Politics Game

So I have an idea for a web-based game. I don't have time to write it just yet, but I thought I'd out­line the con­cept here for now instead.

The gen­eral premise is that of play­ers com­pet­ing in an elec­tion for pres­i­dent of a fic­tional coun­try. Each player will have to court lob­by­ists, polit­i­cal par­ties, pub­lic opin­ion, eth­nic groups, etc by mak­ing cam­paign promis­es, estab­lish­ing posi­tions on issues, mak­ing back­room deals, adver­tis­ing, etc.

I've divided up the gen­eral aspects of the game as below. The spe­cific mechan­ics haven't been worked out yet; they'll prob­a­bly take a turn a day struc­ture where play­ers man­age their can­di­dates through a panel which allows them to sched­ule actions and set gen­eral poli­cies.

1 Public Perception

Nearly the entire game hinges on this. The Can­di­date with the best pub­lic per­cep­tion, for the most part will win. Pub­lic per­cep­tion is the gen­eral per­cep­tion of a can­di­dates char­ac­ter. It is divided into sev­eral sub­-is­sues, some of which appeal more to cer­tain demo­graph­ics than oth­ers.

1.1 Broad Classes

1.1.1 Corruption

How cor­rupt the can­di­date is per­ceived. That is, how will the can­di­date is seems to be will­ing to trade votes for mon­ey. Lob­by­ists don't care about this (they tend to the cul­prits here) but nearly every­one else does. Can­di­dates gain cor­rup­tion by accept­ing bribes or fol­low­ing a high fund­ing lob­by­ist groups poli­cies to close­ly.

1.1.2 Constancy

How con­sis­tent the can­di­date is per­ceived to be on the issues. If a can­di­date appears to 'flip-flop' a lot, it will lower the pub­lic's per­cep­tion of him. Also, for a 'flip-flop­ping' can­di­date, tak­ing a par­tic­u­lar stance on an issue will have less an impact than a can­di­date per­ceived to be con­stant. Too much con­stancy how­ev­er, can lead to a per­cep­tion of rad­i­cal­ism, which is also dam­ag­ing for the can­di­date.

1.1.3 Personal Morality

This is the least impor­tant of the pub­lic per­cep­tion issues. It has to do with inci­dents of the can­di­date doing things con­sid­ered immoral by dif­fer­ent demo­graph­ics.

1.2 Demographic Groups

There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent divi­sions of demo­graph­ics. Each demo­graphic group val­ues the dif­fer­ent pub­lic per­cep­tion cat­e­gories dif­fer­ently and also main­tains a set of it's own exten­sions to those val­ues to rep­re­sents it's dif­fer­ent under­stand­ing of those issues. Each dif­fer­ent kind of demo­graphic over­laps with other kinds.

1.2.1 Ethnic Groups

The most obvi­ous demo­graphic divide. There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups, each with a unique cul­tural back­ground and cor­re­spond­ing unique set of needs and val­ues. A well estab­lished 'blue-blood' eth­nic group will value con­ser­v­a­tive val­ues in a can­di­date, while an immi­grant group will value immi­grant friendly laws. Eth­nic group demo­graph­ics don't add up to 100% as there are peo­ple who don't belong to any eth­nic group, or who belong to sev­er­al.

1.2.2 Income classes

Peo­ple from dif­fer­ent income classes have dif­fer­ent atti­tudes to issues, espe­cially eco­nomic issues.

1.2.3 Age groups

Peo­ple from dif­fer­ent income classes have dif­fer­ent atti­tudes to issues, espe­cially social issues.

1.2.4 Education differences

Cov­ers peo­ple not only with dif­fer­ent edu­ca­tion lev­els, but with dif­fer­ent edu­ca­tion back­grounds. An engi­neer likely has a dif­fer­ent set of hot-but­ton issues than an art major.

2 Issues

The sec­ond thing which the can­di­date has to worry about is the issues. A can­di­date can posi­tion him­self on a slid­ing scale on each issue by select­ing stances. Each issues appeals to dif­fer­ent demo­graphic an lobby groups dif­fer­ent­ly. There is a long list of issues on which the can­di­date can posi­tion him­self.

