” To them, “citizenship demands political participation, activism, cultural engagement, that is, the capacity of being a global citizen … entails being able to engage in critical dialogue with the past, question authority … struggle with power relationships, be active and critical in the interrelated local, national, and global public sphere, be able to recognize antidemocratic forces denying social, economic, and political justice, and to struggle for a better world.”27 Being a citizen requires engagement in our communities and a commitment to making ethical change.28 “Just because we have knowledge and apply it to make real-world changes does not mean we know how to use it wisely, ethically, or appropriately.” We need both knowledge and wisdom, civics and ethics, together, to traverse the messiness of humanity.29

That said, perhaps what we really need to describe this is not a noun, but a verb.30 Is someone a “good citizen,” or do they practice it? Davisson and Gehm explain that to act as a citizen is not just to embody the identity of a citizen, but to be part of a body politic acting as a citizen. “To citizen” is an act of bravery, an ongoing struggle, and a critical dialogue with the complexity of humanity. To citizen is a process we do together to repair our world.31

Moreover, to citizen is to live our fullest life, individually and collectively. The Jubilee Centre explains that our ultimate goal as educators is “human flourishing, [which] requires the acquisition and development of intellectual, moral, and civic virtues … to achieve the highest potential in life.” We want our students to live their best life—to contribute to the good of their own lives, while also contributing to the good of society. In East Africa they use the word Utu, which means “humanity and moral goodness” in Swahili. As educators, how do we encourage our children to embody the concept of Utu?32 How do we inspire our students to flourish?33

Yet in the past few decades, the skills and topic areas related to civics and ethics have not been prioritized in US schools, and are often squeezed out. Only 39 US states require students to take a class in government or civics to graduate from high school. Globally, while ethics education programs exist in over 43 countries, most do not have any national, institutional, or systemic support.34

In the United States, compared to what is necessary for an engaged citizenry,

  1. 1. civic knowledge and skills are low;

  2. 2. access to civic knowledge and skills is inequitable;

  3. 3. people are not civically engaged enough;

  4. 4. access to civic engagement is inequitable;

  5. 5. political divides and distrust have grown;

  6. 6. disinformation has increased; and

  7. 7. harassment and hate have been rising.35

So what can we do? How do we help people become ethical thinkers and learn the “knowledge, skills, attitudes, and experience to … be an active, informed participant in democratic life?”36 How do games support or hinder this?

(p.8) This book is for those who want to teach people to flourish, to grow, to connect, and “to citizen”—with games.

What Are Games?

The world—and humanity—is messy, and that may be why we need games.

First, what is a game? Typically, games are described as having a number of characteristics: goals, and actions that players can take to reach goals, and players, as well as a tacit agreement from players that they are playing a game, where the differential outcomes of that game matter. The definitions and uses of games vary tremendously, however. Games have been labeled as tools, media, experiences, art, and systems. They come in all different genres and styles, shapes, sizes, communities, and platforms. In this book I discuss augmented reality (AR) games, which are games that integrate virtual gameplay such as virtual objects, clues, or characters, with real-world locations, interactions, and people. I also look at analog (nondigital) games such as card games, board games, and larps (live action role-playing games). I talk about virtual reality (VR) games, in which the whole experience is virtual, the players’ entire visual field is virtually generated, and the players are interacting with virtual objects, people, and locations (though some VR games may incorporate players who are not virtually participating). I also investigate digital and online games, which are games that are played using personal computers, mobile devices, game consoles, internet browsers, livestreaming platforms, or other connected devices or platforms.37

These games can come in all different genres, such as adventure, puzzle, first-person shooter, battle royale, or walking simulator. They can involve one person playing by themselves in their home or multiple people playing across many different locations around the world. They may be played only in a specific location, such as Lexington, Massachusetts in the United States or Karachi in Pakistan. Or they might be played anywhere, with any type of object that is available to the players.

Moreover, all different types of games are being played by all different people.38 The latest Entertainment Software Association (ESA) statistics on game-playing explains that 75% of Americans have at least one gamer in their home, and that 57% of parents say they play video games with their kids at least once per week.39 Since the COVID-19 pandemic, game-playing has increased even further. A report from Unity explains that there was a 46% increase in daily active users of PC and consoles and a 17% increase in mobile device use. Mobile game installations increased 84%. Video game spending overall rose 22% from 2019 to 2020.40

Games and Learning

Games are also being used for teaching and learning. Games are being used in remote and physical classrooms, museums, libraries, after-school programs, and other (p.9) learning environments, including the home.41 Educators are using games to teach, with 74% of K-8 educators using games at some point in their teaching and 55% of teachers using games at least once per week.42 Games are also being designed with the intention of supporting learning in some way—whether to teach addition and subtraction, like DragonBox Numbers, or to teach Arabic letters, such as Antura and the Letters. While the mainstream games industry was at about $43.4 billion in 2018,43 the educational games, game-based learning, or “serious games” industry is predicted to reach $24 billion by 2024 globally, and is growing in the double digits in many regions around the world, including Africa.44

Just as games come in many different forms and formats, there are many terms that have been used to describe their different pedagogic functions. Games that aim to teach have been called “educational games,” “games for change,” “games for social impact,” and “serious games.”45 The intersection of games and learning typically describes teaching, instruction, and learning environments that incorporate games or playful experiences into the classroom, school, library, home, or other location. A game could even become a classroom itself, where students can meet virtually to create and experiment, or discuss and deliberate (such as when teachers hold a class in Minecraft). However, I am less interested in choosing the right term to describe these games and more in their possibilities. What are the circumstances where games are more or less effective? How can we reconceive what games can do (or already do)?46 For the purposes of brevity, I will call all of these types of tools, media, art, or experiences “games,” whether they are digital or nondigital, VR or AR, or fully realized or not-quite games.

Just because games are frequently used does not mean they are effective in doing what we want them to do, such as teaching skills, attitudes, behaviors, or content. So are games even beneficial for learning? Thus far, the research on whether games are suitable for education and actually enhance learning is often contradictory or inconsistent, though the potential of games has been cited frequently.47 Frustratingly, large-scale empirical studies cannot definitively prove that games support learning. Civics games are also uneven in their effectiveness.48 This is not surprising, however, because the success of any learning experience is highly complex and relies on its design, its audience and context, and how it is implemented or its ecology of use.49 The same worksheet might work well with one class section in the morning, but not with the one in the late afternoon. A film may connect with one set of fifth graders in a district but not in a neighboring one, and a book reading could fall flat with a kindergarten cohort and then, reshared the following year, elicit laughs and excitement. Empirical studies on games, as well as anecdotal evidence, suggest that under certain circumstances, with particular audiences, and by meeting specific learning goals and needs, games can be quite effective and meaningful. A study by Clark et al. that was a large-scale meta-analysis of research on game-based learning, suggested that digital games can enhance cognitive learning outcomes as compared to a nongame condition, and that the “design of the game, rather than the medium of ‘games’ itself, was more important to whether the environment supported learning.”50 Depending on (p.10) how they are designed or used, games can be beneficial and empowering at best, or they can be a waste of time and may even backfire, at worst. Games are a bit messy when it comes to learning.51

What Are Games for Civics and Ethics?

So what do I mean by games for ethics and civics?

