Classroom offers game makers test site

Different clubs got together to test the card game based off of the government simulation.

Photo by Emily Wissemes

Different clubs got together to test the card game based off of the government simulation.

By Catherine Miller, Lifestyles Editor

Game developers, inspired by social studies government simulations, tested a card game at the source.

Politicraft is an “action civics” card game that is partially inspired by the school’s government simulation. It is in the process of being created for use in schools across the country. As part of the process, game developers flew to Chicago in order to observe students play the game on March 9.

“This is the first time it’s been played in a classroom setting,” American government teacher Mary Ellen Daneels said.

The trial was overall a positive experience, and it gave the developers good insight into how they need to alter the game to make it better.

“I came here to learn issues in the mechanics of the game based on how real students play it,” game designer Blaine Vedros said. “We couldn’t have had a better crop of diversity in thought and background, so we really got to see a lot of different kids play the game.”

Politicraft director Rachel Lyle felt that the students’ energy and effort contributed to the positive outcome of the test and gameplay.

“Every student took the time to really think through their issue, and I felt they were very respectful of the game,” Lyle said. “They took the time to really play the game and get invested in the game and ultimately have a good time, but that was only because they put the effort in.”

Senior Caroline Cisilino played the game with WeGo Global after school and felt the game helped students to be able to feel like they can play a bigger role in politics.

“It sort of made you feel like the issue you were working on was actually being taken care of,” Cisilino said.

Politicraft is a game that gives students the opportunity to create their own story and to see how they could promote an issue they feel strongly about. The game accomplishes this by giving students a variety of different card options that help them with promoting their bill.

“It’s really a game in which you build a narrative around an issue that is important to you, and then you also learn by playing the game what actions you can take local to national to build coalitions and power and to get your idea across,” Daneels said.

Cisilino recognized and enjoyed the freedom aspect that the game allows.

“I thought it was the basic idea that they don’t give you a topic but that you choose the topic,” Cisilino said. “It was your thing that you were passionate about.”

Daneels and the school’s government simulation played an important role in the creation of Politicraft.

“I’m involved in the National Council for the Social Studies, so when the idea for this project came up, they contacted the game developers and I was basically appointed to be the consultant,” Daneels said.

Daneels presented at the National Conference for the Social Studies about the government simulation at school and caught the attention of some of those in attendance.

“It began with talk of what we do here at Community High School and our goals in doing that, and then also how could a game help our students do it even better and learn things that are outside of our simulation,” Daneels said.

One of the goals of the game was to give students better knowledge and skills for “effective civic engagement.” Vedros hopes that these skills will carry into students’ lives.

“I think there’s a problem in what’s going on with our society in general right now with politics and everything else, but what everything really looks like is a barrier to entry,” Vedros said. “That’s what’s beautiful about Ms. Daneel’s role-playing model. It actually gives students process to do things and to have a social change.”

The game is in the later stages of development. From the information gained in this test, improvements will be made to the game. Additionally, an artist that works with Disney will be creating the images for the final cards.

“Once that all gets placed in and we have fixed all the mechanics of the game, we are going to do another round of testing,” Lyle said. “We are probably going to come back to Chicago to do that.”

Lyle said that they are in discussion with a big educational publishing house about national distribution. The goal is for the game to be available for all schools who want it by fall.