Review by Chad Sansing, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2013

Democracy 3

Nuanced political sim about the balancing act of government

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
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 (2 Reviews)

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Pros: Captures the complex interrelationships of voters, issues, policies, and political ambitions in a cool interface.

Cons: Sometimes a political strategy goes irreparably off course, leaving the player feeling helpless.

Bottom Line: This is a grown-up civics sim, full of tough choices, compelling cause and effect relationships, and controversial issues that will work best for older government students.

Teachers can use Democracy 3 to provide an experiential perspective on the challenges, functions, and roles of the executive branch. The game also gives teachers and students the chance to formulate hypotheses about government and to test out policies and laws they might draft or propose as part of any study of government. Democracy 3 is also useful for comparing and contrasting the economics, politics, and values of different Western-style democracies such as Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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Democracy 3 is a somewhat abstract downloadable government simulation for older students. Players take on the role of president or prime minister in one of several Western democracies. Each turn, players must spend political capital (a tangible resource in the game) to impact or implement policies that influence economics, security, and voter opinion. Popular decisions gain more political capital and keep some voters happy and some members of players' cabinets loyal. Unpopular decisions or compromises that go against voters' or cabinet members' beliefs cost capital. Modeling the delicate tightrope walk of political office, Democracy 3 forces players to balance the economy, social issues, and their own political futures. A cool visual interface and turn-by-turn feedback on choices and their outcomes help students see cause and effect relationships, and plan for the future.

Democracy 3 delivers big ideas and concepts not easily grasped by students via more traditional means, showing how governing involves compassion, compromise, and cost, and how politicians balance their own ambitions and the desires of their constituencies and parties. It digs into controversial issues like health care, immigration, legalized drug use, reproductive rights, and taxation and provides a good platform for further discussion or research projects. However, these issues are only a portion of the larger spectrum. To succeed, students must strategize and balance their re-election bids, manage the budget, and maintain security.

Overall Rating

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

While it's complex, a brisk tutorial helps players get it quickly. The breakdown of each individual voter and his/her issues and motivations is unique and fascinating.

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

Players are thrown right into the nitty gritty of governing. Kids quickly learn basic economic and political concepts, and discover just how interrelated people, policies, and politics can be.

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

Detailed turn-by-turn feedback helps when planning each turn; the interface delivers a lot of information well, and players can generate reports to measure their performance.

Common Sense Reviewer
Chad Sansing Classroom teacher