1st Edition

Gaming the System Nine Games to Teach American Government through Active Learning

    140 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    140 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Gaming the System takes an active approach to learning about American government, using novel, exciting, and highly instructive games to help students learn politics by living it. These timeless games are the perfect complement to a core textbook in American government—covering key topics like the Constitution, the Supreme Court, Congress, political participation, campaigns and elections, the federal bureaucracy, the social contract, social movements, and public opinion—and can be applied to specific courses at other levels, as well.

    For Instructors: These nine games are designed to be easily inserted into courses, with all but one fitting into one class session and all flexible enough to adapt or scale as needed. Games are designed so that students will be ready to play after minimal preparation and with little prior knowledge; instructors do not need to design or prepare any additional materials. An extensive instructor-only online resource provides everything needed to accompany each game:

    • summary and discussion of the pedagogical foundations on active learning and games;
    • instructions and advice for managing the game and staging under various logistical circumstances;
    • student handouts and scoresheets, and more.

    For Students: These games immerse participants in crucial narratives, build content knowledge, and improve critical thinking skills—at the same time providing an entertaining way to learn key lessons about American government. Each chapter contains complete instructions, materials, and discussion questions in a concise and ready-to-use form, in addition to time-saving tools like scorecards and 'cheat sheets.' The games contribute to course understanding, lifelong learning, and meaningful citizenship.

    1. Introduction

    2. Signing the Social Contract: A Game About the State of Nature

    3. A More Perfect Union: A Game About the Constitutional Convention

    4. Hard-Won Equality: A Game About Social Movements

    5. Nomination Scrimmage: A Game About Primary/Caucus Strategy

    6. Written by Committee: A Game About Lawmaking

    7. A Best-Case Scenario: A Game About the Supreme Court

    8. Agency and Oversight: A Game About Bureaucratic Politics

    9. The Tragedy of the Lagoon: A Game About Resource Management

    10. The People Have Spoken: A Game About Interest Groups and Messaging

    11. Game Goulash


    Alexander H Cohen is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. He is an avid board and video gamer, and regularly uses active learning in his classroom. His research interests include the effect of weather on political outcomes, institutional assessment, pedagogy, and zombies. His most recent book was entitled Living with Zombies.

    John Alden is a social studies teacher in the Williamsburg Community School District in Iowa. He teaches 9th and 12th graders, covering the topics of geography and government. He earned his master’s degree in social studies education from the University of Iowa, where he also met his coauthors.

    Jonathan J. Ring is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and a Global Security Fellow in the Baker Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee.

    "This is the classroom game book political science has been waiting for. In Gaming the System, authors Alex H Cohen, John Alden, and Jonathan J. Ring neatly package a breath of subfield exercises that test concepts, challenge students, and support active learning. This book gives time back to teachers hunting through learning activity haystacks, with every game easy to setup and distribute, and further tailorable to meet specific course objectives. Even better, each game has been rigorously playtested to assure educators that these games work. I wish I had this book years ago—a must-have for active learning classrooms."

    Lt Col James "Pigeon" Fielder, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Manchester Games Studies Network research associate, and professional wargame design instructor

    "The book Gaming the System: Nine Games to Teach American Government through Active Learning provides a plethora of useful games and simulations for the effective teaching of American government that will engage students and allow them to discuss the activity of their classmates and themselves in a way that will create much richer and more productive classroom discussions and analysis."

    Victor Asal, Professor of Political Science, SUNY Albany