What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Branches of Power is an online simulation game where kids to use the executive, legislative, and judicial branches to develop laws around popular, but age-appropriate, social issues. Players will do best if they have a basic understanding of each branch’s role in lawmaking, law enforcement, and judicial review. Branches of Power will work best with either adult or peer support in learning how to play and how to finish the game in its half-hour time limit. Kids, teachers, and site supporters can register to participate in social areas of the iCivics site.
What kids can learn
- power structures
- the economy
Thinking & Reasoning
- applying information
- problem solving
- combining knowledge
- achieving goals
- time management
Engagement, Approach, Support
The intuitive point-and-click interface makes it easy for students to interact with the game map. First-time players will struggle with the half-hour time limit.
A clever map and different characters illuminate the key parts of the legislative process. The legislative branch is the clear star here; the other branches don't seem as substantial.
A ton of in-game help, including instructions for every portion of play, assists students when they get stuck. Moreover, players get constant visual and textual feedback as they score points and grow their towers.
What's it about?
BRANCHES OF POWER asks players to switch between executive, legislative, and judicial avatars traveling a symbolic political landscape to develop issues (empty lots) into laws (golden towers). Players must manage ten issues into laws by game’s end. The executive holds press conferences to raise citizens’ awareness of each issue. Then the legislator holds town hall meetings to gain the support of particular voter factions with different values like competition and cooperation. Once enough people support the issue, the legislator drafts a bill. If the bill passes, is Constitutional, and veto-proof, then its law is home free. Otherwise, players must use the other branches to challenge the law so it’s revised before time runs out.
Is it any good?
Branches of Power is a clever take on the law-making process. It doesn’t quite capture the complexity of checks and balances, however, in that the legislative branch seems the most substantial and powerful. The executive’s press conferences are goofy, and the judicial branch doesn’t factor into the game at all if the player passes sound laws. While playing the game, you might feel like the executive and judicial branches serve the legislative branch and the law-making process, rather than protect the Constitution and citizens’ rights.
That being said, the legislative branch’s town hall and law-making portions of the game really shine and demonstrate the values-driven, political give-and-take of effective Congressional compromise. Moreover, the game’s sequencing of the law-making process is accurate despite its uneven presentation of the individual steps.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about civic-participation in law-making.
Families can talk about what kinds of personal traits a leader needs to handle many responsibilities at once.
Families can also discuss why people have different ideas of "good" and "bad" rules.