I've been cutting back our military spending, reducing our air pollution and increasing car taxes recently. No, thankfully I've not been elected to any position of power – I've been trying out Democracy, an incredible simulation that lets you run a country, or try to.
Call it “Edutainment” or a strategy game, Democracy is a really sophisticated and rich simulation which uses a neural net to perform its calculations. You play the Prime Minister (or President depending on the country you pick) and have to balance the budget, introduce or cancel policies and respond to events outside your control while keeping the diverse populace content enough to vote for you at the next election. Easy, right? Wrong.
The game is packed with pithy quotes from politicans. Like this erm… soundbite from Tony.
It's fun and very difficult, even on the easy setting! It's a superb learning tool which helps us all realise the hard choices and less than ideal compromises politicians are forced to make. It's a fantastic tool for all those aspiring politicians out there.
I boldly slashed defence spending only to be rocked by a terrorist attack in our capital. Cutting back on road building won me the fervent support of the greenies, but with 3 times as many motorists out there I was bleeding popularity points. Plus my renewable energy subsidies pollution controls were unbalancing the national budget. Yikes.
I decided against an Internet Tax in the end – thank goodness
The range of policies available is already good but even so the game developer has released instructions on how to modify the game to add new policies and other tweaks. The game also auto-updates with new policies and events direct from the developer.
Is this e-democracy? Perhaps not as it's just a simulation, though budget simulator games have been used in the UK e-democracy pilots to educate voters about the challenges their councils face. Either way I think it's a fantastic piece of software and wonderfully engaging for the political junkie in me. What's more the clear and approachable way in which policies, budgets and voters groups are presented should be inspirational for many future e-democracy applications.