Raphael et al. explain that games for learning civics “help players to develop knowledge, skills, and dispositions that players then apply to public matters in the world outside the game.”52 We could add ethics to this definition and say that these games help to support the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for ethical, public, and societal matters.53

Games that teach ethics and civics can vary tremendously, from acting like the “President of the United States in iCivics’ Executive Command to understanding what it’s like to be the parent of a terminally ill young son in That Dragon, Cancer.”54 Sometimes a game is the primary part of a classroom lesson, such as deliberating and voting on historic proposals in VoxPop, or collaboratively crafting a historical building like the Taj Mahal in Minecraft.55 Other times games may be played to support further deliberation, such as using the game Immigration Nation to kick off a discussion on immigration, or the digital game Acceptance to reflect on gender expression, identity, and belongingness.56 Civics and ethics games could involve playing a simple rhyming game in a preschool or be “as complex as transforming an entire class module into an alternate reality game (ARG), such as Darvasi did to teach One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest for his English literature students.”57 These games may aim to make real-world change in one’s community, such as Macon Money or Participatory Chinatown.58 They can also take place in real-world locations, such as Pokémon Go, Time Trek, or Jewish Time Jump.59 They could be raw, unpolished games made in one night by one person (such as Kirby’s September 7, 2020 Twine game), or multimillion dollar games made and updated over the course of many years (such as Fortnite, Overwatch, or World of Warcraft).

We the People

Figure 1.1 An image from the game Win the White House. Source: iCivics.

There are a number of ways that games can share and express civics and ethics topics and enable the practice of relevant skills:

  1. 1. Real-world knowledge and action. Games can enhance knowledge of real-world issues and topics; encourage the understanding of real-world concepts, institutions, processes, and policies; and enable real-world action and change. For instance, in Abbott’s high school civics course at a public school in North Carolina, she teaches concepts such as the US government’s three branches and the Bill of Rights. To provide foundational knowledge she may use the iCivics game Do I Have a Right, in which players run their own law firm and decide whether to take on a client who may have had a constitutional right violated. Or she may have students learn about real-world concepts like the US Electoral (p.11) College through games such as Win the White House, where players campaign to win a fictional US presidential election (see Figure 1.1).60

  2. 2. Community and connection. Games are civic communities. They can help to strengthen social interactions, communication, and a sense of belongingness in a community of learners. They can help people to better understand themselves, their identities, and their roles as members of a society as well as to respect, empathize with, and have compassion for others.61 (Just like all communities, however, they can also do the opposite and foster hate, harassment, bullying, exclusion, and toxicity.) Games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons can encourage community among people who are physically distanced from each other. Games may also support an in-class community more deliberately, like in VoxPop, where players work together to discuss and negotiate different proposals, views, and values. Moreover, games themselves are forms of human expression and as such can communicate a perspective on humanity, such as SweetXheart, which tells of a Black woman’s experiences (see Figure 1.2), or A Woman Goes to a Private Games Industry Party, which expresses perspectives on harassment in the game development community.62

  3. 3. Critical thinking and critical inquiry. Games are ethical systems, and players are moral actors who engage in them. Games can help people practice (p.12) relevant critical thinking and inquiry skills such as reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving, systems thinking and analysis, interpretation, evaluation, information gathering, and design and creation. They can pose problems and quests or act like morality tales and ethical case studies, where the player can enact part of the story to help them practice making decisions or analyzing outcomes.63 For instance, in Planet Planners, a mobile ecology simulation game,64 players practice resource management skills; in Max, a board game about helping creatures avoid a hungry kitty, kids learn how to collaboratively make decisions. The online digital games Bad News and Harmony Square seek to teach players how to identify disinformation and political manipulation techniques. Games can also serve as arguments about the world by enabling players to interact with systems, such as how we might learn about the oppressiveness of bureaucracy through Papers, Please or of systemic bias in Parable of the Polygons.65

We the People

Figure 1.2 An image from the game SweetXHeart. Image courtesy of Catt Small.

Games have been and can continue to be used for all different parts of ethics and civics education.66 To further give you a sense of the breadth and variety of the types of games that could be used, here are some brief examples of how games can be included in the classroom, after-school program, home, remote learning environment, or other educational context.

(p.13)

  • In Factitious, a mobile and browser-based game, players decide if an article is “authentic” and based on vetted facts and interviews, or “fake” and based on made-up quotations, misinformation, or satire. Teachers can use the game to foster information literacy skills, such as reading articles, checking sources, and vetting facts.

  • The VR game Along the River of Spacetime helps to express and communicate Anishinaabeg teachings and cultural practices related to ecology, space, and the environment (see Figure 1.3). Teachers can use the game to share Indigenous perspectives on land and place.67

  • In Buffalo, a card game, players need to name characters or people who match combinations of characteristics. There is an orange deck (made up of adjectives) and a blue deck (with nouns). Players flip over one of each and have to come up with any type of figure who matches the two words. The game was designed to help players become more aware of their biases and prejudices.68

  • Quandary, an online and mobile digital game, invites players to decide the best solutions to problems faced by a new society, Braxos. Players need to solicit input from Braxos citizens, mount arguments, weigh pros and cons, (p.14) and iterate through choices and consequences to make the best decisions. Teachers can use this to support ethical decision-making, such as holding an in-class deliberation around the strategies and tactics used in the game. “They can also extend the lessons of Quandary to real-life dilemmas suggested by students.”

  • In The Migrant Trail, a browser-based game, players take on the roles of two different sides of an immigration issue. They play as a migrant who is trying to cross the border and escape the border patrol officers. Or they play as a border control agent, who is trying to find the illegal immigrants. Teachers can use this game to show multiple perspectives on an issue, and to help students explore the complexities of representing an issue like immigration through games.69

  • Using a series of plastic (about 8 feet by 8 feet) floor games in Indian community workshops, researcher Khanna teaches issues such as electoral literacy or child rights to different audiences.70

  • In the VR game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, players must defuse a virtual bomb. One player has the virtual headset and can see the virtual bomb, along with some tools. The other set of players has a manual but no access to the bomb, and needs to communicate with the VR headset-wearing player to figure out how to defuse the bomb before time runs out. Teachers can use this to support collaboration and dialogue, as well as cooperative problem-solving under pressure.71

  • In the short indie digital game Loneliness, players move a white square piece toward other squares, and the other squares move away. Though the game is brief, players can discuss how emotion can be evoked by a game, even a game that is abstract and simple.

  • In Mission US, players take on the role of a fictional adolescent and explore a historic moment, while making decisions for them, going on missions, and completing goals. In the Mission US: City of Immigrants module they play as Lena Brodsky, a Jewish immigrant who just arrived in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century.72

  • In the online multiplayer game Among Us, a group of players needs to figure out who the imposter(s) are and collectively vote to remove them from the game before the imposter(s) eliminate them instead. Students could use this game to practice communication and deliberation, and to reflect on the ethics of deciding which fellow players to eject from the game.

  • Time Trek is a series of augmented reality (AR) games played at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a US Civil War site (see Figure 1.4). In these games players explore the physical site while interacting with virtual historic and fictional characters. They learn about personal struggles and stories related to enslavement and emancipation, and meet characters such as Joseph, a free Black person who is helping runaway slaves escape on a ferry he operates.73

(p.15)

We the People

Figure 1.3 An image from the game Along the River of Spacetime. Image courtesy of Elizabeth (Beth) LaPensée.

We the People

Figure 1.4 An image of people playing Time Trek, a mobile game that takes place at the Harper’s Ferry landmark in West Virginia in the United States. Image courtesy of Avery Chenoweth and Laura Gillespie.

What to Expect

This is a book about games, and it is a book about learning. Yet I am not trying to argue that games should be used for educational purposes. Games are not universally bad, nor always good, at teaching ethics and civics. This book is not going to laud games as the panacea, nor is it going to only point out their problems. And just because something is a game does not necessarily make them fun nor functional.

The reality is much more nuanced. Rather, I will question games and consider the circumstances under which they may help us to better engage with, support, and inspire each other. I will cheerlead for games, but I will also problematize them by pointing out their limitations, weaknesses, ethical challenges, and idiosyncrasies.74 I will assert that they are often awkward worlds that embed in them their designers’ and players’ own biases, prejudices, heuristics, and assumptions. I will help to reveal how games matter.

First, games should not be used just because they are trendy or popular, or because they worked for one kid, one class, or one educational context. A game is complex and needs to be adapted, played, and evaluated with consideration to the complexity of (p.16) the ecosystem of its use. Games need to be played with the care of the community in mind. Games are not standalone, one-stop-shopping solutions. Games, like people, are messy.

