Politics MMORPG

It’s a pretty interesting time for politics at the moment (although when isn’t it?). A few days ago the Polish President was killed in a plane crash, last month the US saw a health care reform bill pass and last week the current political party in the UK (the Labour party) called a general election. It’s no surprise that politics affects us all but what has been surprising to me is just how people take an interest in it. You only need to check out blogs like Rock Paper, Shotgun to read their take on democracy and even a casual remark in a non-MMORPG post I wrote a couple of weeks ago sparked off a fascinating debate in the comments section. Seems that more people are interested in politics than I thought or, possibly more accurately, cared to notice.

Political games don't need to be dull; this one has pretty graphics.

Political games don't need to be dull. This one has colourful graphics.

Has there ever been a politics video game? I know a fair number of games with political elements but most tend to focus on something more, well, exciting like global conquest or strategy. I guess a game revolving purely politics doesn’t hold much appeal because it’s seen as being quite boring and maybe it would be. But what a politics MMORPG? Surely interacting with other players in a mock bid to govern countries would be a lot more exciting?

A politics MMO might see every player roleplaying a politician. When they start the game they can choose a country and corresponding party to belong to. After that, it’s completely up to them and their interactions with other politicians to decide on who leads the party, what responsibilities members have, what their party agenda is, and how they interact with other parties and countries. Parties wouldn’t need to be restricted to classic democracy systems either although, assuming every country has some sort of voting power and military coups aren’t possible, they would still need to rely on electoral votes to gain power.

Obviously the game would need to have sophisticated AI to help mimic the results of elections and the general happiness or unrest of the population as well as simulate random events such as natural disasters and recessions. Graphics wouldn’t be an issue because, really, what would you do apart from stare at your avatar sitting in building all day? I imagine the interface to be more high level and Football Manager or Civilisation-esque.

Naturally the game wouldn’t, and couldn’t, be a perfect simulator of the real world but it could be very interesting to play and even study from a anthropological point of view as it focuses on the interactions between players more than anything else.

Would you play a politics MMORPG? And if so, what would you try to do? I can’t decide if I’d go for Communism or Fascism.

-Gordon

P.S. Turns out there is already a politics video game called The Political Machine by Stardock. Found it when I was looking around for an image to make a quip about.

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17 Comments

  1. Actually, I think it’d be interesting to do a game that shows things on a bit finer scale than international politics. A game where each player is a congressperson (or MP) and shows what the day-to-day life is like in miniature. Show the influence that things like lobbyists and PACs have on the decision making process given how generously they “donate” to your campaign funds. Might show people why it’s important to get involved instead of letting things run a normal course.

    What do you think, Gordon?

  2. Wiqd says:

    Politics (and factions overall) are something I’ve looked heavily into for our game. I liked the diplomacy thing they tried to pull off in Vanguard, though the card-game delivery system was a bit lacking.

    If it were up to me, everything you did to / for a city would have an effect on where you could / couldn’t go in the city / world. You could affect things majorly, such as military distribution, vote on the war council, all kinds of stuff like that (yes I’m talking about politics in a fantasy MMO). A fully player-run economy would be pretty awesome, I think. I think developers are too scared to put the full control into players’ hands for fear of griefing, but seriously … there are just as many people who want to play holding a country together as there are people who wish to soil it.

    I think you’d attract a great many people who like strategy type systems where their decisions actually have an effect on what gets built in a town, where resources come from, how big their army is, etc. Then other citizens could lobby for things and try to sway the influence.

    • Gordon says:

      I loved the diplomacy system in VG. When I played the game it was still very underdeveloped by I really admire the creators for trying to do something different.

      The problem with politics in a fantasy MMO is that most fantasy games are based on medieval backgrounds and politics back then tended to be more a case of class-ruled fascist monarchies especially before the Magna Carta :)

  3. Klepsacovic says:

    Communist fascist socialism with the worst extremes of Stalinist Maoism. I’d advocate time travel to alter history to match my own inaccurate perceptions of it.

    More seriously, I think a purely political game could be interesting. I’d go for a dictatorship with an advising council. And write the laws to have the entire government collapse when I die, because civil war is the greatest legacy a man can have.

  4. Kyff says:

    I remember another game about politics. You were rather young twhen it came out and it mostly concerned geopolitics. Balance of Power [see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balance_of_Power_(video_game)

    The problem with this game was that it was so realistic that it was way too hard for the average teenager. I always lost (or started/provoked a nuclear war which also ended the game).