3 Support

In order to actu­ally run a cam­paign, a can­di­date needs sup­port­ers. Sup­port­ers are peo­ple who will donate their time and money to the busi­ness of get­ting a can­di­date elect­ed. Dif­fer­ent kinds of cam­paign­ing require dif­fer­ent kinds of sup­port.

3.1 Kinds of Support

There are two kinds of sup­port.

3.1.1 Volunteers

Vol­un­teers are warm bod­ies who actu­ally do the busy­work cam­paign­ing. They staff cam­paign events, go door to door, sell can­di­date mer­chan­dise, bus peo­ple to polls, you name it, they do it. Vol­un­teers come in three kinds: Those who will sup­port their can­di­date for free, those who sup­port him for mon­ey, and those who will sup­port any can­di­date for the right price.

3.1.2 Money

In order to do things like adver­tise with tele­vi­sion and ban­ners, travel from town to town, buy an attrac­tive wardrobe and hair­style, a can­di­date needs mon­ey. With­out any mon­ey, a can­di­date is pretty much stuck, and with enough mon­ey, he can run his entire cam­paign, even pay 'vol­un­teers' to do the busy­work for him. A can­di­date can even buy votes if he is clever and so inclined, but he should be warned: a can­di­date with too much money or who is caught using it in unscrupu­lous ways will be seen as very cor­rupt. gfgfd

3.2 Sources of Support

There are dif­fer­ent sources of sup­port, each pro­vid­ing dif­fer­ent kinds of sup­port in dif­fer­ent quan­ti­ties and offer­ing their own dif­fi­cul­ties in court­ing them.

3.2.1 Grass Roots

Each can­di­date has his grass roots sup­port­ers. Grass roots sup­port­ers are peo­ple who sup­port the can­di­date because of their own ide­o­log­i­cal predilec­tions or their own opin­ions on the can­di­date. The num­ber of Grass Roots sup­port­ers for any par­tic­u­lar can­di­date fluc­tu­ates based on his appeal to var­i­ous demo­graphic groups. Can­di­dates with stronger pub­lic per­cep­tions and more con­stant appeal to cer­tain groups will gain more sup­port­ers. The Grass Roots are the pri­mary resource of any can­di­date as they form the bulk of vol­un­teers a can­di­date needs for cam­paign­ing and they are the most con­stant sup­ply of cam­paign funds a can­di­date is likely to receive.

3.2.2 Political Parties

Polit­i­cal par­ties are the king­mak­ers of any elec­tion. A can­di­date who gains the nom­i­na­tion of a polit­i­cal party is nearly guar­an­teed a large num­ber of votes from the par­ty's core sup­port­ers and a large amount of cam­paign funds from the par­ty's reserves. In addi­tion, a party can­di­date auto­mat­i­cally has a very orga­nized and expe­ri­enced cam­paign base and has many of the bureau­cratic wheels greased for him. It's impor­tant to real­ize though, that polit­i­cal par­ties have their own agen­das. They seek can­di­dates who are electable (read 'cen­trist') and who embody their own plat­form. If a can­di­date tries to veer too much from the party mes­sage, they can pun­ish him quickly and ruin his cam­paign. Fur­ther, can­di­dates sup­ported by some polit­i­cal par­ties will auto­mat­i­cally be shunned by sup­ported of other par­ties. Pick­ing a party that is too week could hurt one's chances of win­ning in any given elec­tion.

3.2.3 Lobbyists

Lobby groups donate money to can­di­dates that have strong pub­lic per­cep­tions and match them on their issues. If a par­tic­u­lar can­di­date has ties to a par­tic­u­lar lobby group, that group will also be more friendly to them. Lobby groups will some­times try to overtly bribe a can­di­date or directly cam­paign for or against him so they can't be ignored. There are a num­ber of lob­by­ist types.

  • Industry
    Each industry will have it's own lobby group trying to get candidates to pass regulations in its favor.
  • Unions
    Many industries have corresponding unions which will fight their industries on many issues and will agree with them on others. Not every industry has a union and some unions span several industries.
  • Activist groups
    Environmental groups, public health groups, moral-majority groups, all have specific issues which trouble them. Some are one topic groups while others have more comprehensive agendas.

4 Campaigning

This is the heart of the game. In order to affect his pub­lic per­cep­tion and estab­lish him­self on the issues, a can­di­date must cam­paign con­stant­ly. This require time and money so if a can­di­date is broke, his cam­paign will suf­fer. A can­di­date can cam­paign in sev­eral fash­ions.