Second, games should not be used just to show kids how to do civics or how to be civically engaged. Rather, they should also be used to show us what civics is.

When discussing the use of hip hop in education, Bettina Love aptly argues that teachers do not need to bring hip hop into the classroom so that students can be creative—instead, we should include hip hop to “show [us] how creative kids already are.” Love explains that “hip hop is civics, hip hop is social justice, hip hop is creativity.”75 This argument inspires my understanding of games. Games are civics, and civics is playful. Games are how students are already engaging with the world and with the public. Through games, students are designing, discovering, and deliberating. Through games, students are grappling with what it means to be human and with what it means to govern as a society. Through games, students are already “citizening.”

Mirra and Garcia argue that when we are defining civic participation, we cannot just use adult perspectives on what youth should be doing as “civic agents,” but also “asking young people what actually engages them or what kinds of civic learning opportunities they may already be experiencing.”76 As Coleman-Mortley notes, “we need to reach kids where they are.”77 Games have always been civic spaces for youth.78 We need, as Mirra and Garcia contend, to further enable the “kinds of civic learning that youth are already doing in online games like Minecraft … leading to new disruptions of old civics.”79

Third, games should not be used just because they may be effective or productive at making “good citizens.” Rather, we need to reconsider what it means to learn civics and ethics. Is it just about being proficient on tests and doing good deeds? Is it just about maintaining civility and upholding our institutions? Or, is it also about redesigning and reenvisioning our world and its systems? Is it about questioning what it means to citizen?80

What, then, is the value in games? In my previous book, I wrote about what I call “knowledge games,” or games that aim to collectively solve real problems and build new knowledge about humanity through the play of the game.81 I explain that knowledge games can help us struggle with the world’s problems—to make a better world not necessarily by solving these real-world problems, but by revealing them and helping us to see their flaws, foibles, and messiness. Or, as Bogost explains, playing games is the work, the hard stuff, of maybe not coming up with solutions but perhaps instead “troubling the idea of solutions rather than leading us toward them.”82 I explained that these knowledge games bring up age-old questions about what it means to be a good citizen, to participate in society, and to create new knowledge—questions that we may never entirely answer, but perhaps we can more fully address through games.

Bernard Suits describes play as the ultimate human act, or as a “voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”83 Perhaps this is one of the greatest possibilities for games. Games may help us to collectively overcome the unnecessary obstacles of life, and the unnecessary problems in our publics, by helping us to better see all of our (p.17) messiness. Who is allowed to be in the game’s civic spaces, and how can they engage? Who is included and who is empowered? Who is allowed or invited “to citizen?”84 Games may help to reveal obstacles to ethics and civics—and may show us how to overcome them. Games may help to reveal who we are, and maybe how to reimagine who we can become. This is where I situate this book: as a call to use games not necessarily to “make citizens,” but to reveal citizens.

What if games don’t just allow us to participate in civics and ethics? What if we need games to citizen, or to “overcome the unnecessary obstacles” that exist in our world?85

We should readjust what we expect of games and what we ask of teaching and learning. Teaching becomes not just about imparting facts and figures, but about helping students to connect with themselves and each other to overcome the obstacles that society has placed on us, so that we can live together more equitably.86 Education becomes not about reinforcing social hierarchies about who should contribute and participate in the public, but about liberating them, and empowering the contributions of all. Playing becomes not about exclusion, but about ensuring we all belong so that we can rebuild our world together. And games, then, become about engaging our follies so we shall overcome.87

As I mentioned earlier, Raphael et al. argue that civic learning happens in games “when they help players to … apply [it] to public matters in the world outside the game.”88 Dishon and Kafai take this definition further, arguing that games should be seen as part of a learning ecosystem, with players viewed as active and cocreative participants rather than passive consumers of a predesigned, single-purpose product. They explain that we need “connected civic games,” which include youth as active makers and remixers of civics, through games and play. As Dishon and Kafai argue, we need to reframe our expectations of learning in games and think about how to “enrich the spectrum of experiences players have in-and-out of games.”89

I would adjust the definition even more. As I have started to explore, playing helps us to struggle, to wonder, to grapple, to dance, and to act. Playing helps us to overcome. Gamers engage in civics and ethics outside and beyond the game—but also inside, through, around, and between. Games, and our play of them, are part of an active conversation with the world. Games are public spheres and public matters. Games are publics. They are communities where deliberation, civic engagement, ethical decision-making, socialization and norm-sharing, and civic problem-solving take place.90 Games are part of who we are and how we learn about the world—and how we decide the type of world in which to live. To play games is to citizen.

How can we, as teachers, help to empower our students to citizen in, around, and with games—equitably, and with justice for all?

Mapping the Book

With all this in mind, as teachers, we want to help our students make the most of their play. We need to meet specific educational objectives. In this book, I show teachers (p.18) how to meet standards and curricular needs, and I provide practical advice, strategies, and examples for how to use games to explore the nuances and complexities of life. I delve into the research-based possibilities for empowerment and inspiration, as well as the limitations, complexities, and complications of games (which also serve as learning opportunities). This book will answer questions such as: How do games support the learning of ethical and civic skills—which games may be notable and under what conditions?91 What types of classroom configurations and activities best support play and engagement with civics and ethics? What are the current limitations and gaps of games, and how do we wrestle with these limitations?92 This book aims to point out the messiness of games so teachers can help students better navigate it.

To do this, in part 1, I first investigate why we need to learn ethics and civics. I then describe the types of skills, concepts, and knowledge needed for civic, public, and ethical engagement. I create a three-part set of nine driving questions for teaching ethics and civics, derived from an analysis of current standards.

In part 2, I dive into the first set of questions, which relates to using games to build real-world knowledge and to take real-world action.

In part 3, I look into the second set of questions, and consider how games may or may not support community and connection, as well as how they may encourage the practice of skills related to identity, emotion, respect, cultural humility, perspective-taking, compassion, and empathy.

In part 4, I look at questions related to critical thinking and critical inquiry. For instance, how may games help us to practice skills such as making decisions, solving problems, analyzing information, engaging in design, and thinking systemically?

In part 5, I consider logistical and practical considerations for bringing games into the classroom and other learning environments, such as online and remote ones. I delve into curricular considerations, such as how to choose the right game, how to develop activities around games, and how to handle the logistical and practical aspects of using games in a classroom or educational context. An appendix also shares information on designing games, as well as design principles and best practices for making and using games for civics and ethics.

Finally, in the concluding chapter of this book, I imagine the future of learning ethics and civics through games—and also the future of humanity, more broadly. How might we shape our future through games?

Notes:

(1.) SARS-CoV-2 stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, and is the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); a popular meme during the spring of 2020 was “Though we are in this together, we are also unequal—same storm, different boats.” See for instance P. Kirubakaran, “‘We Are Not All in the Same Boat. …’ Covid Poster and Poem Win Internet; Here’s Their Story,” Republic World, May 6, 2020, https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/rest-of-the-world-news/we-are-not-all-in-the-same-boat-story-behind-viral-post-and-poem.html. See also E. Price-Haywood, J. Burton, D. Fort, and L. Seoane, “Hospitalization and Mortality among Black Patients and White Patients with Covid-19,” New England Journal of Medicine, May 27, 2020, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa2011686?query=featured_coronavirus.

