Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2018

Win the White House

Presidential campaign game gets students using electoral strategy

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Social Studies

  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: Motivates kids to explore real-life political issues and the election process.

Cons: It's a bit lengthy, and could get tiresome. The player goes first in each round, gaining an unfair advantage.

Bottom Line: Win the White House gets students to make tough choices and gives them a much better perspective of the nuts and bolts of presidential campaigns.

Teachers can use Win the White House as a stand-alone mini-civics lesson during election season, or as part of a larger civics curriculum, and teachers and students can even choose a grade level (Elementary, Middle, High), which customizes the content. Students can play the game as a homework assignment, sharing their results in class via the printable certificate given at the end of the game. This game provides a rich context for discussion about political parties and issues, the Electoral College, and other campaign-related topics. Of course, Win the White House will shine during election season, and teachers can encourage students to watch election coverage, browse websites, and read newspaper articles to follow along with the real campaigns. Encourage students to then write about or discuss how the actual candidates' campaigns compare to their own from the game.

The new Extension Pack for this game can also be used to add pre-game and post-game context, complete with a PowerPoint presentation, student worksheets, assessment, and plenty of discussion questions. It also includes a fun activity where students create ads for their own student body presidential run. You could even hold a mock election in the classroom for the student with the best ad!

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Win the White House is an iCivics game available on the web and as an iOS or Android app that places students in complete control of a run for the U.S. presidency. After choosing a grade level, they select a political party and important campaign issues, choosing either five from their own party, or four from their party and one "maverick" issue from the opposing party. Next, students can choose to experience the Primary season, as a (very short) tutorial. They then head to the convention where they select a running mate -- who is mostly pointless and could be better used in the game as a surrogate on the campaign trail -- and begin the 10-week general election season. There, students will first raise funds to poll voters, attend personal appearances, and run media campaigns, where they either promote one of their own issues or run a negative campaign against their opponent. By campaigning in a state, students gain momentum, which keeps the popular support tally leaning toward their side -- but students must keep an eye on the national map to monitor their gains and losses. The opposing candidate can influence states as well, so gaining and maintaining momentum early -- especially in battleground states -- is important to capture their electoral votes.

If students prioritize their spending appropriately and focus on campaigning in the right states, they'll likely win the general election, accumulating enough electoral votes to beat out their opponent (the computer). Although the game is a very simplified simulation of how election seasons actually work (e.g., more campaigning doesn't automatically translate into more votes, in the real world), it's an empowering introduction to presidential campaigns and the electoral process.

Full Disclosure: iCivics and Common Sense Education share a funder; however, that relationship does not impact Common Sense Education's editorial independence and this learning rating.

Win the White House teaches students about the process of electing a U.S. president. Learning how to campaign in states across the country will give them an idea of how politicians make choices during election season. During the campaign season, they'll need to promote political issues that are important to them and to their constituents, and make difficult choices about how and where to allocate campaign funds to attract the most popular (and electoral) votes. Students choose their preferred issues, explain why they are important, and, in some cases, show how they'll address those issues, in an easy, multiple-choice kind of way. Still, the issues are real-life campaign issues and not just theoretical options.

Although students will lose ground in some states, they have 10 rounds to gain (or gain back) enough states and electoral votes to win the election. The game shows how quickly the tide can turn, both in students' favor and against them. Students will learn to strategically weigh options about which states are worth their campaign money and effort. Large population states have the most electoral votes, but players must also court the vote of at least some of the small population states. After the general election, a printable certificate shows details from the campaign, including the number of electoral votes received, battleground states, states that flipped sides, issues chosen, how persuasive and efficient the campaign was, and more. In the end, students will be more familiar with the Electoral College, how media influences voting habits, and how parts of a system can influence the outcome of the larger picture. They'll also learn how important money is to the campaign process. Though it simplifies the process of campaigning and political support, the game's general idea is very sound.

Overall Rating

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

This lengthy yet well-rounded game will keep students involved until the very end. Students must keep up their campaign momentum to gain enough electoral votes.

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

To win, students must plan thoughtfully and make choices strategically. This way of thinking can easily be applied to other lessons.

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

Help is available throughout the game, including a complete index of options and an optional Primaries tutorial. Extension material, as well as the rest of the iCivics curriculum, helps students put the game into context.

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Stephen Z. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Win the White House is a fun game that helps students apply information about the election process.
Once again icivics knocks it out of the park by taking a game that is extremely fun for students and applies information the helps them learn. The game was able to keep the students attention and they wanted to play the game again. I liked that much information about the election process is included in the game. Also, I liked how the game taught about current political situations and helped the students choose what was most important. The game should be used as an aid in teaching not as the main ...
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