Friday, March 21, 2014

Video Games in Legal Education

Recently, a class of mine engaged in a debate regarding whether video games have a place in libraries, and in education generally.  While most law students would agree that law school is no game, that needn't be the case.  In fact, Gregory Silverman, the writer of a chapter for Legal Education in the Digital Age, argues that Law Games might be just the way to save an endangered legal education system.  Games are already used to train "doctors, engineers, military commanders, troops, firefighters, first responders, police, policy analysts, airline pilots, fighter pilots, restaurant and wait staff, and business managers."  Professor Silverman argues that games can help to solve the following four criticisms of legal education in its current form:

(Edward L. Rubin ed., Cambridge University Press 2012).
  Classified Stacks, Call Number K100.L45 2012.

Law Dojo Logo
PlaySmarter recently created an app called Law Dojo to help law students learn essential subjects such as: civil procedure, torts, contracts, evidence, international law, criminal law, and federal income tax.  There are also modes of play focusing on Federal Rights and famous Supreme Court precedent.  One reviewer, called this game "addicting."  She explains: "I downloaded it thinking I might play on occasion to review for finals.  However, the semester is over and I am still playing the Dojo, trying to beat my high scores.  It is a fun and fast-paced way to test your knowledge." 

Evidence Challenge Logo
Just last month, Lexis Advance launched Evidence Challenge, while it is marketed as an "eBook[] of linked interactive capabilities" this platform in which the “user is prompted to assess evidence and respond to questions at various decision points in a realistic courtroom scenario” takes on the form of a simulation, or role-playing game.  This game provides information on evidence in a courtroom setup with court procedure built in to the game so the player is required to respond to objections at the appropriate time and given opportunities to provide an argument prior to the judge's ruling.  The game also offers internal motivators, like rank, score, and achievements.  The creator of Lexis’ new game explains why Evidence Challenge is likely to work well for law students:

While Evidence Challenge requires a purchase to play, there is a free test problem online for those who are curious about testing out this new legal education tool.

iCivics, an organization “founded and led by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor,” produced a number of law games to help teach civics to students in grades 6-12.   For the law student mourning the fact that they’re unlikely to be picked for jury duty We the Jury is a game that is free to play online where you will hear evidence about a case from the defense and prosecution, then you must get your fellow jurors to agree on a verdict within five days or face a hung jury.

In addition, it is well accepted that many law students suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse in greater numbers than the general population.  Lawrence S. Kreiger describes this phenomenon as the production of “students who feel insecure, disregarded, and fatalistic about the world and their future” and Dr. Andrew Benjamin seeks to explain why.  While gaming is not a solution in and of itself, it may help to reframe experience of students in law school by providing positive feedback that doesn’t come from the traditional law school sources.  Two games in particular seem particularly conducive to improving the lives of law students:

  • EpicWin (Available for iPhone) – If you’re looking for additional motivation to conquer that final paper or section of your outline, EpicWin is a platform that provides streamlined to-do lists with a roleplaying game spin.  With EpicWin you can convert your calendar to a Quest, and receive rewards, experience points, and power ups for completing your assignments (or even doing those chores that were put off until after finals).  This app is a nice way to keep motivated, because as enjoyable as law school can be, professors rarely drop loot and provide inspiring background music as you study.
    SuperBetter Logo
  • SuperBetter – For the law student struggling with stress, this game allows users to tackle life challenges the way gamers like best, by adopting a secret identity and going to battle.  The game design is based on “neuroscience, positive psychology, and medicine.”  It helps players to put their best efforts forward and focus attention on an achievable goal, with predesigned challenges related to achieving personal objectives, and a social networking component to build a group of allies. 

Want to check out interesting scholarship on introducing gaming into legal education?  Here are a few places to get started:

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