We are currently developing and seeking funding for an educational video game about the Declaration of Independence for grades 6-12, tentatively titled "Portrait of a Tyrant". This point-and-click adventure game is centered on the grievances and rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence, and will support instruction on the Declaration in language arts, social studies, and U.S. History contexts. The game aims to teach humanities content and critical thinking to cultivate civic readiness, while enveloping the player in the atmosphere and emotions of the years leading up to 1776. With game levels set in different colonies and events ranging from a ship being burned by colonists to an illegal meeting of local representatives, players learn the text of the Declaration of Independence from the exact types of individuals who felt most aggrieved.
Key Themes: Players learn about specific events that constituted the road to revolution. They learn about the basic concepts that gave the Founders a blueprint for a democratic republic. They experience the compositional process, or the "art of democratic writing," that made it possible to convert distressing experiences into a shared diagnosis of the "course of human events." They work through the core structure of the arguments for independence in the text, and finally they prepare to participate by needing to choose for themselves how to respond to grievances.
Prototype: Portrait of a Tyrant has seven levels set across the thirteen colonies. Our prototype consists of the first level, set aboard a ship called the Gaspee, in the harbor near Providence, Rhode Island in 1772. The Gaspee Affair predates the Boston Tea Party by eighteen months and serves as a dramatic introduction to grievances related to immigration, trade, and taxation.
Check out this play-through video of our prototype:
Team: Our production team, including programmers and artists, is led by our game director, Gabe Turow, Ed.D. Click here to learn more about Gabe's game design firm, Fourth Dimension Games.
We have also recruited a diverse group of teachers and administrators from across the country to advise this project. Meet our Teacher Advisory Board!
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Video Game
Harvard Ed. Magazine, Fall 2016 issue
It might seem an odd direction for a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought. But in an age where the life of Alexander Hamilton can be turned into a hit Broadway hip-hop musical, perhaps bringing the Declaration of Independence into the digital age might not be such a wild idea and, in many ways, is an ideal vehicle to make the declaration relevant and interactive for young people.