Skip to main content

Engaged Citizenship

The lifeblood of any democracy is an informed and engaged citizenry along with an inclusive, transparent, accountable, and responsive government.  In the 21st century, the ability of the government to have an active, on-going, two-way dialogue with its citizenry is unprecedented—but also extremely challenging in terms of translating this dialogue into effective policy by the appropriate government agencies.  Many of the most pressing economic and national policy challenges involve complex issues that are daunting for the average citizen, who has limited time to engage in public policy issues, to understand them fully.  For our society to navigate these complex decisions and responsibly develop and harness new and rapidly evolving technologies will require an engaged, scientifically literate population.

Games are well suited to make complexity and complex systems accessible and engaging and to motivate learners to persist past challenge and failure.   Whether it is a 7 year-old parsing a Yu-Gi-Oh card or a 25 year-old building a thriving city in SimCity, games invite players into a complex problem space and entice them to accomplish challenges requiring persistence and deep understanding.  Games, especially strategy and role-playing games, often involve thousands of decisions that increasingly cross both virtual and real world interactions through social play.  Well-designed games can make complexity fun, engaging, and relevant. Games are also being created to engage youth in understanding civic issues, our Constitution, and how Congress works. A number of efforts are emerging that seek to gamify social action, with players developing in-game identities and then growing those online identities through the completion of real-world tasks.

Key questions:  How can we use games to help frame and distill complex issues to create a more informed public and engage citizens working together to solve hard problems?  How can we use the massive data they generate as platforms for research in areas like economics, policy making, psychology, the social sciences, and behavioral economics?  Can we use games to model complex policy decisions before implementing them?