  5. Usiel says:

    Although you probably might not believe me, but I just thought at you, when I saw labour’s “Don’t let him bring Britain back into the 80’s” campaign. Even if we just have passed 8 billion Eur over to Greece I still don’t want to be in your shoes at the moment. So I was already waiting for your subconsciousness coming up with some political topic.

    I always thought we already have a Political Game from the US: Command & Conquer.

    Now seriously.
    I think in some way, you already find politics in many existing MMOs. Strictly thought it is every action to organise live in between a number of participants. Think of guild alliances, or guilds in the economical meaning.
    It’s still a niche inside a MMO, but that reflects it’s connotation in life as well. Some like fighting, some trading, others like diplomacy. Centering a game around politics, might push it a bit to far into the direction of economy simulations.
    I am in contact with a developer here who made a rather solid political browser game, but it still feels like a economy simulation centered on allocation of goods, rather than selling them.

    Some Time ago I thought of a very basic concept for a regular MMO to offer room for political maneuver.

    Say a Realm needs Supplies as a measurement of it’s wealth. Supplies will be created by players through turn ins (Tradeskill products, Hunting) or through capturing and securing Mines, Sawmilles, Bridges. According to the average number of players online during the day, Supplies are also consumed by the realm.
    It’s a simple illustration of the economical cycle within a state and will cause the natural political behavious. Small guilds will focus on securing small Productions, Traders will run Inns and Shops and organise their own supply chains etc. PvPers will crate alliances to capture and hold Strategic points.
    If there is more than one realm, Supplies will cause or support War. While also establishing Diplomacy organising needed goods from the opposing realm.

    I don’t play Eve, but from what I have read so far, it’s Sandbox concept profits a lot from the fact that it results in a form of natural politics.

  6. Anton says:

    Funny, I was thinking about this the other day! Only my idea was to make REAL politics into an online virtual world. This would make it possible for anyone to enter into every senate meeting to watch real proceedings.

    The other part of my idea was to make instances of the political world, and make all politicians rise through the ranks in virtual worlds, under full view of public scrutiny, in order to attain a real position. They would come in practiced, and also everyone would be able to observe their standings along the way. Like a practical testing ground for candidates.

  7. Tesh says:

    I can’t remember where I heard it or the exact quote, but I think this is relevant:

    “Politicians and football players are alike; they play a game of violent land acquisition”

    Here speaking of American Football rather than the relatively tame “real” Football we call Soccer, of course. (The fans, though… not tame.)

    Still, though Usiel seems to be joking a bit, politics is, at some level, a wargame. It’s violence via poisoned lips, command and conquer on a sociological board that occasionally comes to blows. Such is always the nature of individuals seeking power and competing with others with the same impulse, including the desire to control people who want freedom. Learning how to manipulate the populace is high political gaming.

    So, yeah, a political MMO would be an interesting animal. I’m not sure if it’s best to go Brian’s way and try to parallel reality or go the Sid Meier way and go more abstract and caricature history. There’s educational potential there, but also propaganda hooks, and that is always touchy.

    Cities XL experimented with SimCity-ish play online… it’s not exactly political, but there are certainly political overtones in city building. There was a Monopoly Online game a while back where players would claim real live streets via the interface’s interaction with Google Maps, and play out their capitalistic empire building impulses. (Not that capitalism is exactly the same as politics, but it would be foolish to think they are independent.)

    Perhaps it might be asked: What part of politics did you want to make into a game? The bitter partisan fighting? The empire building? The diplomacy? The fight between egomaniacs who want office and power and the demands of the people?

    There’s plenty there to design around, even in MMO terms. It wouldn’t be a standard DIKU game, but that’s not a bad thing.

    • Gordon says:

      I like the grand idea of being able to deal with global politics and micro, local politics at the same time in the same game and that could be entirely possible in a MMO that had thousands of players. Just like in real life, some politicians (players) might be in a leading party for their country and have to deal with foreign affairs and massive decision making whilst others might be just trying to climb the political ladder and gain power or influence the locals for their vote.

    • Usiel says:

      Usually I agree with you a lot, but Politics is not about War. War starts were diplomacy failed. Besides War is a foreign affair and there are far more political fields than diplomacy. War also won’t help in fields like ecological policy.

      When I hop over to Gordons Island for negotiations and we fail to find an agreement, we are not going to invade each other, as we did 70 Years ago. Politics means keeping your interests through compromise and negotiations.

      That’s pretty hard to illustrate attractively in a game, which reduces political components in a game to Military Alliances and economical simulations.

      • Tesh says:

        Diplomacy isn’t about war, no, it’s about preventing war. Politics is a different thing entirely. It’s like the difference between a statesman and a politician. One seeks to serve the people and promote peace and prosperity, the other seeks power.

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