Argument Wars

Game review by
Marc L., Common Sense Media
Argument Wars Game Poster Image
Quality courtroom sim uses real cases to teach argument.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn more about the U.S. Constitution, legal procedure, and how to build an argument using ideas, precedent, and logic. There's also a lot to be learned about empathy and perspective taking since players hear from both sides of tough ethical disagreements. In one case, the funeral of a young Marine is interrupted by a protest; it pits the protest leader, Reverend Phelps, against the young soldier's family, who sue for the disruption caused outside the church. Argument Wars contextualizes history, argumentation, and reading within actual court cases that feel real enough to be serious but gamey enough to be fun.

Positive Messages

Civic awareness, ethical judgments, and justice are implicit themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The lawyers and judges are not fleshed out fully as characters. Nonetheless, everyone tries to be ethical and fair.

Ease of Play

One round of experimentation will give players the hang of the less familiar mechanics, and text-based tutorial features are helpful.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some cases have details related to smoking, but nothing in the game glorifies unhealthy behavior.

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. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymissedutton September 30, 2015

Incredible Engaging - I learnt lots too!

I really love the Argument War game, as well as the other tools created by iCivics. In my last school I taught a unit about the American Civil Rights movement... Continue reading

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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? 

Game details

For kids who love civics, politics, and civil rights.

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