Review by Tanner Higgin, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2013

The Republia Times

Unassuming editorial sim elegantly exposes the business of bias

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Teachers say (1 Review)
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Grades
9-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Makes complex issues about media messaging accessible and stirs up healthy debate.

Cons: It's a very brief one-off experience.

Bottom Line: What this game lacks in pizzazz it makes up for in smarts, and it's certain to get students thinking and talking about bias and media politics.

This is a game that’s best played solo or in pairs, because students will need to focus and do some reading. Since it only takes 10-15 minutes to play, it serves as a great discussion starter and introduction to a lesson or unit on media messages, or even persuasive writing. Let your students dive in and play without any instruction, so they can discover the game’s point on their own and get excited for discussion. For less focused students, give a brief introduction to get them thinking about bias before jumping in. After students play the game, encourage them to draw connections to the world around them. Get them to identify media they believe is biased and to explain how they can tell. Get students to consider whether gossip and sports  -- like they do in the game -- distract us from more important current events. As an extension activity, have students copy the headlines out of a newspaper or political magazine and then rewrite them to reframe their points of view. They could also swap out images.

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The Republia Times is a browser-based game that's part of a growing genre of smaller games that explore serious, challenging, and often political social issues. This game's issue is media bias and political power. The player assumes the role of an editor overseeing what articles appear on the front page of a newspaper in a fictional country that's just had a political revolution. Since the new government officials want the newspaper to build reader loyalty, it's up to the player to choose favorable articles.

The game is measured out in days, and with each new day a stream of headlines appears on the player’s desk. These articles can be selected, sized, and placed on the page. Once the page is populated, the player can end the day and see how the newspaper has impacted the size of the readership and their loyalty. If the player doesn't meet expectations, the game ends.

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Initially, students might find the game a bit boring. It's very simplistic and looks like a Mac interface from the 1980s. But after digging in, they should start to figure out the game's point. By balancing the number and size of articles ranging from political headlines to celebrity gossip, students will have to make tough coverage decisions, evaluating what will or won't hurt loyalty and readership. For instance, on a slow day for favorable political news, students might decide to devote more page space to a sports story, pushing a headline about social upheaval to a small corner. The fictionalized setting helps focus players more on broader issues of rhetoric, bias, media, and politics, leaving class discussion to make more direct connections to the real world.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

With nostalgic design and simple point-and-click mechanics, it lacks the flash students might expect from a game. But it's still a thought-provoking experience that begs for discussion.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
5

Students learn about bias by having to use bias, curating a newspaper so it supports those in power. Encourages reflection on big questions about media and politics.

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

It wasn't designed for the classroom, but simple controls, a brief introduction, and suggestions at the start and end of each day are helpful. Score is determined by the number of readers and their loyalty.


Common Sense Reviewer
Tanner Higgin Common Sense Education

Teacher Reviews

3
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Featured review by
Scott M. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Lincoln Hall Middle School
Lincolnwood, IL
3
A great example of media bias and how journalism can have a huge impact on the public.

The Republia Times is a perfect introductory activity for a journalism class or any lesson involving propaganda. This is a free game found on the web, so there is very little set-up. The controls and directions are very easy to pick up. Students see newspaper headlines appear in a ticker, and have to decide where to place them on the page and what size to make the article. However, the government has given you orders to only print articles that put it in a positive light. This becomes harder and harder as the days go on and the news becomes more grim. Later in the game you are also given a twist--a resistance movement requests your help to get their word out. But will you sacrifice your family for the greater good?

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