Common Sense Review
Updated March 2013

Executive Command

Sim creates light version of being the President of the United States
Common Sense Rating 3
  • The home screen from Executive Command.
  • This is how you deliver a law in Executive Command.
  • Player can address Congress in Executive Command.
  • Vetoing a bill is part of the game play in Executive Command.
  • Students get score sheets while playing Executive Command.
Pros
Executive Command gives kids a foundational understanding of what the president does and how the president interacts with Congress, cabinet departments, and other countries.
Cons
Most of the problems facing kids in Executive Command have obvious solutions, so the presidency seems less complicated than it is.
Bottom Line
Executive Command is a good way to introduce the presidency to students, but it lacks economic, political, and moral complexity.
Chad Sansing
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

While the player gets to enact many of the president's responsibilities, Executive Command never gets at the critical thinking required of a leader. Kids can get a high score without using much analysis.

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

Executive Command does a good job of providing in-game help and nearly constant feedback. There is very little increase in difficulty, since most of the problems presented have obvious solutions.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Executive Command is a good simulation to explore in a civics or social studies class. Teachers can have each student play individually or they can split the class into teams. If teachers pair playing Executive Command with directed follow-up about the economic, political, and moral compromises and sacrifices of running the country, this game can be a fun way to introduce the basics of the presidency to older students.

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What's It Like?

Executive Command puts kids in the role of president, where they champion their chosen political issues while dealing with bills, diplomacy, and war. After picking an avatar and watching a brief cut-scene, kids guide the president to Congress and pick an issue to focus on during the game. After that, a helpful chief of staff guides the player from task to task. Most of the gameplay consists of reading bills or other communications and deciding what to do –- and where to go –- in response to them.

The action takes place on a stylized map of Washington, D.C., featuring the White House, several cabinet-level departments, Congress, Air Force One’s hangar, and the Washington Memorial. Kids with iCivics accounts can save games in progress and earn achievements, use avatar accessory unlocks, and earn points to vote for civic participation projects on iCivics.com. A few times per “year,” players address Congress to drum up support for favorite issues. If Congress gives a president its support, it sends several bills on the president's issue to the White House during the game’s last turn. The rest of the game focuses on signing or vetoing bills, delivering laws to appropriate agencies, accepting or declining diplomatic invitations, and waging war.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Executive Command is an effective and engaging introduction to the executive branch that gives kids a solid overview of the presidency. However, in working to remain politically neutral to serve middle and high school learners, the game never captures the complexity of governing.

Problems players face have obvious solutions, and decisions offered kids have right and wrong answers. For example, in addressing Congress on education, a player might be given the choice to say something cogent or “I don’t really care what happens to our education system.” The game itself, rather than guiding kids’ critical thinking, just guides play. Sometimes, players can make an “effective” decision without knowing what they did. For example, it’s possible to send the Air Force to a gathering of enemy generals without knowing you had ordered surveillance or assassination.

Executive Command effectively teaches a basic, foundational understanding of the presidency, its roles, and its responsibilities in federal government. However, because many decisions in the game have obvious answers and the mechanics are repeated, the game never quite captures the complexity of governing.

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