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Three Moves Ahead Episode 89: Elections and Campaigning

November 4th, 2010 by Troy Goodfellow · 12 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


No one was in much of a mood to talk about anything this week, but we did it anyway and it was almost topical. Gameshark’s Bill Abner joins Troy and Rob for a rambling chat about election games they’ve played, election games they haven’t played and whether the dream election game they imagine is even possible.

Bill also gets mysterious messages from a lost soldier.

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • Zer0s

    Yeah, MOO2 had elections for diplomatic victory (Galactic Senate IIRC). Wiki mentions that “To be elected, a player needs two-thirds of the total votes, and each empire’s votes are based on the population under its control”.

  • Ralph Trickey

    Halfway through and I had an either great thought or a horrible one, so I took a break.

    It’s a good show, unless it jumps the shark in the second half.

    I started with that sounds like they’re describing WOW clans, I wonder if you could do a political MMO, no probably not enough interest. Then I thought about a Facebook Game.

    I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. If it’s done right, I think it could be a popular game.

    It’s two years to the next election, so there’s time. You could build up your career, starting as councilman, then mayor, etc. Your friends could help influence the elections. You could even monetize it by letting people ‘buy’ extra advertising, or even let them buy votes! You’d have to check in regularly to vote on things, pump hands, debate, etc.

  • Jer. K.

    I played a bit of the first Democracy. It did seem to have some interesting stuff going on where you had interest groups weighted differently depending on which country you were playing in, but it was fairly easy to game at least the United States and maintain a permanent majority by by jacking up corporate tax rates to eliminate the deficit and then implementing every social and environmental program and basically turning it into a socialist utopia. The problem was this left you with so few pressing concerns that you’d have to campaign on improving things that couldn’t be improved any further.

  • Otagan

    I had a similar experience to Jer. K. above when playing Democracy 2 as the United States. It was laughably easy to implement every single environmental, economic, and social policy in the entire game simultaneously. I know this is probably to be expected when handed the reins of a nation designed to be wealthy, and the fictional nations are more likely to lead to interesting gameplay choices, but it still didn’t make a great first impression in terms of replayability. If real-world politics happened to be anywhere near that easy, then anybody on the street could be a competent national leader.

    I am due to take another stab at the game as a less forgiving nation, though. I’m sure the experience will be more challenging. Hopefully.

  • HomiSite

    Allthough it was very US-centric, it was an interesting show. But like probably the lost soldier, I thought the episode wouldn’t be quite only about modern real life politics/elections, but also about precise election systems in different games and settings (how do they work? What about the AI? How fit elections into the games?).

  • Jer. K.

    In some ways the problem with most games that tie in the election to what happens afterward tend to come down to just running a strong enough economy to buy everyone off. It would be interesting to have politically parties trying to block your activities. Or if in something like Tropico as you improved the economy and quality of life of the residents of the island you wound up with more credible challengers in elections; even though some faction may be happy, they’d be happier if they were running things and because of the stable economy they’ve been able to build up a party apparatus. Then you could have more of a trade-off between a strong economy generating lots of money to embezzle but not having the country as firmly under your thumb.

  • Brian

    Wow, this podcast was like a stroll down memory lane.

    Years ago, I was Lead Programmer on “A Force More Powerful”. To respond to Rob, the extreme micromanagement of your movement was very intentional. This game was intended as part of an instructional program that was to show that to be successful in a movement you have to be very patient and do a lot of setup work before the big plays can even be attempted.

    As an anecdote, the Lead Designer on AFMP was Ananda Gupta, who was co-designer of “Twilight Struggle” with Jason Matthews and the Executive Producer was Ed Beach the designer of “Here I Stand”, both mentioned in the podcast (and very good games).

  • Colm Mac

    How did you go a nearly a full hour talking about elections without mentioning Elixir’s Republic: The Revolution ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic:_The_Revolution )? Admittedly it wasn’t strictly an electioneering game, since you were attempting to build political power in a dictatorship where one’s final goal is to take over.

    It suffered from a lot of the issues you are talking about in that you needed to micromanage the hell out of it to get things turn your way. But for a long game about campaigning (though with the possibility of your canvassers getting arrested by the Secret Police), it does a lot of the stuff.

    Also I don’t find it fun but I think that was in part due the fact that the game is played from a city map board game style but all the actions occur inside a (for the time) rather nice 3d graphics engine.

  • Jason Lefkowitz

    You guys were a bit too harsh on President Forever, I think… it’s not a particularly sexy game, but as far as US election simulators go it’s one of the best ever made. I’m curious to see what Troy thinks about it after playing a game or two.

    From an historical perspective, two other games I would have suggested looking into for this ep are Randy Chase’s early ’90s game Power Politics ( another US election simulator which was quite good), and the late ’80s game Hidden Agenda (a simulation of internal politics in a post-revolutionary Latin American country). Power Politics is floating around as abandonware, but the creator of Hidden Agenda, Jim Gasperini, will send you a licensed copy for free if you ask nicely. It runs great under DOSBox.

  • jwiv

    The first thing that popped into my head while you guys were describing School Board: The Game would be why not set something in ancient Rome and attempt the cursus honorum?

  • Terence

    A couple of other good political games I didn’t hear mentioned:

    King of Dragon Pass – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_of_Dragon_Pass

    Floor 13- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floor_13_%28video_game%29

    Yes, Prime Minister – http://www.abandonia.com/en/games/698/Yes+Prime+Minister.html

  • Dirk

    Just getting around to listening to this show…Troy, you said you would be writing up something on a couple of the games mentioned here. Is that still in the cards?

    Interesting show, as usual. Thanks all.