Gaming and politics

The general thought in the Netherlands is that politics are boring and we never get what we want. The political culture in the Netherlands has changed for the last couple of years. You see that flashy arguments and a bit of entertainment is the current norm of getting the attention you want. For a lot of parties this breeds the concern that we are no longer engaged in the underlying topics and more busy with the cool and flashy debates. We also see in the Netherlands that because of this shift in Dutch politics we see that people no longer really get what politics in the Netherlands is all about.

IamProgrez was approached with the question of how we could use gamification in politics to get people more engaged on the topics and perspectives of the political parties. Politics are often seen as boring and something that only adults are involved in. In my perspective that’s not the case. Politics can be thrilling and exciting and really interesting at times but somehow people (especially youngsters) don’t seem to find it. You could argue that politics are actually boring and not for youngsters but I don’t believe that’s the case.

If you look at popular games and TV series you will soon find that they are filled with politics. The most popular TV serie at this moment, Game of Thrones, is about different factions battling for their land. It is filled with political intrigue and strategic alliances. Another highly popular TV serie, House of Cards, nothing but politics and striving for the highest seat in the government. Also, where you might not expect it, in popular games you’ll find that they contain a lot of politics. In some games thats the core mechanic that makes the game so popular. One of these examples is the strategic game Civilizations. Other games where there are lots of players online at the same time you’ll see that it’s the politics and the interaction between factions that’s what’s keeping the games successful. A great example of that is the mass multiplayer online game EVE where in the last couple of months a war waged between two opposing factions for weeks. During this war hundreds of players were engaged in battle at the same time and a million dollar (real dollars) were spend in game to win the war. The story of how this war started sounds like something out of a sciene fiction novel but it’s all real.

So why do we like politics in our games and TV series but are we not enthusiastic about the politics of our own country?

The answer is simple: it’s all about the engagement. The reason we like House of Cards or Game of Thrones or awesome games like Civilizations, which are loaded with politics, is that we are engaged in every choice that’s being made. The real success behind House of Cards is the fact that Kevin Spacy speaks directly to the audience about what is happening and what his plans are. By doing this he gives you insight in every choice he makes getting you engaged in the tough decisions he has to face. Same goes for Game of Thrones. You view the series from the perspectives of all sides giving you insight in the core elements that drive them to make certain political decisions.

In gaming the link to engagement is more obvious. For example, in the famous strategy game series Civilizations you are building an empire on a piece of land where other players or other world leaders are busy doing the same. The interactions you have with the other world leaders are crucial to the success of your Civilizations. The cool thing about this game is that is also gives clear insight into the impact your actions have on the politics between you and the other world leaders. Once you place military units near their borders they will react. Once you invade another world leader others will be wary about you and might start punishing you for invading their ally. This game shows you the real effects and impact your actions can have on the world politics and also importance of having good ties with the neighboring countries.

So, after making my (obvious) point of engagement being why we don’t like politics anymore, one might argue that democracy is based on engagement. While democracy can only function with engagement you still see that the way we like to engage in this time period is far from the way we liked to engage in times when democracy was created. Because of this we see that in the Netherlands the only ones who are truly engaging in politics are only a small part of the general public. Thus creating a plutocracy which is not the way to go for our society.

Nowadays when you ask random youngsters how they feel about voting they will say that it doesn’t matter if they vote or not, because they never see the effects of their vote. I believe this is something that is key to getting people engaged. In gamification giving clear feedback of someone’s actions is a must to get people engaged. In politics right now, that is not the case. Too much is happening behind closed doors for the general public to feel like they have some sort of influence on decisions that are being made.

So, how could we achieve this? I believe that we have the technology and the software to make all these processes insightful. To make politics more engaging we need to create a system which can show us the impact of a vote, the passing of a bill, maybe even the effect of a good debate on the perspectives of the governing parties and on the general public. With such a system we can get insight in how the political climate shifts and changes once we take certain actions. We could also gamify this by granting people points or ranks for giving a good argument or making a statement that gets accepted by the opposition party. We can not only do this for the politicians but also for the general public. Let them take part in decisions and grow a digital rank based on how well they engage in debates, make arguments or create alliances. This way the general public gets real insight in the impact their voice has on the governing of their country, thus getting them engaged. Participation is the principal component of democracy and will get people excited about politics once again.

Long story short. I think at first people will not get how you can combine gaming and politics to make politics more exciting. But if you look around at popular games and series you’ll see that it are more exciting than ever before. We only need to find the new way to get people engaged in it and show them how it can be done. I think it’s about time that politics gets a firmware update. It’s time to create a new democracy where we combine gamification and politics to truly get people engaged in the governing of their own country. All the pieces are there we just need to build it.

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