Review by Caryn Lix, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2014

Power Play

Useful but bite-sized intro to states’ rights vs. federal law

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6-8
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Presents evenhanded look at complex interplay of state and federal rights

Cons: It goes quickly and is unlikely to grab kids for long.

Bottom Line: Used tactically, Power Play is an effective way to introduce or review the differing rights and responsibilities of the state and federal governments.

This game would be an excellent follow-up activity to a class discussion around issues of government -- or a good introduction to the topic. Following the game, it would be a good use of student time to come up with their own arguments. Students could use an online game design website such as Gamestar Mechanic to create their own versions of the game, or to create a board game using their own topics and arguments. The other games in the iCivics curriculum offer natural extension opportunities like Branches of Power, which addresses the branches of the federal government, and Argument Wars, which digs deeper into formulating arguments in the context of the Supreme Court.

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In Power Play, students consider whether power should be centralized in the hands of the federal government or extended to individual states. Players pick one side of the argument at the game's start. Statues representing different spheres of influence --  taxation and education, for example -- are positioned between "federal" and "state" zones as they actually exist. Students send in players to make arguments that will move the statues closer to the desired zone. If the arguments don't match the category, nothing will happen; if they do, the statues will advance in the appropriate direction. 

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Power Play provides many opportunities for kids to think about the essential structure of the United States of America. They'll encounter persuasive arguments on both sides of this many-layered issue, learn factual information, and then put those facts to use to further their own arguments. Unfortunately, the game itself is brief and won't compel kids beyond a relatively short play session. It also may take a little bit of time to grasp as it's not a readily familiar game type.

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Overall Rating

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

Should get kids thinking and engaged, but only in a brief burst.

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

Solid civics facts integrated well with gameplay helps kids think through complex problems.

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

Provides solid instructions but can still be confusing at first.


Common Sense Reviewer
Caryn Lix Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Kris H. , Other
Other
Cornell Senior High School
Coraopolis, PA
Strangely Awkward Football Game

I really do like the vast majority of resources on iCivics and use them with my students. I really feel that this one should be completely revised. If they are doing a football analogy, they should make the game somewhat like football and move a ball towards the end zone instead of pulling a statue away from it.

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