(2.) These inequities had been there all along. For instance, the global pandemic helped also to expose troubling systemic inequities such as differential access to healthcare among the Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities in the United States and Brazil. Who could stay quarantined was also based on systemic socioeconomic and racial and ethnicity patterns. These systemic injustices were also exemplified and exposed by reactions to the protests in spring 2020, to the pandemic quarantines, the pandemic itself, and police brutality, including the wrongful deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others. See more at Lisa Fitzpatrick, “Coronavirus and the Underserved: We Are Not All in This Together,” Forbes, April 2, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisafitzpatrick/2020/04/02/covid-19-and-the-underserved-we-are-not-all-in-this-together/#5eb58fdc5a71, and also António Guterres, “We Are All in This Together: Human Rights and COVID-19 Response and Recovery,” United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/un-coronavirus-communications-team/we-are-all-together-human-rights-and-covid-19-response-and (accessed May 31, 2020). See also the inequities noted in Korbey, Building Better Citizens: A New Civics Education for All (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) and Peter Levine and Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, “The Republic Is (Still) at Risk—and Civics Is Part of the Solution” (Medford, MA: Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University, 2017). For more about inequities in education more generally, see also Meira Levinson, “Diversity and Civic Education,” in Making Civics Count: Citizenship Education for a New Generation, ed. David E. Campbell, Meira Levinson, and Frederick M. Hess (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012); Nicole Mirra, Educating for Empathy (New York: Teachers College Press, 2018). For the public being in crisis, see also J. Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989).

(3.) Not totally dissipated, as many people still see the need to limit and confine game-playing rather than seeing it as part and parcel of being human. For more about the WHO decision see, for instance, WHO, Addictive Behaviours: Gaming Disorder, 2018, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/addictive-behaviours-gaming-disorder (accessed December 28, 2020) explaining that the classification describes people who make gaming too much (p.254) of a priority in their lives over other so-called healthier activities—such as real-world socializing and going to school and work.

(4.) See, for instance ADL, July 2019, Free to Play? Hate, Harassment, and Positive Social Experiences in Online Games, https://www.adl.org/media/13139/download; ADL, November 2020, Free to Play? Hate, Harassment, and Positive Social Experiences in Online Games 2020, https://www.adl.org/free-to-play-2020#results (accessed January 12, 2021). I was a fellow at the ADL but did not work on this particular study. Note, ADL was formerly known as the Anti-Defamation League.

(5.) For instance, Riot CEO Nicolo Laurent said, “Let’s stay physically apart—and take other public health steps such as hand hygiene—to help flatten the curve and #PlayApartTogether to help power through this crisis. For Rioters, playing games is more than just a game; it’s a meaningful life pursuit. And now, for the billions of players around the world, playing games could help the pursuit of saving lives. Let’s beat this COVID-19 boss battle together.” See G. Torbet, “The World Health Organization Wants you to Stay Home and Play Video Games,” Digital Trends, March 29, 2020, https://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/who-video-games-playaparttogether/.

(6.) P. Suderman, “The World Health Organization Classified Video Game Addiction as a Disorder. Now It’s Telling People to Play Video Games,” Reason Magazine, March 31, 2020, https://reason.com/2020/03/31/the-world-health-organization-classified-video-game-addiction-as-a-disorder-now-its-telling-people-to-play-video-games/. See also Good Games Podcast, May 18, 2020, https://art19.com/shows/good-game-podcast/episodes/26c80ab1-ce1a-48be-a3ee-8dbc9f266bea. It’s also possible the public will go back to demonizing games once the pandemic is over. Moral panic over screentime during the pandemic has persisted. See, for instance, M. Richtel, “Children’s Screen Time Has Soared in the Pandemic, Alarming Parents and Researchers,” New York Times, January 16, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/16/health/covid-kids-tech-use.html. A moral panic is a feeling of fear spread over the public about a new technology or phenomenon, and its possible corruption or erosion of society, such as widespread fears about how television or games (“screens”) may addict and corrupt youth.

(7.) Nintendo, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, 2020; Blizzard, World of Warcraft, 2004; Mojang Studios/Microsoft, Minecraft, 2011.

(8.) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar participated in this livestreamed event, meaning it was shared and broadcast live for people with internet-enabled computers to watch via a livestreaming platform called Twitch. Joshua Rivera, “AOC Played Among Us and Achieved What Most Politicians Fail at: Acting Normal,” The Guardian, October 22, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/games/2020/oct/22/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-ilhan-omar-among-us-twitch-stream-aoc; Alaa Elassar, “Joe Biden Has His Own Island on ‘Animal Crossing’ Where You Can Learn About His Campaign,” CNN, October 18, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/18/business/biden-animal-crossing-island-trnd/index.html; Kristina Reymann-Schneider, “How Politicians Use Games for their Own Gains,” DW, October 19, 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/how-politicians-use-video-games-for-their-own-gains/a-55286753. Gideon Dishon and Yasmin B. Kafai, “Connected Civic Gaming: Rethinking the Role of Video Games in Civic Education,” Interactive Learning Environments (2019), p. 1–11, DOI: 10.1080/10494820.2019.1704791; M. Sicart, The Ethics of Computer Games (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009); K. Schrier, “Designing and Using Games to Teach Ethics and Ethical Thinking,” in Learning, Education & Games (p.255) Vol. 1: Curricular and Design Considerations, ed. K. Schrier (Pittsburgh: ETC Press, 2014), p. 143–160.

(9.) See, for instance, the Learning, Education & Games book series: Schrier, Learning, Education & Games Vol. 1; Schrier (ed.), Learning, Education & Games Vol. 2: Bringing Games into Educational Contexts (Pittsburgh: ETC Press, 2016); and Schrier (ed.), Learning, Education & Games Vol. 3: 100 Games to Use in the Classroom and Beyond (Pittsburgh: ETC Press, 2019). For instance, the educational game Quandary almost doubled in usage in 2020 than over the same period in 2019, according to information shared during a meeting with Shannon Meneses and the Quandary team. Specifically, in December 2019 to December 2020, the number of users increased by 77% and gameplays increased by 17%.

(11.) Games such as Plague Inc. (a virus simulator) and Pandemic (a cooperative board game) skyrocketed in downloads and sales. See for instance Leslie Katz, “Coronavirus Leads to Sales Spike of Plague Inc., a Game about Pandemics,” CNET, January 25, 2020, https://www.cnet.com/news/coronavirus-leads-to-sales-spike-of-plague-inc-a-game-about-pandemics/.

(12.) M. Leacock, “No Single Player Can Win This Board Game: It’s Called Pandemic,” New York Times, March 25, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/25/opinion/pandemic-game-covid.html. As another example, the Tiltfactor Lab created Pox: Save the People (https://tiltfactor.org/game/pox/) and ZombiePox (https://tiltfactor.org/game/zombiepox/) to help stop the spread of disease. See also K. Andersen and M. May, “Playing Against the Virus,” The World, March 8, 2013, https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-03-08/playing-against-virus

(13.) Players can change parameters to spur the pathogen on more rapidly. They are in development for a new version of the game where players play as the medical professionals and aim to contain a virus like Sars-CoV-2. See more at Ndemic Creations, Plague Inc., https://www.ndemiccreations.com/en/ (accessed June 10, 2020). See also Ndemic Creations, Plague Inc.: The Cure, https://www.ndemiccreations.com/en/news/184-plague-inc-the-cure-is-out-now-for-ios-and-android (accessed November 11, 2020); E. Lofgren and N. Feffernan, “The Untapped Potential of Virtual Game Worlds to Shed Light on Real World Epidemics,” The Lancet, 7(no. 9), 2007: 625–629; J. Elker, “World of Warcraft Experienced a Pandemic in 2005, Which May Help Coronavirus Researchers,” Seattle Times, April 10, 2020, https://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/world-of-warcraft-experienced-a-pandemic-in-2005-which-may-help-coronavirus-researchers/—about when World of Warcraft accidentally unleashed the Corrupted Blood plague.

(14.) H. Stevens, “Why Outbreaks Like Coronavirus Spread Exponentially and How to ‘Flatten the Curve,’ ” Washington Post, March 14, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/.

(15.) R. Ahuja, C. Huang, S. Kovach, and L. Woods, “Modeling the Spread of COVID-19 in UCLA Classrooms,” May 12, 2020, https://stack.dailybruin.com/2020/05/12/covid-model/.

