Content Partner

Grade 9-12

The Fiscal Ship Game

Time: Varies,
Updated: September 25 2023,
Author: Hutchins Center


Students will be be able to:

  • Understand how federal policy making decisions, and their associated revenue and spending implications, and impact the budget.
  • Experiment with developing policy plans to meet a variety of priorities while prioritizing fiscal sustainability.

In this economics activity, students will find a combination of policies that match their values and priorities and set a budget.


Introduction for Teacher

The Fiscal Ship Game is produced by the Hutchins Center at Brookings and the Serious Games Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson Center. We solicited advice from an advisory committee that represents a broad spectrum of political views. We are grateful to our funders, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Lounsbery Foundation. Brookings and the Wilson Center are solely responsible for the game; neither the advisory group nor the funders had approval or veto power over its content.

Individual Activity

Play 2 introductory videos to the class. Play the YouTube video (3:40 mins) The Federal Budget: Where the Money Comes From and Where it Goes to help students understand the basics, like debt, deficit, federal budget, tax and spending policies, of the Federal Budget. Then play the YouTube video (4:51 mins) The Federal Budget: What Lies Ahead which is more forward-looking, like drivers of the projected spending increase and what this all means. Students will require access to a device which allows access to the Internet, preferably a tablet or laptop. Teachers should begin explaining the objectives of the game as stated on PowerPoint Slides. On a projector screen, show the YouTube video How to Play the Fiscal Ship linked in the slides. Students should be prompted to complete questions 6-8 from the Fiscal Ship Student Handout before closing out of the Fiscal Ship Game application. Students will participate in a class discussion after the game experience as seen in the slide deck. Provide students the link to play the Fiscal Ship Game. During the game, be sure students have chosen to select their own goals, and then to proceed selecting policies which will allow them to achieve their selected goals and to sustain the national debt levels, hopefully managing to achieve both objectives before submitting their fiscal budget plan.