Just How Accurate are Political Simulation Games?

Political simulation games like the Democracy series predicate themselves on their real-world accuracy. But just how accurate are these games?

Over the years I’ve played a number of strategy and simulation games. I’ve been a big fan of them since the early days of playing The Sims and my first experience with games like Age of Empires and the Civilization series of games. More recently, though, I’ve tried my hand at Democracy 3, a political simulation game from Positech Games.

Democracy 3 is unlike any other sim game that I’ve played before, which is neither good or bad. In fact, I’m not quite sure what to think of it really. Up until this game I’ve enjoyed the notion that I’d be a great armchair politician. Democracy 3 has not only changed that opinion but was likely a good indicator that I’d be a really shitty leader for a country and should probably stick to my day job. With that realization, I couldn’t help but wonder just how accurate are these political simulation games?

 

A brief rundown of the game

To explain Democracy 3 simply the game is a turn-based game where you can only perform a certain number of actions within a single turn. After each turn, a quarter of the year goes by and events happen, ranging from International Financial crises and conflicts to controversial decisions that must be made like foreign aid or national security issues. These decisions are not something that you can make without giving thought to because you'll have to keep in mind that every decision you make, every policy you adopt, is scrutinized by some member of some interest group. Democracy 3 is a game built around balance and it's not always easy to keep the balance since everything in the game is connected to something else. 

Let's say you decide to raise the legal drinking age, to help in your campaign against alcoholism. We'll now you just pissed off the Youth because you took away their fun. This will lead to a loss of their support and likely a bit more in the way of crime which sounds pretty true to life when people are told that they can't do something.

Put a ban on GMO crops? Well, now the farmers are mad because you're cutting into their paycheck. And let's say you're truly mad and decided to cut veterans benefits and military spending. Now you're looking at widespread outrage among the conservatives and the patriots. To me, these are very valid responses we'd see and have seen, in real life to similar issues. 

Democracy 3 even takes things into account such as interest groups, a person's likelihood to vote, and how politically active they are. There is a myriad of charts and graphs for virtually every aspect of play and tons of content from focus groups. 

Even when I thought I was doing well, and even had the majority support, I still managed to lose my reelection because not enough people turned out to the polls. While you could argue that there is some tweaking to be done with some of the maths behind the scenes, this is a very sound simulation and I feel as though I learned a bit about the struggle behind being in charge of it all. 

Final Verdict

You'll never be able to please them all and you'll never be able to get everyone to become a progressive, utopian society. The best that you can do is to try to steer them towards the greater good and hope you don't end up on everyone's shit list. 

This is a fun game, with fun mechanics, about a job that is less than fun. It's stressful trying to lead from the front while keeping your promises and the budget out of the red but if it were easy then what would be the point?

What's your opinion on Democracy 3? What aspects of gameplay do you like the most? How long have you been able to remain in office? Let's talk about it in the comments below!

 

Published Dec. 22nd 2016

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