Basking in Politics and Political Video Games

This week is full of political discussion. Tuesday night's primary results. Jenny Levine's comments. Ian Bogost's thoughts on political games over at Water Cooler Games. And now, as I worked on itemizing taxes, I've listened to the video game industry podcast, Game Theory, cover political games. Their discussion lasts about the first 20 minutes of the podcast and if you've never listened to Game Theory I encourage you to do so. It is an industry centered discussion that provides an educated, business minded opinion of what is happening in the video game industry.

With all the discussion about how gaming can be political, engage in political conversation, or teach politics, I'm reminded of two of the most educational political games I've experienced.

President Forever + Primaries
I first played a game similar to this back in 1995 at the US Naval Academy. For better or worse, the US Military is out in front on games that teach. In this game, the player created a candidate, set a platform, did fundraising, outreach, and tried to win a seat in the U.S. Senate. This game by TheorySpark allows the player to go through the entire primary and general election process. This is a game that I would have loved to have used when I was student teaching U.S. Government. It works for both high school and college level students and really gets at procedural literacy. Players are forced to make hard choices throughout the campaign and adjust and understand the ramifications.

There is a free DEMO for anyone interested. Also for those readers in Canada try Prime Minister Forever. And since there are now readers across Europe and the rest of the world, TheorySpark also has British, German, and Australian versions as well.

The Redistricting Game
As someone who's former job was to do just this, I am amazed at how close the game gets to what really happens in redistricting battles. I spent Jan. 2001 - July 2001 drawing, redrawing, researching, and analyzing redistricting maps for one caucus in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The game really nails all the political, social, legal, and geographic factors that go into creating legislative and congressional districts.

The game is free online. And in a current political climate where Obama and Clinton are seperated by just a handful of delegates - having a deeper understanding of the process of creating congressional districts is all the more relevant.