Turn on the TV or radio, talk to a relative or co-worker, or listen to a random conversation in a restaurant or bar, and you’ll quickly realize one thing: everyone knows how to run the country better than the person currently running it. And, if cousin Zeke or Carl the bartender can run the country, running the country must be too darn easy, right? Here's how to make it a bit tougher.
My ministers are looking at me like I’ve lost my mind. The country is an economic basket case, we’re trailing in the polls, and my next policy decision is... tougher abortion laws. I pause for the gasps to subside, then, like a political Poirot, explain.
Restricting abortions will mollify the religious component of the party membership in preparation for next turn’s ban on teaching creationism. Returning Darwinism to its rightful place in the curriculum, together with a boost to science funding, will help address the ‘technology backwater’ situation that is doing so much damage to GDP. A healthy GDP together with some canny VAT and corporation tax changes, should, in the long run, equal prosperity and – pause to sip water and anticipate imminent applause – the voter support necessary for victory in the next election.
The interface for a sim that lets you run a country is always going to be daunting, but Democracy 3's fearsome array of orbs made me want to ALT-F4 and hurry to the kettle for a calming cup of something hot. That feeling lasted only minutes. After the briefest investigation, the quality of Democracy's interface becomes clear. It's a fine example of how thoughtful design can present complex data simply and allow complex strategies to be enacted with simple interactions, like the tug of a slider or the tick of a checkbox.
It closely resembles Democracy 2's layout. Each blob represents a social issue. Hover your mouse over one and green and red spokes appear indicating all of the issues that positively or negatively affect your chosen subject. It takes two seconds to discover that the racial tension, alcohol and organised crime are fuelling violent crime, and that those are being countered by a combination of CCTV surveillance, a well funded police force, education and strict handgun laws. I can click on any of those contributing factors to access sliders that'll let me adjust taxation and alter the legislative strictness around problematic comsumables like booze. Tackling my nation's drinking habit would turn out to be the start of a long slippery slope.
Democracy’s a tricky business. You have voters to appease, special interest groups to tranquilize, and promises to either uphold or bury in the backyard—all while deciding which of your signatures looks the most patriotic. The world of political subterfuge isn’t for everyone, but that’s why we have Democracy 3.
It’s completely and utterly ridiculous and silly to think that anyone could sit down and say they could make a simulation of democracy,” says Cliff Harris. He should know, what with being the man behind the democracy sim series, Democracy. “But as a result nobody’s done it. I’d much rather play a flawed or imperfect version of politics than not just because everyone says it’s too difficult.”
The series is now gearing up for a third outing, and we are talking in a coffee shop near the Rezzed booth where Cliff has been previewing the game for attendees. The conversation thus far has encompassed monkey brains, the US Department of Defense and implementing a ‘Boris Johnson mode’. We’ll get to why in a minute. Firstly, here’s what would happen if the UK were run by a sleep-deprived games journalist hopped up on caffeine and power.
As the new leader of the UK I have, as they are so fond of saying on Question Time, “some problems inherited from the previous government.” Focusing on the economy seems to be a sensible (and relatively popular) thing to do because there’s more money going out than coming in, so I introduce a luxury goods tax. The UK’s credit rating drops instantly.