(16.) Marcel Salathe and Nicky Case, “ ‘What Happens Next?’ COVID-19 Futures, Explained with Playable Simulations,” NCase, https://ncase.me/covid-19/ (accessed November 12, 2020).

(17.) Cait S. Kirby, September 7, 2020, https://caitkirby.com/downloads/Fall%202020.html. There is also a version about faculty perspectives, which can be found at Cait S. Kirby, October 1, 2020, https://caitkirby.com/downloads/October1st2020.html. The games were created in the summer of 2020, a few months prior to campuses reopening. When speaking to my students about the first game on September 9, 2020, they said the game was even more intense than what they are experiencing in person at a residential college in the northeast of the United States, but that it shared a perspective on what it was like if you are having underlying health conditions as a student, and in a more regimented residential situation.

(18.) UW Game Center, Foldit, https://fold.it/ (accessed June 10, 2020). In Foldit, players and computer work together to solve real-world “protein” puzzles. Human beings help manipulate 3-D versions of proteins to try to give a computer the algorithm or steps to being able to understand the structures of real protein. See also Carnegie Mellon University, EteRNA, https://eternagame.org/ (accessed June 10, 2020). In EteRNA, players develop new possible RNA protein molecules to solve real-world problems. See more about EteRNA in chapter 5. See more about both games in K. Schrier, Knowledge Games: How Playing Games Can Solve Problems, Create Insight, and Make Change (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016).

(19.) This refers all types of analog and digital games, including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) games. Games are yet another way to help support the practice of essential skills related to ethics and civics, in addition to (but not replacing) other instructional experiences such as lectures, case studies, books, films, worksheets, expository writing, debate, field trips, or maps. However, games are not simply analogous to a worksheet or a book; and they are more than a standalone tool.

(20.) W. A. Wines, “Seven Pillars of Business Ethics: Toward a Comprehensive Framework,” Journal of Business Ethics 70 (2008): 483–499; R. Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020).

(21.) N. Tierney, Imagination and Ethical Ideals: Prospects for a Unified Philosophical and Psychological Understanding (New York: SUNY Press, 1994).

(22.) S. Schwartz, “Are There Universal Aspects in the Structure and Contents of Human Values?” Journal of Social Issues 50 (1994): 19–45.

(23.) Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics; Jubilee Centre, A Framework for Character Education in Schools, 2017, https://www.jubileecentre.ac.uk/userfiles/jubileecentre/pdf/character-education/Framework%20for%20Character%20Education.pdf.

(24.) Gil de Zúñiga, Homero, Trevor Diehl, and Alberto Ardèvol-Abreu, “Assessing Civic Participation Around the World: How Evaluations of Journalists’ Performance Leads to News Use and Civic Participation Across 22 Countries,” American Behavioral Scientist 62, no. 8 (July 2018): 1116–1137.

(25.) This comes in part from the neo-Aristotelian model of virtue ethics, where a person does what a virtuous person would do. A virtuous person is someone who strives to be a moral exemplar, who can understand the messiness of moral decision making, and who gains moral wisdom and knowledge over time. We cannot have knowledge without wisdom. Education is a key component of virtue ethics, and it helps to cultivate virtues, which means that it’s not just a habit of character, but also it is about having thoughts, motives, and intentions that strive to be good and virtuous. See more at Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics.

(26.) Quoted from Schrier, Knowledge Games, p. 192.

(27.) Yupanqui J. Munoz and Charbel N. El-Hani, “Student with a Thousand Faces: From the Ethics in Video Games to Becoming a Citizen,” Cultural Studies of Science Education 7 (2012): 909–943, at 914. “Citizen” is a problematic word. Mirra and Garcia explain that “indeed, the term citizen itself becomes problematic when considering the tenuous status of undocumented immigrant students in this country who find their access to public services and voice in public life in constant limbo. While we use the terms citizen and civic in this chapter, we conceptualize them not as markers of legal status but as signifiers of the rights of individuals to participate fully in civic communities at local, national, and global levels regardless of age or legal residency. While we recognize citizenship as a concept that can complicate, challenge, or even transcend national borders, our primary focus here remains on civic engagement and disparities in the U.S. context.” N. Mirra and A. Garcia, “Civic Participation Reimagined: Youth Interrogation and Innovation in the Multimodal Public Sphere,” Review of Research in Education 41 (March 2017):136–158. See also, L. Ouellette, “Citizenship,” in Keywords for Media Studies, ed. L. Ouellette and J. Gray (New York: NYU Press, 2017), https://keywords.nyupress.org/media-studies/essay/citizenship/.

(28.) One of the primary purposes of school, at least in the United States, has been to prepare ethically engaged people who can fully participate in civic life—to make citizens. David E.Campbell, “Introduction,” in Making Civics Count: Citizenship Education for a New Generation, ed. D. E. Campbell, M. Levinson, and F. M. Hess (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2012), p. 1. Jubilee Centre, A Framework for Character Education in Schools, p. 1, explains that “the Schools should aim to develop confident and compassionate students, who are effective contributors to society, successful learners, and responsible citizens.”

(29.) As I stated in Knowledge Games, p. 190. Also, to be responsibly engaging at any level of participation in the inner workings of one’s society, whether governing, working, or representing a contingent, you need to be an ethical leader, citizen, and person.

(30.) Amber Coleman-Mortley also calls citizenship an act, rather than a status. See A. Coleman-Mortley, “How to Raise an Anti-Racist Kid,” New York Times, June 24, 2020. However, again, “citizen” is a weighty word, and a status that is not equitably attainable. Who gets to be a citizen and who is deemed a citizen is unequitable and biased. Therefore, while I have tried to carefully realign how we should think of citizen as an act, not a status, we should still question the use of this word to describe these sets of behaviors, given its societal weight. Davisson and Gehm dive into the weight of this word. They explain that “the identity of citizen is both a status conferred by the state and a vision of self that must be adopted and acted on by members of that state in order that a society might sustain itself. The process of adopting the identity requires the ability to imagine oneself as a member of a community of individuals among whom there may be very little in common beyond a shared location. At its core, according to Lauren Berlant, “citizenship is a relation among strangers who learn to feel it as a common identity based on shared historical, legal, or familial connection to a geopolitical space.” A. Davisson and D. Gehm, “Gaming Citizenship: Video Games as Lessons in Civic Life,” Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric 4, no. 3–4 (2014): 39–57, citing Lauren Berlant, “Citizenship,” in Keywords for American Cultural Studies, ed. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler (New York: NYU Press, 2007), p. 37.

(31.) Davisson and Gehm, “Gaming Citizenship.” Also, Davisson and Gehm point out that Robert Asen described citizenship as an act or process. They write, “Robert Asen, in his discourse theory of citizenship, proposes that ‘rather than asking what counts as citizenship, (p.258) we should ask: how do people enact citizenship? Reorienting our framework from a question of what to a question of how usefully redirects our attention from acts to action. Inquiring into the how of citizenship recognizes citizenship as a process’.” See also work by Amber Coleman-Mortley, who explains that citizenship is an active process: https://sharemylesson.com/blog/icivics-games and https://twitter.com/momofallcapes?lang=en. The phrase repairing our world also relates to the concept of Tikkun Olam from Judaism, which refers to behaving and acting in a way that improves the world.

(32.) See M. Ferrari and G. Potworowski, Teaching for Wisdom: Cross-cultural Perspectives on Fostering Wisdom (New York: Springer, 2008) and B. B. Muhonja, Radical Utu (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2020).

(33.) Quote at Jubilee Centre, A Framework for Character Education in Schools. The Jubilee Centre likens flourishing to eudaimonia, an Aristotelian concept of engaging in the good life, or a state of happiness through virtue. A good life is one that has intrinsic value (not instrumental value) in that it aims for good for its own sake. It is one that seeks self-sufficient good, or one that is itself enough to make it good and valuable. And it is also one that is distinctive, in that it engages with that which makes us human. See more about virtue ethics and a virtuous life in Shafer-Landau, The Fundamentals of Ethics. See also the Jubilee Centre, A Framework for Character Education in Schools, p. 1, which states that “human flourishing is the widely accepted goal of life. To flourish is not only to be happy, but to fulfil one’s potential. Flourishing is the ultimate aim of character education.”

