Common Sense Review
Updated October 2013

Argument Wars

Courtroom sim covers ethics, the Constitution, and the art of argument
Common Sense Rating 4
  • Argument Wars: a courtroom sim based on real Supreme Court cases.
  • Players choose an avatar and which side of cases to argue.
  • Choosing the right Amendment to underpin arguments earns points.
  • Text-based support help players get started with unfamiliar mechanics.
  • Tasks at support players setting up if/then logic of their argument.
  • The judge guides players and emphasizes important aspects of the case.
  • Actual transcripts and recordings are great learning supports at the end of each round.
  • Badges feel like a bit of an afterthought.
  • Cases are won with solid argument, and do not always reflect the actual case's outcome.
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.
Marc Lesser
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

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? 4

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? 4

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.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

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. And 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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What's It Like?

Argument Wars is like taking your favorite television courtroom drama and melding it with Wii Tennis; it’s a game of back-and-forth, just mental rather than physical. Picture your bobblehead-looking 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.

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Is It Good For Learning?

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.

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