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

Executive Command

Sim creates light version of being the President of the United States

Common Sense says
3
Teachers say (7 Reviews)
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Grades
6-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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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.

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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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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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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Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Kristin A. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Oakland Mills High School
Columbia, MD
3
Efficient game for modeling the day-to-day of an executive

Overall, this game serves one purpose: practicing/modeling a day in the life of the executive branch. It stresses important ideas that students need to be aware of outside of the classroom like time management skills. I certainly would not rely on this by itself to teach my students the different parts and elements of the executive branch, but again, it is a great tech tool to use to have students understand the difficulty of some of the processes of government. I highly suggest only playing the game for 15-20 minutes with high schoolers. They were able to enjoy it at the beginning, but it was hard to keep them invested and engaged throughout the entire process. The only way I was able to have them stay engaged the entire time was to encourage the competitive element of the game with the public approval rating (I offered a prize to the most-liked president of each class) and have them complete a worksheet connecting what they were doing with some content-related questions we had recently discussed in class. I would not utilize this with advanced learners, mostly because the game is practicing remedial-level skills and thinking, but it could be used as a homework assignment for those that would breeze through this in class. I would highly suggest that ICivics make more accommodations for different levels and types of learners that encounter this game in the classroom. I will continue to use this game, but until then, I am forced to make my own modifications.

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