Building Civic Education through Gaming

Although Americans are more civically engaged than ever, education lags way behind. Civic engagement starts with education, and so we decided to tackle an important, yet complex issue that impacts how far your vote goes in US - Gerrymandering.


The Average American

Perhaps one of the most exciting developments of the recent year is the increase in civic engagement among citizens within the US. Research shows that voter turnout for young adults was at its highest ever in this past presidential election. This is good news all around! It offers huge benefits for young people who participate, with research showing that civic engagement of any type is associated with higher educational attainment in adolescents and young adults, and even higher income levels within adulthood.

There is no doubt that civic engagement will continue to rise in the coming years, and that the US government on a national, state, and local level will continue to see the impact of engaged citizens across the US. Yet despite this overwhelming force pushing towards improved engagement, civic education is lagging behind.

When you take a hard look at the facts around civic education in the US, it’s easy to become disheartened by the findings.

According to an Annenberg Public Policy Center survey, only 26 percent of Americans can name all three branches of the US government. Likewise, a recent survey from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation found that about 60 percent of U.S. citizens would fail a US citizens test. This unfortunately is common, but does not a reflection on intelligence or lack of desire for engagement. Rather, there is a stark lack of access to widespread civic education within the US. Research by Education Week shows that within the US, less than a third of schools offered a single course in civic education.

We believe that one of the greatest acts of civic engagement is to take a step towards civic education. To do this we decided to tackle gerrymandering, a hard to understand but thoroughly impactful quirk of how the US voting system operates.

Show Rather Than Explain

GerryMander, the game we designed to address this is a free, educational puzzle game aimed at showing how gerrymandering can be used to rig an election. In GerryMander, you draw voting districts to favor your party and win the election for each state. Players can use real-world strategies to beat and rig the puzzles. With these strategies players can see how Gerrymandering works while learning information about its prevalence and legality across the US.

One of the best things about games is how they can take an idea that’s confusing, hard to understand or even boring and reframe it in a way that’s clear, engaging, and exciting to learn about. Our hope with GerryMander is to not only shed light on the issue of gerrymandering, but also to share a new way in which we can work towards improved civic education within the US.

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