Using Digital Multiplayer Games To Teach Students How to Create and Critique Civic Media

Three distinct games that each use their own mechanic: Wikipedia pages, Hashtags, and Memes!

There are many programs, curriculums, and products that help teachers teach, but what about programs that leverage the potential for social media and connective platforms to create vibrant avenues for young people to civically engage?

Paul Mihailidis, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, conducted a multi-year research project exploring how youth use social media to engage in civic life. The results, published in his book Media Literacy and the Emerging Citizen: Youth, Engagement and Participation in Digital Culture, found that youth were engaging in social networking and cultural sharing in dynamic ways, but didn’t recognize how these digital tools provided productive connectivity, vibrant communication, and diverse information consumption in daily life. More importantly, if students are not embracing social and mobile technologies to enhance learning experiences, it will be hard for them to see these tools as much more than time wasters or gadgets for socializing.

Thats why we created a platform that combines digital literacy learning, civic media creation, and game-based structures that’s easy to set-up and fun to play.

The Emerging Citizens Platform is born!

Emerging Citizens is a suite of digital multiplayer games and media literacy curriculum that teach students how to critique and create civic media. Mechanically inspired by the widely popular party games found in the Jackbox Party Pack, Emerging Citizens transforms the process of interrogating the impact of user generated digital media into a fun, accessible, playful experience. Each of the three Emerging Citizens games encourages players to engage with culturally and politically relevant topics while focusing on a specific 21st digital modality (Memes, Hashtags, and Hyperlinks).

It is true! We are committed to making sure each Emerging Citizens game is not just educationally relevant, but also fun!

Though the platform is built to accommodate many different games, we plan to launch with three when Emerging Citizens goes live in the fall: Wait, Wait, Don’t MEME Me!, Hashtag You’re It, and WikiGeeks.

Wait, Wait Don’t MEME Me! is a creative meme generation game that asks players to visually contextualize and express large cultural topics by making memes and voting on them in a simple “apples to apples-like” party game.

This game puts students in the role of conversation-shapers by tasking them to create memes about cultural and political issues through playful acts of creation. They will learn how to use the form of the meme to create social commentary and how viral content through comedic form can shape media discourse. By voting on each meme’s potential impact using various measures, students will further understand how to read the rhetorical language of memes and increase their ability to participate in conversation.

Hashtag You’re It is the first game available to play.

Hashtag You’re It is a fun bluffing game where players need to read real tweets from real hashtag campaigns and attempt to fool other players by crafting convincing hashtags of their own.

By manipulating hashtags and exploring their meanings, students will learn how to craft interesting and rhetorically purposeful hashtags for marketing or activism (their context, structure, and purpose) and how to think critically about twitter campaigns. Hashtag You’re It provides a fun, safe way to engage students in politically and culturally relevant topics such as race, class, gender, etc.

WikiGeeks will be available for play later this summer

WikiGeeks is a realtime race played on that pits players against each other in a search for specific pages using only links embedded within articles.

Because of the connected nature of Wikipedia’s hyperlinking system, WikiGeeks shows students how different topics relate to one another and how they are mapped digitally. By introducing the platform to students in a fun way, it will not only present an opportunity for teachers to speak about wikipedia’s pros and cons, but to offer an approach to discovery and learning as research.

We provide learning resources to help teachers contextualize play and adapt emerging citizens to their classrooms

The Emerging Citizens platform will be accompanied by activity guides and curriculum materials to help educators connect the games to real-world skill-sets and pressing cultural issues. These 45–60 minute curriculum guides will provide guidance for debriefing the experience in order to delve into the deeper conversations surrounding race, class, politics, technology, and other important topics.

We built Emerging Citizens to be quick to setup, easy to learn, and easy to integrate into a typical classroom time period.

The modular nature of Emerging Citizens allows for a teacher to use one game for an entire lesson or string together the suite for a more intensive deep dive into civic media. Best of all, you don’t need any hardware or need to follow extensive installation instructions. All you need to play is an internet enabled device (phone, laptop, desktop, tablet, etc.), a TV/projector/computer monitor, and a group of people. Plus its completely 100% free!

Get involved! Help us playtest Emerging Citizens in your classroom, community group, after school program, or with your colleagues and friends!

You can play Hashtag You’re it RIGHT NOW by going to and clicking on Hashtag You’re It. You will need to navigate to on your smartphone or tablet to join a game. Remember you need at least two players to start!