Review by Marc Lesser, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2017

Argument Wars

Courtroom sim covers ethics, the Constitution, and the art of argument

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (4 Reviews)
Privacy (See details)

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Pros: Argument mechanics are fun, and extended learning resources at the end of each round are well thought out.

Cons: It takes time to get used to how it plays, and support doesn't cover legal nuances well.

Bottom Line: Social Studies and Civics teachers will find no argument with the game's value; it's a fun, free way to dig into major court cases with lots of extension opportunities.

Consider pairing or grouping students in threes while they play so they can chat, ask questions, and tap one another as research partners. Have them rotate through roles as they play the game. One plays, and the others record confusing concepts on-screen or new vocabulary like "What's an amendment?" Students could also research new Supreme Court cases and create a version of the game offline that can be played by the whole class, giving each a chance to play roles like plaintiff, defense, judge, and jury.

Don't miss the opportunity to browse the iCivics Impact Competition, where players can apply points earned during several iCivics games to support social impact projects from youth around the world. Longer term, consider having students create and submit a project of their own!

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Argument Wars is like taking your favorite television courtroom drama and melding it with Wii Tennis; it’s a game of back and forth, but mental rather than physical. Picture your bobblehead-like avatar lobbing supports for a structured argument until one -- the plaintiff or the defense (players can choose to portray either) -- topples the other, earning points for a sound argument and reasoned objections.

Players first choose a case, then decide what amendment or article to the U.S. Constitution best underpins their arguments. Choosing the right amendment earns points, but smacks a bit quiz-like. Players are then presented with a preview of their opponents’ arguments, helping them choose wisely from a set of cards they can play when presenting their positions. Players can also choose to object to opponents' arguments -- but should be careful, as only sound objections earn points and poor ones can get penalized by the judge.

Full Disclosure: iCivics and Common Sense Education share a funder; however, that relationship does not impact Common Sense Education's editorial independence and this learning rating.

Without question, this game is great for learning. Cases are based on actual Supreme Court cases but infuse ethical content sure to engage teens. In one case, students' right to privacy is called into question. One side argues on behalf of the student -- stating that kids should have the same basic rights as adults -- and the other argues that principals have an obligation to balance individual rights with the well-being of the entire school. Players can argue either side, allowing opportunity for empathy-building and perspective-taking.

Printable certificates display case stats like play time, date, total points, and number of correct objections for assessment. Badges are also awarded after each level, but they serve just to mark progress for the player.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Don't expect instant gratification; the unfamiliar style of play takes some time to get used to, and there's a lot of reading. The eight cases are well chosen, though, and are sure to stir convictions.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Each true-to-life case allows kids to learn about Supreme Court trials, and players build skills and knowledge as they experiment along the way.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Built-in pointers during play and hints via the judge's dialogue help guide play. At the end of each round, players review transcripts, recordings, and other research from the actual cases.

Teacher Reviews

(See all 4 reviews) (4 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Karen P. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Detroit Academy of Arts And Sciences
Detroit, United States
Great tool for Civics!
Overall this is not a bad site. I like how it allows students to make choices when it comes to arguments and guides them when they have picked a bad one. It offers a lot of knowledge for the students and would be an asset to the classroom. It can be confusing the first time you play so I would suggest working on it as a whole group first before allowing students off on their own or in small groups. It supports student learning the judicial system and allows them a fun way to learn how this system works ...
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