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Research Roundup: Video Games and Civic Engagement

Civic engagement empowers people to understand their government, participate in elections, and advocate for meaningful change. If you’re new here, you might not know that we are heavily invested in game-based learning for civics education – just look at our longstanding relationship with our incredible friends at iCivics

We know that video games can be an effective tool for educating and engaging people on civic matters, but what have researchers found on the subject? This article delves into recent studies that explore the intersection of video games and civic education, shedding light on how these immersive experiences shape the way students learn about and engage with civics. 

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Can Game-based Learning Facilitate Civics, Negotiation and Conflict Management Attributes? Research Evidence from Greek University Students

This first study examines the use of serious games as educational tools for teaching negotiation, conflict resolution, civics, and sustainability to postgraduate students, specifically at private universities in Greece. Researchers explore the learning outcomes of these serious games in comparison to traditional lecture-based instruction, uncovering several noteworthy findings:

  1. Serious games integrated into education have consistently yielded positive results. Students who engage with these games demonstrate improved knowledge, attitudes, and skills pertaining to civics, sustainability, and conflict resolution.
  1. The incorporation of serious games in educational settings enhances various attributes, including social interaction, analytical skills, spatial thinking, and problem-solving abilities.
  1. Civic-focused serious games effectively promote civic engagement, encourage public discussions, and nurture civic-oriented attitudes among participants.

This research underscores the significance of serious games in facilitating learning related to negotiation, conflict resolution, and civics/sustainability topics among postgraduate students. The study also highlights that students from different regions exhibit varying learning outcomes. These variations are influenced by regional factors, which can affect students’ approaches to voting behavior and conflict resolution strategies.

vMOBilize: Gamifying Civic Learning and Political Engagement in a Classroom Context 

This article details a quasi-experiment involving 254 college students that was conducted over ten weeks in the spring of 2016 to evaluate the effectiveness of a game-based platform called vMOBilize in enhancing political engagement, attention, efficacy, knowledge, and participation among students. The results demonstrate several positive impacts of playing the game, including increased voter registration, virtual political engagement (such as following candidates on Twitter, liking candidates on Facebook, and watching debates), and the consumption of public affairs information from sources like National Public Radio (NPR), non-NPR political talk radio, and online news aggregator sites. Furthermore, the game was particularly beneficial for students with limited prior political knowledge and engagement.

Overall, participants expressed high levels of satisfaction with the game, with 79% indicating that they would be pleased to play it again. This study’s findings have important implications for civics education, pedagogy, and political engagement, particularly among young individuals!

Engagement in play, engagement in politics: Playing political video games

In this research paper, authors Joyce Neys and Jeroen Jansz investigate the nexus between political video games and civic engagement. According to Neys and Jansz, Western democracies emphasize citizen involvement in political and social issues, extending beyond conventional party politics. Video games provide a unique platform for fostering this engagement by allowing players to practice and experience various civic competencies within the safe confines of a game

The authors note that the emergence of political video games as a subgenre began in the early 2000s, gaining traction after 2004, particularly in political campaigns. Research suggests that playing political video games can lead to heightened political participation and civic engagement. Players tend to become better informed about the topics addressed in these games and express a desire to engage in more formal ways, such as contacting interest groups. Moreover, the impact of these games extends beyond individual players, as in-game discussions often lead to real-world conversations about the issues raised in the games, contributing to political socialization. 

Digital games, developing democracies, and civic engagement: a study of games in Kenya and Nigeria

The author of this study, Jolene Fisher, focuses on the use of serious games for civic learning and engagement, particularly in developing democratic contexts. Unlike previous research that mainly examined these games in established democracies, this study delves into the potential of games to foster civic learning and engagement outcomes in the unique context of developing democracies. The research also sheds light on the role of game production and dissemination processes in achieving these outcomes.

Specifically, this study conducted in-depth interviews with key developmental stakeholders involved with two civic-focused games, Haki2 in Kenya and Your Excellency in Nigeria. The findings suggest that these games not only have the potential to facilitate civic learning and engagement but also serve as tools for direct civic engagement, participatory learning, and group mobilization. Fisher asserts that this is especially relevant in the context of developing democratic societies. 

While the article acknowledges limitations when using games as standalone tools for achieving civic outcomes, it highlights the significant potential of game production and dissemination processes to engage communities in democratic deliberation, identify civic issues and solutions, facilitate discussions, and mobilize players around relevant civic matters.

An Empirical Study of Incorporation of Augmented Reality into Civic Education

How effective is augmented reality in civic education classes? Involving 166 college freshmen students and employing a randomized field teaching experiment, this study aimed to determine if there was a statistical difference between the traditional teaching approach and one that integrated AR course materials into civic education, considering academic emotions, learning strategies, and the classroom environment as key variables.

The results reveal that students exhibited more positive academic emotions in the AR-based teaching environment. This increase was associated with the adoption of self-regulated learning strategies and an improved classroom environment. These findings suggest that incorporating AR technology into civic education can enhance the learning experience!

Older adults’ digital gameplay, social capital, social connectedness, and civic participation

Lastly, this study by Yu-Hao Lee investigates the relationship between older adults’ digital game-playing behavior, social capital, social connectedness, and civic participation. The research involved an online national survey of 1101 older adults over the age of 60. The results showed that older adults who played games alone did not experience reduced social capital. However, playing with local and distant ties was associated with increased bonding and bridging social capital. Furthermore, playing with online friends was linked to higher levels of bridging social capital and greater civic participation.

The findings suggest that digital games can effectively promote social connectedness among older adults. They highlight the potential of digital games as a means to maintain and enhance the social networks of older adults, especially in a rapidly aging population. It also indicates that playing games can contribute to increased civic participation, potentially encouraging volunteering and support for social causes.

As you can tell, video games are an excellent tool for civic engagement – they make it more accessible, engaging, and educational! As the next generation of citizens navigates the complexities of their governments, video games offer them and their educators an invaluable resource for learning. So, whether you’re strategizing your virtual campaign or navigating the intricacies of political dilemmas, remember that video games are not just entertainment – they can shape informed and politically active citizens!

Interested in creating a game about civics education? We have you covered! With our 18 years of industry experience and work with esteemed clients such as iCivics and Annenberg Classroom, we’re here to turn your project idea into a meaningful game-based learning experience. Reach out to us today!

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