Teaching with Simcity: Using Computer Games to Construct Dynamic Governance Simulations

21 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2020

See all articles by Matthew Woessner

Matthew Woessner

Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg


One of the key challenges of teaching a college survey course like Introductory American Government, is the lack of interest on the part of students, many of whom take the course to satisfy a general education requirement. Recognizing that young people are fascinated by video games, I devised a governance simulation built on the popular video game SimCity. Although, the video game industry designed these sophisticated simulations to be played by a single participant, rather than a large group of players, I devised a simple set of rules that permit students to run these simulations collectively. The paper examines five factors that an instructor must account for if games like SimCity are to have real educational value. I argue that, if done properly, this in-class exercise provides a fun and interesting way to teach why democratic governance is so difficult.

Keywords: simulation, teaching, video games, SimCity

Suggested Citation

Woessner, Matthew, Teaching with Simcity: Using Computer Games to Construct Dynamic Governance Simulations. 2013 APSA Teaching and Learning Conference Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2209488 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2209488

Matthew Woessner (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg ( email )

777 West Harrisburg Pike
Middletown, PA 17057
United States

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