Branches of Power

Website review by
Chad Sansing, Common Sense Media
Branches of Power Website Poster Image
Creative simulation teaches kids the legislative process.

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Educational Value

Kids can learn how a bill becomes a law, how politicians compromise to pass laws, and how all three branches of government get involved in the law-making process. They can also learn how to manage time and work toward achieving goals. Branches of Power cleverly captures the essence of law making, but it leaves you wondering how important the executive and judicial branches are.

Positive Messages

Branches of Power shows kids that all three branches of government in the United States work together to pass laws that benefit citizens. They learn that civic participation, consensus, compromise, and sacrifice are central to law-making. At times, however, the game seems to suggest that the executive and judicial branches are less important than the legislative branch.

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What 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.

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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.

Talk to your kids 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.

Website details

For kids who love civics and history games

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