A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this website.
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.
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.
Positive Role Models
The executive, legislative, and judicial avatars controlled by the player all work best when they are cooperating to turn issues into constitutional laws. The executive avatar gets to pick three key civic issues, and the legislative character gets to choose two social values that impact law-making. The judicial avatar wants to safeguard the Constitution. Ultimately, all three avatars depend on the player to make what the game considers to be "good" decisions.
Ease of Play
Branches of Power uses an intuitive point-and-click interface, but players need to figure out how to use their avatars in tandem to develop all of the game's issues into laws before time runs out.
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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.