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Feb 02, 2004

Comments

1.

A tad confused here, the article says:

"All of which leads to a question: The U.S. presidential campaign may be the first true election of the digital age, but it's still missing one key ingredient. Where is the video-game version of Campaign 2004?"

Well let me see..

There is Frontrunner (which has had some coverage around the net):
www.lanterngames.com/games/comingsoon.htm

And President Forever: 2004
www.hotpotsoftware.com/p2000/p2000.htm

And at least one more that I've looked at in the past.

Mr Berlin - its spelt g o o g l e, try it some time.

ren
PS OK so the press release for Frontrunner came out on 23rd Dec, 7 days after the linked piece, but Presedent Forever:2000 came out 4 years before so there was time to think maybe they would update it.


2.

"The game mechanics would be relatively simple: a mix of Risk, SimCity, and a sports franchise simulation. Each candidate could be ranked according to various attributes ..."

Everyone's a game designer...

Richard

3.

When anything is possible, anything is possible. There is no telling what will eventually take place in cyberspace.

But for the foreseeable future (let's start with 20 years), I don't think we will see much in the way of politics in mmorpgs. For one, there aren't enough people. For another, there is a perception that almost none of those people are old eough to vote. For yet another, the first time someone says anything worthwhile in a mmorpg, some admin who is politically opposed will say it's against the TOS and hush it up. No free speech in mmorpgs just yet.

4.

Note that the essay also references the Agora Exchange as an example of how this is to be done. They didn't exactly impress the masses at State of Play, largely thanks to Dave Rickey's dagger of a query that erupted here into the Facism is Fun thread:
http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2003/11/fascism_is_fun.html

5.

Some interesting work has been done by Markus Prior showing that Internet access actually results in diminished political participation. This is because if you are slanted towards entertainment as opposed to news, the Internet is the ideal place to completely avoid the news.

Democracy simulation games in MMORPG's could potentially solve this problem, but there would still be the concern about lack of freedom of speech in an environment where the First Amendment may not apply because of lack of state action. This of course could be solved by a return to the Barlowesque notion of cyberspace as a sovereign nation with its own constitution(in which free speech would presumably be enshrined). But would there be a game within the game to properly simulate the role of virtual worlds in shaping the democratic process?

6.

Ooops I meant to say above “MrJohnson”.

Ted> Note that the essay also references the Agora Exchange as an example of how this is to be done.

OMG I was far too charitable to article with my first post.


Peter S. Jenkins > Some interesting work has been done by Markus Prior showing that Internet access actually results in diminished political participation.

This is quite topic at the moment, Clay Shirky has recently written this piece about the Dean Campaign’s use of social software.
www.corante.com/many/archives/2004/01/26/is_social_software_bad_for_the_dean_campaign.php

A quote that has been picked up and debated in places such as the AoIR list is this:
“We know well from past attempts to use social software to organize groups for political change that it is hard, very hard, because participation in online communities often provides a sense of satisfaction that actually dampens a willingness to interact with the real world.”

The reference from Peter is interesting but I’m not sure one can make general statement about ‘internet use’. Certainly if you look at the work done by Dimitri Williams (who sometimes pops in here) you will see that participation in MMORPGs has quite a complex set of effects, including (if I remember correctly) greater interest in politics – one might suppose this is through MMORPGs giving people a greater sense of empowerment.

I’ve asked on the AoIR list if there are any data on ‘social software’ to back up Clay’s assertion, but no one has pitched up any as yet.

Ren

7.

FWIW, Johnson also missed Frasca and Bogost's "Howard Dean for Iowa" game (http://www.deanforamericagame.com/), though that one too was only officially released in the week after Johnson's column posted.

As for the agoraXchange reference, I think the man deserves some slack there as well. All Johnson says about the project is that it's "ambitious," which it is, and which is hardly an endorsement.

What's more, I've always thought that that much-discussed "gotcha" moment at State of Play (when the agoraXchange people were asked if their participatory-democratic design process would be allowed to create a fascist game-world, answered no, and seemed clueless as to why this would provoke titters) was in fact a moment of *mutual* incomprehension.

Take a look at the agoraXchange site (www.agoraXchange.net). They say there what they said at State of Play -- that they have a design goal and a design process, and that in the final instance goal trumps process:

"The goal of the agoraXchange website is global participation in creating a world where political institutions no longer perpetuate war and inequality. ...While the game design and most game rules will be provided by participants of agoraXchange, all proposals must accommodate four initial decrees challenging present conventions for awarding nationality and wealth."

To put it in technical terms, then, asking agoraXchange to approve whatever proposals their design community produced would be like asking Linus Torvalds to accept whatever Linux kernel changes were submitted to him, even if they made the program buggier than Windows. He won't. Does that mean the open-source community's talk of freedom and egalitarianism is crap?

Translate the problem into political terms, and things get stickier. Must the California Supreme Court accept the outcome of a proposition ballot that declares Schwarzenegger King of Cali For Life? Or more realistically, must the U.S. occupation forces in Iraq endorse direct elections even if that more democratic process seems likeliest to lead to a Shiite theocracy?

Don't get me wrong, agoraXchange sounds like a supremely crappy game in the making. But not because of any contradictions between design goal and design process. Those contradictions are the interesting part. The lame part is the design goal itself, which never once mentions anything like fun.

8.

Julian > FWIW, Johnson also missed Frasca and Bogost's "Howard Dean for Iowa" game (http://www.deanforamericagame.com/

I didn’t include that one as it’s not really a presidential game as such. It seems more of an educational game about the process and effects of being an activist. I’m not detracting form the game, just saying it did not seem to fit into the thrust of what the piece was getting at. However I think a quick word with the Frasca and Bogost via one of their many online incarnations would have been a good idea before writing anything on political software.

I need a lie down before I think about Agora again.

Ren

9.

Interesting to see whether political simulation games will increase political activism in equal measure as violent simulation games increase violent acts (or not).

AgoraXchange sounds like Model UN online or a rat maze online.

When has politics ever played by the stated rules?

Frank

10.

This article actually came out while we were working on the Dean for Iowa game, so it's understandable that it wasn't covered. Gonzalo and I laughed and laughed when we read it, because Johnson explicitly bemoaned the absence of an Iowa caucus game, and there we were making one, right at that very moment.

Ren -- I go both ways on whether or not the Dean for Iowa game is "political" as you understand it. On the one hand, it was endorsed and commissioned by a presidential candidate. That's pretty political. On the other hand, it sort of prefigured some of the problems Dean had in the actual primaries, relative to the mechanics over the content of camapigning. Gonzalo and I will be writing more on this soon.

As for Frontrunner and Decision 88 and all the other election games, they aren't political games in the way I'm thinking about political games. Political games should enact political speech, not just simulate political processes. But, that's my personal goal for political games: games that perform on the political stage. For better or worse, I think the Dean game did perform on the political stage. I'm learning my own lessons here, so don't think I'm saying I've figured all this out. I have a couple others in the works...

FYI, Clive Thompson wrote an article for Slate earlier this month specifically about the Dean game, in which he refers to the Johnson article. You can read it here: http://slate.msn.com/id/2094039/

11.

Ian Bogost> Political games should enact political speech, not just simulate political processes.

Excellent point. Simulating it misses the point. Using online games as medium for political speech or for communicating an idea is much more interesting.

I'm not so cynical about this area now :)

Frank

12.

Ian> Ren -- I go both ways on whether or not the Dean for Iowa game is "political" as you understand it.

In this context my understanding was really a reflection of that in the piece. Broadly I agree a Political game should be taken as one that engages in the politcal process in some way - such as your September 12 or 911 survivor etc.

Ren


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