(34.) Global Ethics Observatory, http://www.unesco.org/shs/ethics/geo/user/ (accessed June 14, 2020); H. ten Have, “Ethics Education: Global, Inspiring, Challenging,” International Journal of Ethics Education 1 (2016): 1–6.

(35.) See chapter 2 for more research on these trends. See also Korbey, Building Better Citizens; Campbell, “Introduction”; J. Lerner, Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014); ADL, “Eileen Hershenov’s Testimony Before the House Judiciary Committee on Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism,” April 9, 2019, https://www.adl.org/news/article/eileen-hershenovs-testimony-before-the-house-judiciary-committee-on-hate-crimes-and.Though we cannot necessarily causally connect current educational policies and practices to these trends, education has made a difference in closing gaps and raising proficiency. See more in Korbey, Building Better Citizens.

(36.) Campbell, “Introduction,” p. 1.

(37.) J. Juul, Half Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), pp. 13. Jesper Juul defines games as having a “rule-based formal system; with variable and quantifiable outcomes; where different outcomes are assigned different values; where the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome; the player feels emotionally attached to the outcome; and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable.” However, I tell my students that we can read, accept, and even embody a definition of a game, but as soon as we define games we should be seeking ways to push on the boundaries of that definition, such as by finding examples that defy the definition, and inventing new forms that subvert it. See more about the contours of what counts as a game in M. Consalvo and C. Paul, Real Games (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019).

(38.) What is deemed a real game and who is deemed a real gamer is also needing clarification and affects our identity as a game player or the identification as something as a game. See more about this in Consalvo and Paul, Real Games. Real-world interactive games are (p.259) ones where participants interact with each other in shared physical environments, though they could be adapted for a remote learning environment. In digital games, most of the game play happens in a digital or virtual environment, where the goals, obstacles, and rewards are embedded in that environment. Online games enable some type of connectivity, such as among devices and players. A battle royale game is a multiplayer game where players compete to be the “last person standing,” after surviving various obstacles—and each other.

(39.) Entertainment Software Association (ESA), Essential Facts About the Games Industry, May 2019, https://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/ESA_Essential_facts_2019_final.pdf. Also, only 21% of all gamers are under 18 years old.

(40.) See for instance B. Francis, “Unity Report Shows Massive Spike in Video Game Business Due to COVID-19,” Gamasutra, June 10, 2020, https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/364543/Unity_report_shows_massive_spike_in_video_game_business_due_to_COVID19.php?elq_mid=97698&elq_cid=12458567. See also, M. Hume, M. Klimentov, E. Favis, G. Park, and T. Amenabar, “The Biggest Questions Facing the Gaming World in 2021,” The Washington Post, December 30, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/12/30/2021-video-game-outlook/.

(41.) K. Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning,” in International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, ed. D. Gibson (New York: Springer, 2018).

(42.) L. M. Takeuchi and S. Vaala, Level Up Learning: A National Survey on Teaching with Digital Games (New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, 2014), https://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/jgcc_leveluplearning_final.pdf. This statistic is likely much higher now than it was in 2014, and certainly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(43.) ESA, Essential Facts About the Games Industry, referring to video game content only (not hardware).

(44.) Metaari, Global Game-Based Learning Market, Serious Play Wire, https://seriousplaywire.com/metaari-game-based-learning/ (accessed November 12, 2020).

(45.) Words are important but I don’t want it to obfuscate the variety and possibility of games, or predetermine how it is used, shaped, or modified. Serious games are those made not just for entertainment, but for the purpose of training (e.g., military, surgery); teaching (e.g., STEM, communication); increasing healthy behavior (e.g., tracking medications, enhancing exercise); or reporting on or solving real-world problems (e.g., crowdsourcing protein configurations, analyzing journalistic documents for The Guardian). “Games for change” is a term that has also been used, specifically in relation to games that aim to make social change, such as supporting greater understanding around climate change or immigration, or to teach civics, ethics, or other social-related skills. This term applies both to specific types of games as well as to the organization and movement that supports the use and creation of these types of games. Other useful terms include “engagement games,” which refers to games that enable real-world processes, including all types of social action, such as “community planning and data collection, disaster preparedness, advocacy and fundraising … skill and network building,” as well as “social participation” games, which relate to using games to support collective or communal activities. See more in Schrier, Knowledge Games.

(46.) That said, this book is not focused on how we can turn school into a game or “gamify” a virtual class. Gamification relates to the application of game-like activities, such as rewards or points, to nongame environments, such as healthcare, workplaces, or schools. This would be like someone plopping game-like mechanics onto a school worksheet, such as providing points and badges for its completion, but not fully transforming the experience to be that of a game. In this case, the points and badges merely take the place of grades, rather than truly changing the way content is taught, skills are practiced, or communities emerge. However, whether a game is entirely a game or is playfully expanding the definitions of a game, “does not matter as much as whether it is useful, effective, and appropriate for the educational experience, needs, audience, and context. As such, what it means to be ‘game-based learning’ continues to evolve, and the role of … [people and] technology in creating, offering, and experiencing games is also varied and evolving.” Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning,” p. 4. See also the gamification definition in S. Deterding, M. Sicart, L. Nacke, K. O’Hara, and D. Dixon, “Gamification: Using Game Design Elements in Non-Gaming Contexts,” Association of Computing Machinery CHI [Computer–Human Interaction] Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, May 7–12, 2011, Vancouver, BC, Canada. . For more about gamification in civic and government contexts, see J. T. Harviainen and L. Hassan, “Governmental Service Gamification: Central Principles,” International Journal of Innovation in the Digital Economy 10, no. 3 (2019): 1–12.

(47.) Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning”; P. Wouters, C. van Nimwegen, H. van Oostendorp, and E. D. van der Spek, “A Meta-Analysis of the Cognitive and Motivational Effects of Serious Games,” Journal of Educational Psychology 105, no. 2 (2013): 249–265.; T. Sitzmann, “A Meta-Analytic Examination of the Instructional Effectiveness of Computer Based Simulation Games,” Personnel Psychology 64 (May 2011): 489–528. For the inconsistency in the effectiveness in games and civics, see also Dishon and Kafai, “Connected Civic Gaming.”

(48.) E. Middaugh, “The Social and Emotional Components of Gaming: A Response to ‘The Challenge of Gaming for Democratic Education,’ ” Democracy and Education 24, no. 2 (2016):Article 8; J. Stoddard, A. M. Banks, C. Nemacheck, and E. Wenska, “The Challenges of Gaming for Democratic Education: The Case of iCivics,” Democracy and Education 24, no. 2 (2016): Article 2.

(49.) K. Salen (ed.), The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007). The use of ecology throughout the book is inspired by this book.

(50.) Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning,” citing a Microsoft/SRI International grant for GlassLab Research and conducted by D. Clark, E. Tanner-Smith, and S. Killingsworth, Digital Games, Design and Learning: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (Executive Summary) (Menlo Park: SRI International, 2014) and D. B. Clark, E. E. Tanner-Smith, and S. S. Killingsworth, “Digital Games, Design, and Learning: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Review of Educational Research 86, no. 1 (2016): 79–122.

(51.) Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning.” See also work on Spent by G. Roussos and J. F. Dovidio, “Playing Below the Poverty Line: Investigating an Online Game as a Way to Reduce Prejudice Toward the Poor,” Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace 10, no. 2 (2016): 1–24. For games and their messiness, see also C. Steinkuehler, “The Mangle of Play,” Games and Culture 1, no. 3 (2006): 199–213.

