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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Argument Wars is a courtroom simulation that supports civic and constitutional awareness and helps kids learn to build an argument the way lawyers do. The game was released by nonprofit organization iCivics, founded by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and designed by the award-winning Filament Games. Players can register for one of three types of iCivics accounts that do collect names and email addresses without verifying age, but this is optional and used primarily for leaderboards and saving games in progress.
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What's it about?
ARGUMENT WARS is to debate what Sid Meier's Civilization is to conquest. Superficially, Civilization is about domination and power-wielding, but it's more a game of strategy. Argument Wars similarly is about Supreme Court cases, but puts players' persuasive abilities to the test. Players choose an avatar, one of eight actual Supreme Court cases, and a position to defend. Most players will start off wanting to force their perspectives through the court, but they'll learn quickly that conviction doesn't win over sound support of one's argument. The action takes place in a simulated courtroom with a judge presiding while players battle the computer-controlled opposing council (the game is single-player-only). Ultimately players attempt to build as many of the Judge's Ruling Points as possible to topple their opponents.
Is it any good?
The aesthetic quality, story, and mechanics are good but not enough to win players over. What's more interesting is how Argument Wars engages players in subjects they probably don't pay much attention to: the U.S. Constitution, legal procedure, and the art of argument. The fact that it can get kids interested in these topics -- and hold their attention for more than five minutes -- deserves praise.
There are shortcomings: the game is extremely text-heavy for readers with less than strong proficiency at a high school reading level, there's a badging system with unclear purpose, and overall the game would benefit from added level-up opportunities (after a few rounds, it feels easy to master). Argument Wars isn't gonna soak up a lot of time; instead, it makes for a good break between homework assignments. But it packs together skills, civic awareness, and sound game elements into a package that's completely worthwhile.
Talk to your kids about ...
Parents and children can discuss the U.S. Constitution. What is the importance of how courts interpret the document? How has our country supported or resisted its evolution over time?
Talk about the difference between scholarly argument and casual argument. How can the skill of scholarly argument translate to different professional environments?
In iCivics games, kids can use their points to do good by voting to reward other students' social action projects. Discuss how new technology can empower civic action globally. Use Kony 2012 as an example. Is it always positive?
- Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows
- Subjects: Social Studies: citizenship, government
- Skills: Emotional Development: empathy, persevering, perspective taking
Responsibility & Ethics: following codes of conduct, making wise decisions
- Price: Free
- Pricing structure: Free
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: iCivics.org
- Release date: January 1, 2009
- Genre: Educational
- ESRB rating: NR