4.1 Canvasing

This encom­passes word of mouth, door-­to-­door, yard signs, fliers, bumper stick­ers, etc. Can­vas­ing is very impor­tant because it give your can­di­date a tan­gi­ble pres­ence among the vot­ers. It's a very vol­un­teer driven activ­ity and give vot­ers a sense that you have real sup­port.

4.2 Advertising

Adver­tis­ing includes tele­vi­sion spots, radio ads, bill­boards and basi­cally any offi­cial form of adver­tis­ing. Ads cost money but they go fur­ther than any other cam­paign tac­tic in rais­ing aware­ness of the can­di­date and his stance on the issues. Ads can also be used to attack other can­di­dates but this has to be done care­fully as it can reflect poorly on the attack­ing can­di­date and for some politi­cians, any news is good news.

4.3 Debates

Show­ing up at debates is good for clar­i­fy­ing a can­di­dates stance on issues as well as directly com­pet­ing against other can­di­dates. Debates also afford an oppor­tu­nity for can­di­dates to shift pub­lic onion on the issues in his favor. Debates cost money how­ev­er, and debates put on by cer­tain orga­ni­za­tions such as polit­i­cal par­ties may be invite only.

4.4 Rallies

Hold­ing ral­lies can con­sol­i­date the sup­port for a can­di­date and help expand his grass roots. In addi­tion, well-­timed ral­lies can improve pub­lic aware­ness of a can­di­date.

5 The Media

The major news­me­dia is prob­a­bly the trick­i­est part of the whole cam­paign. There are dif­fer­ent media out­lets, rang­ing from very small to very large. Some don't have an overt polit­i­cal bias, some do. All have at least some bias but some will at least place report­ing on 'the facts' first. The media has more direct con­trol over the pub­lic opin­ion of a can­di­date than any other fac­tor, and get­ting it to report often and con­sis­tently favor­ably on a can­di­date is essen­tial to his cam­paign. A can­di­date can deal with the media in a num­ber of ways.

5.1 Press Releases

Issu­ing press releases announc­ing impor­tant events in your cam­paign and respond­ing to events and scan­dals allows a can­di­date to do the presses job for them and to help shape nar­ra­tive in his favor. Some­times the press will be lazy and sim­ply report on a can­di­dates releases ver­ba­tim and oth­ers times they will fil­ter or edi­to­ri­al­ize his state­ments. Selec­tively issu­ing press releases to cer­tain news orga­ni­za­tions will allow a can­di­date to court the favor of some news orga­ni­za­tions as opposed to oth­ers and will encour­age them to report favor­ably so that they will have timely access to infor­ma­tion to print.

5.2 Press Conferences

Press Con­fer­ences can some­times accom­pany a press release or it can hap­pen in lieu of one. Press con­fer­ences allow the media to ask ques­tions of a can­di­date or his staff. Stay­ing on topic can be an issue here. Like with press releas­es, a can­di­date can play favorites with a press con­fer­ence, by choos­ing who to invite and who's ques­tions to take. It's best not to upset major play­ers but even more impor­tant not to take dan­ger­ous ques­tions.

5.3 Interviews

The media likes to do inter­views with can­di­dates. Some orga­ni­za­tions will use these inter­views as an oppor­tu­nity beat down can­di­dates they dis­agree with and prop up can­di­dates they sup­port and ignore can­di­dates that they hope the pub­lic will ignore. Oth­ers will attempt to be more objec­tive or fact seek­ing in their inter­views and still oth­ers will attempt to ele­vate obscure can­di­dates to boost their own rat­ings. For a can­di­date an inter­view rep­re­sents the most exten­sive oppor­tu­nity to edu­cate the pub­lic on his views and sway them to his side. A can­di­date can afford to be choosy, but not too choosy, about which media orga­ni­za­tions her inter­views with.

5.4 Direct Inquiries

Some­times the can­di­date does­n't have to go to the press but instead the press goes to the can­di­date. Hav­ing pre­pared state­ments can pro­tect a can­di­date when a scan­dal or major event occurs which requires an opin­ion. Giv­ing no opin­ion, or worse, a bad opin­ion can hurt a can­di­date.

This should be fun if I ever get it up and run­ning.

Last update: 20/09/2011

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