(52.) C. Raphael, C. Bachen, K. M. Lynn, J. Baldwin-Philippi, and K. A. McKee, “Games for Civic Learning: A Conceptual Framework and Agenda for Research and Design,” Games and Culture 5, no. 2 (2010): 199–235. Cited in Dishon and Kafai, “Connected Civic Gaming.”

(53.) Likewise, S. S. Adams and J. Holden call this “civic engagement gameplay as play that is based upon civic content such as politics, economics, and society; play that encourages democratically oriented skills such as communication, negotiation, and problem-solving; play that fosters responsibility to cocreate the game; and play that provides advocacy opportunities.” Sharman Siebenthal Adams and Jeremiah Holden, “Games Ethics and Engagement: Potential Consequences of Civic-Minded Game Design and Gameplay,” in Designing Games for Ethics: Models, Techniques and Frameworks, ed. K. Schrier and D. Gibson (Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2011).

(54.) Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning,” p. 3.

(55.) C. Weitze, “Minecraft with Second Graders,” in Schrier, Learning, Education, & Games Vol. 2; “Gigantic Mechanic,” VoxPop, https://www.voxpop.io/ (accessed November 11, 2020).

(56.) K. Schrier, “Introduction,” in Learning, Education, & Games Vol. 2. See more at, Laura Kate Dale, Acceptance, 2015, https://laurakindie.itch.io/acceptance-jam-for-leelah-entry. This game may not be appropriate for younger students due to content about sexual assault and other forms of violence. See more at, M. Evans, “A Video Game Showed Me Who I Really Am,” Polygon, April, 12, 2019, https://www.polygon.com/2019/4/12/18306040/acceptance-game-identity-gender

(57.) Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning,” p. 3, citing P. Darvasi, “Gone Home as an English Text,” in Schrier, Learning, Education, & Games Vol. 1.

(58.) See work by B. Stokes, Locally Played (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2020) and S. Schirra, “Playing for Impact: The Design of Civic Games for Community Engagement and Social Action,” S.M. thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2013.

(59.) See more about each of these in Schrier, Learning, Education & Games Vol. 3.

(60.) Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning”; Valencia Abbott, personal interview, Spring 2019.

(61.) Dishon and Kafai, “Connected Civic Gaming”; M. Ito, K. Gutiérrez, S. Livingstone, B. Penuel, J. Rhodes, K. Salen, J. Schor, J. Sefton-Green, and S. Craig Watkins, Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design (Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, 2019); M. Ito, E. Soep, N. Kliger-Vilenchik, S. Shresthova, L. Gamber-Thompson, and A. Zimmerman, “Learning Connected Civics: Narratives, Practices, and Infrastructures,” Curriculum Inquiry 45 (2015): 10–29.

(62.) R. Carbo-Mascarell, A Woman Goes to a Private Games Industry Party, https://moreelen.itch.io/a-woman-goes-to-a-private-games-industry-party; C. Small, SweetXHeart, http://www.gamesforchange.org/game/sweetxheart/; see also games by P. Pedericini and J. Stiles, Mollendustria, such as, P. Pedericini, Everyday the Same Dream, https://www.molleindustria.org/everydaythesamedream/everydaythesamedream.html, or Porpentine, such as Howling Dogs, http://slimedaughter.com/games/twine/howlingdogs/.

(63.) K. Schrier, “EPIC: A Framework for Using Video Games for Ethics Education,” Journal of Moral Education 44, no. 4 (2015): 393–424; Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning”; and Learning, Education, & Games Vol. 1.

(64.) Planet Planners, http://www.lauravila.com/planet-planners. See more about ethical decision-making in games from: M. Sicart, The Ethics of Computer Games (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009); K. Schrier, “Designing and Using Games to Teach Ethics and Ethical (p.262) Thinking,” in Learning, Education & Games Vol. 1: Curricular and Design Considerations, ed. K. Schrier (Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press, 2014). M. Sicart, Beyond Choices: The Design of Ethical Gameplay (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013); K. Schrier and D. Gibson, eds., Designing Games for Ethics: Models, Techniques, Frameworks (Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2010); K. Schrier and D. Gibson, eds., Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values through Play (Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2010); M. Flanagan and H. Nissenbaum, Values at Play (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014).

(66.) This includes commercial, popular, and mainstream digital games, as well as short, in-person analog games. It includes below-the-radar indie games, student-designed games, and card games, as well as mobile, virtual reality, and augmented reality games. See more about the breadth of gaming and labeling games in M. Consalvo and C. Paul, Real Games. Also, as Dishon and Kafai explain, these categories are not dichotomous, but are useful for understanding the different ways games and play can contribute to our understanding of civics: “First, in light of the emphasis on the development of civic practices through youth’s interest-driven pursuits, we distinguish between (i) games that enable players to learn about the civic sphere, focusing on civic knowledge, and (ii) games that aspire to facilitate opportunities for interactions simulative of civic participation. Second, we identify the relationship between the game context and civic ones, distinguishing between (i) games that focus on the development of players’ reflection concerning civic issues, and (ii) those that strive to offer more concrete connections to the civic sphere. Importantly, rather than strict dichotomies, these distinctions are laid out in order to offer useful categories that tease out the diverse contributions video games can offer to civic education.” Dishon and Kafai, “Connected Civic Gaming.” See also Schrier, Knowledge Games and Schirra, “Playing for Impact.”

(67.) An Indigenous people in what is now Canada and the United States. For more about the games listed: Elizabeth LaPensée (Design and Art), Exquisite Ghost (Music and Sound), in Along the River of Spacetime, https://www.spacetimeriver.com/ (accessed on November 12, 2020); American University Game Lab, Factitious, http://factitious.augamestudio.com/#/.

(68.) S. Biswas and P. Gestwicki, “Buffalo,” in Schrier, Learning, Education & Games Vol. 3; see also Tiltfactor Lab, Buffalo: The Name Dropping Game, https://tiltfactor.org/game/buffalo/ G. Kaufman and M. Flanagan, “A psychologically “embedded” approach to designing games for prosocial causes.” Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 9, no. 3, (2015): Article 1. doi: 10.5817/CP2015-3-5

(69.) Learning Games Network, Quandary, https://www.quandarygame.org/ ; Gigantic Mechanic, The Migrant Trail, https://theundocumented.com/. An open question around The Migrant Trail game is whether the two sides (migrants and border patrol officers) should be equated, or whether it is problematic to play a role such as that of oppressors in this game, so teachers should reflect on this game and its use further. See more about this in chapter 8. Information on Quandary and its usage was supported by the Quandary team and correspondence with them in winter, 2021. Quotation by the Quandary team, Winter 2021.

(70.) Aparna Khanna, researcher in India, personal interview, Spring 2019.

(71.) O. Jimenez, “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes,” in Schrier, Learning, Education & Games Vol. 3. There are also non-VR versions of this game. See more at Steel Crate Games, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, https://keeptalkinggame.com/, 2018.

(72.) Another module in Mission US is “A Cheyenne Odyssey,” where players play as Little Fox, a Cheyenne boy in post–Civil War America, and there is a module around slavery as well. Some educators have boycotted these games because they feel these modules further stereotypes. Educators should reflect further on this game and the context of its use, and how to best represent different types of histories and identities through games. See more at WNET/Thirteen and Electric Funstuff, Mission US, https://www.mission-us.org/. See more in chapter 8.

(73.) L. Gillepsie, A. Chenoweth, and D. Frye, “Time Trek,” in Schrier, Learning, Education & Games Vol. 3.

