In light of calls that civic participation is declining, efforts are underway to replace outdated, unproductive forms of citizenship. With the majority of Americans now connected to the Internet, community leaders see the digital realm as the new frontier for promoting engagement. Increasingly, digital games are being designed for the express purpose of promoting community engagement and social action. My thesis examines this emerging practice of civic game design.
Within this thesis, I analyze several cases wherein games have served as successful tools for fostering civic learning and promoting further civic action. An analysis of Darfur is Dying (2006) reveals how casual serious games can deliver short, persuasive messages that compel players to take direct action outside of the game. Participatory Chinatown (2010) shows how a locally networked online game can transform a face-to-face community meeting through the use of digital role-play.
I ground this analysis historically by looking to the 1960s and 70s for examples of non- digital civic games. Fair City (1970) helped local residents understand and navigate the complexities of a federal urban development program, and The Most Dangerous Game (1967) shows the sophistication of designers of this era with a serious game that reached thousands of players though the use of television and phone networks. Together, all of these games point to a growing field of design and research that will continue to influence how everyday citizens engage in civic life.