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.
Table of Contents
- 1 Public Perception
- 2 Issues
- 3 Support
- 4 Campaigning
- 5 The Media
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Each industry will have it's own lobby group trying to get candidates to pass regulations in its favor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.