(74.) For instance, research suggests that games are not the bastions of aggressive behavior and violence that media reports may purport. A 2019 study from the Oxford Internet Institute, led by Andrew Przybylski, investigated information from parents and caretakers to help in evaluating the aggressiveness of the children in the study. The researchers also used specific ratings criteria to judge the violence in a particular game, rather than the subjective views of the players. They found no correlation between playing the games and aggressive behavior in teenagers, and even if they had found a correlation, it would not have meant that the games specifically caused the behavior to occur. A. K. Przybylski and N. Weinstein, “Violent Video Game Engagement Is Not Associated with Adolescents’ Aggressive Behavior: Evidence from a Registered Report,” Royal Society Open Science, February 3, 2019, https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.171474. However, the connection between violence and games is not the focus of this book. All types of antisocial or potentially harmful behaviors may be happening online and through social media, such as the spread of disinformation, trolling, name calling, sexist and racist remarks, or trash talking, and sometimes these activities are happening in and through games and gaming communities just as they are on other platforms, offline communities, and societal interactions. Harmful and destructive behaviors are not limited to games but may be designed and algorithmically allowed, invited, and even propagated to foment, as on other online social media platforms and communities (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Discord). That said, we should avoid moral panics and consider instead the complexities of how these platforms enable community and care, as well as hate and cruelty. This is an opportunity for us to rethink about how we govern publics, whether in-person or through virtual worlds. Finally, the panacea comment is inspired by an interview with Kelli Dunlap and Susan Rivers, Spring 2019.

(75.) This idea is inspired by a talk by Bettina Love, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3jrts4ekNQ&feature=youtu.be. She is describing how hip hop is creativity from Black and Brown people, and that it centers the history and culture of Black people and African Americans. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it helps us to think about how games are already civics. Hip hop and other forms of Black and African American creativity are civics in action. This metaphor is—importantly—applied to how Black history, culture, and creativity are shared civically, in part through hip hop and other forms of art. Thus, the metaphor should not be inappropriately appropriated, as it is not fully able to be applied to how kids are generally civically engaging through games. However, I found it a useful and (p.264) inspiring concept for thinking about games moving forward, particularly in how we can reconceive games as civic spaces and youth as civically engaging already.

(76.) Mirra and Garcia, “Civic Participation Reimagined.”

(78.) This assertion is inspired by B. Roberg, Videogames Have Always Been Queer (New York: NYU Press, 2019).

(79.) Mirra and Garcia, “Civic Participation Reimagined.” Mirra and Garcia cite work by Ito et al. and Jenkins et al.: “Ito et al. (2015) define connected civics as ‘a form of learning fostered via participatory politics that emerges when young people achieve civic agency linked to their deeply felt interests, identities, and affinities’ [p. 17] . …As Jenkins, Ito, and boyd (2015) note, ‘Connected civics begins with an appreciation of how young people are developing political and civic capacity when they run their own World of Warcraft guilds, Minecraft servers, or fan conventions, a kind of “little p” politics that contrasts with the more adult-centered “big P” Politics. This kind of organizing may not be about the government, but it is about governance, and it involves trial by fire in experiencing what happens when you have power and authority’ [p. 162].” See more at Ito et al., Connected Learning; Ito et al., “Learning Connected Civics”; H. Jenkins, M. Ito, and D. Boyd, Participatory Culture in a Networked Era (Cambridge: Polity, 2015).

(80.) “Ironically, it is how we have sought to account for what is remarkable about games by setting them apart (as play spaces, as stories) that is the largest roadblock to understanding what is powerful about them.” T. M. Malaby, “Beyond Play: A New Approach to Games,” Games and Culture 2, no. 2 (2007): 95–113. Cited by Adams and Holden, “Games Ethics and Engagement.”

(81.) Schrier, Knowledge Games. Check it out—it’s pretty good! The games I describe in this book, We the Gamers, do not necessarily seek to make real-world change or build brand new knowledge—though they may do so. Rather, the ethics and civics games in this book may enable practice of a skill, relay a perspective, or encourage curiosity. They may build knowledge of a specific civic institution or government structure. They may also support real-world action, collective problem-solving, and community engagement, but they do not have to.

(82.) Ian Bogost, “Reality Is Alright: A Review of Jane McGonigal’s Book Reality Is Broken,” http://bogost.com/blog/reality_is_broken/ (accessed May 5, 2015); Ian Bogost, “Fun,” UX Week 2013 talk, http://vimeo.com/74943170 (accessed July 2, 2015).

(83.) B. Suits, The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia (Toronto, Ontario, University of Toronto Press, 1978), cited in K. Salen and E. Zimmerman, Rules of Play: Design Fundamentals (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).

(84.) This is inspired in part by how we define citizens but also how we define games and gamers and how we define gaming and learning, because it affects who is included in games and the civic spaces of games. Also note that the term, “gamers” can be problematic in how it is used and applied. For example, the term may only be awarded to those who qualify as playing whatever is defined as a “hardcore” game in a community. This ignores the playful contributions and participations of the many others who play games. In this book, I acknowledge the problems surrounding this term. However, I use the term “gamer” to refer to anyone who plays any games of any type, which I would argue are all of us who live in this world. We are all gamers. See more in Consalvo and Paul, Real Games.

(85.) Schrier, Knowledge Games, citing Bogost, “Fun,” and Suits, The Grasshopper; see also Suits, “Construction of a Definition,” in The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology, ed. Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005).

(86.) Ruha Benjamin writes, “Rather, positing decarceration as our overarching strategy, we would try to envision a continuum of alternatives to imprisonment—demilitarization of schools, revitalization of education at all levels, a health system that provides free physical and mental care to all, and a justice system based on reparation and reconciliation rather than retribution and vengeance. … How can innovation in terms of our political, cultural, and social norms work toward freedom? How might technoscience be appropriated and reimagined for more liberatory ends?” Ruha Benjamin, “Introduction,” in Captivating Technology (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2019).

(87.) This phrase references a Black folk song, civil rights rallying statement, affirmation, and saying that was also popularized by a Pete Seeger song. For more information see N. Adams, “The Inspiring Force of ‘We Shall Overcome,’ ” NPR, August 28, 2013, https://www.npr.org/2013/08/28/216482943/the-inspiring-force-of-we-shall-overcome. This line also refers to how games may help us to address our human flaws and foolishness through the “foolishness” of games. Ian Bogost explains that “the fool finds something new in a familiar situation and then shares it with us.” He explains, “Instead of toeing the line, instead of maintaining the standard way of things, the fool asks, “What else is possible?”… and then actually caries out that other thing that’s possible, even if it’s outlandish.” Bogost, “Fun.”

(88.) “Play has always been a way that people learn about each other, connect, understand and share ideas, and contribute to humanity.” K. Schrier, “Guiding Questions for Game-Based Learning,” in International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, ed. D. Gibson (New York: Springer, 2018), p. 5; see also C. Raphael, C. Bachen, K. M. Lynn, J. Baldwin-Philippi, and K. A. McKee, “Games for Civic Learning: A Conceptual Framework and Agenda for Research and Design,” Games and Culture 5, no. 2 (2010): 199–235.

(90.) Ibid. With this in mind, although I describe specific games in this book, we should consider them as part of a connected approach to learning where the games themselves are part of an ecosystem. Also, games have been explicitly made for civics, historically. See more in Schirra, “Playing for Impact.”

(91.) See more about ethically notable games at José Zagal, “Ethically Notable Videogames: Moral Dilemmas and Gameplay,” 2009, http://facsrv.cs.depaul.edu/~jzagal/Papers/Zagal-EthicallyNotableVideogames.pdf.

(92.) Moreover, this book exposes my own biases. I am bounded by my own upbringing, education, expertise, and social networks. I am bounded by this particular sociopolitical moment. First, the examples and mindsets skew US/Northern North American. Second, an underlying assumption is that democratic participation matters and is meaningful. However, this is not the only way to be and the only way to act as a society. I have tried to incorporate examples from different countries and cultures of how games are being used designed and to teach and support participation of all different types. I have also tried to acknowledge how civic and ethics systems in different nations may intersect with game systems. However, this book is not comprehensive and is meant, rather, as a conversation (p.266) starter. New games, terms, standards, and practices are always being created, revised, and implemented. Let us evolve with them.