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The Republia Times
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.
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.
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.