The Audacity of Hope, for Better Political Games.

Politics in games are usually limited to people-of-history-cameos or one-click “diplomacy” (as seen in Civilization 5 [Civ 5]) but where are the in-depth politically focused games? Yes, there is the election series The Political Machine 2008 (and the original The Political Machine 2004) that lets you run an election campaign by touring the country to raise money, build election headquarters and hire political consultants. It is the one shining star of a barren genre.  If you have an interest in politics that is just merely above the average American than you should buy it (http://www.politicalmachine.com $9.95) and should more importantly expect to enjoy it.

Civ 5’s diplomacy screen. Where's the proposition option?

That’s it though. Out of the ocean of video games none of them totally embrace the political aspects that make up our divided, dishonest and disenfranchised educing political system. The Political Machine 2008 is like our only beacon of hope in a tea-bagged sea of video games. So where are the other potential “leaders” in the political video game genre?

Some games take aspects of modern day politics and and water them down to make them a bit more approachable – see the Tropico series and its communism/capitalism play between Cold War Russia and the USA. The aforementioned Civ 5 allows you to feel like you are engaging in diplomacy by exchanging goods and gold for alliances but neither of them are political games at their heart.  Again, where are the potential “leaders” in the political video game genre?

The Political Machine seems to be our only leader as of now and it is not known if they will hold up this mantle. The Political Machine 2012 has not been officially announced and the only mentions of its possibility are found in forums. I do find it hard to believe that Stardock (the publisher/developer of The Political Machine) will let the possibility of The Political Machine 2012 slip through the cracks like an election ballot chad. With the games announcement Stardock will receive one of the largest no-cost marketing blitzes in history, the actual 2012 elections. With a game cycle of 4 years and free media attention as well, given to it by the actual elections, Stardock would be crazy to drop this title from its potential candidates of  games.

In asking myself why there are not more politically based video games I have found the answer by looking closer at our current state of political affairs in the United States, and with some help (through comedic therapy and actual insight) from John Stewart (http://www.hulu.com/embed/ZZMbXY71Y8A_DneKdQuCIw) and Stephen Colbert. Who wants to try to escape to a virtual reality that represents a real world nightmare? Disenfranchised middle class people (more accurately used to be middle class) do not want to spend their free time immersed in a politically based game even if it’s just a virtual representation.

However, we cannot allow our disenchanted state hold us back from hoping and demanding better political games and on a more serious note, voting towards a better political atmosphere.

Gun Shy: Games to get your girl gaming

“Shoot‘em! SHOOT’EM! How did you die? That is the easiest enemy in the game?” -That is a brief scenario that I believe scares away too many potential female gamers from the enjoyable world of video games and FPSs [first person shooters] in particular. Above, a well intentioned male gamer attempts to bring his significant other into the world of video gaming so it may be something they can enjoy together but the approach is all wrong. You will never get your female friend involved in video gaming if you shove them in front of a quick twitch shooter then hover over their shoulder yelling at them. You very well could scare them away from what could have been decades of enjoyable gaming and, at the worst, you.

So what route should a male gamer take to bring his girlfriend/wife into the nerd herd?  How do you market games to a newb*? Much like you would talk her into a threesome, you want to ease her into the idea first. Have her watch you play a visually stunning game to capture her attention. Answer her questions regarding the game you are playing in detail and not quickly as if she is a bother. Once you have peaked her curiosity then let her experience a game for herself.

So where do you start? What type of game should you suggest for her to play? Well a quick survey of the female board members of GamingNerdHerder mentioned these aspects as appealing qualities in games that first got them clicking:

  • multiple challenges: not just kill this and kill that (i.e. make $, keep citizens happy and accomplish multiple tasks in-order to succeed at an overall goal)
  • violence is not the focal point: can include violence but it is held at a distance (this also seems to hold true in society; violence can be tolerated more when it is viewed from a distance)
  • creative juices will be used: construction and design with some added tinkering

So if you have some knowledge of the gaming world then you can already guess what type of game you should suggest (or if you are looking to score points, purchase) for your girlfriend to play. City builders! Real time strategy games were you build your city, amusement park, empire etc… from usually a top down view. These types of games all include the qualities mentioned above with some totally devoid of violence and others that include a heavy, from a distance, war aspect (see the Sid Meier’s Civilization [Civ] series).

Where there is city building there is city destroying.

Some other city builder series to consider for your lady friend:

  • RollerCoaster Tycoon: Amusement park builder now in its third iteration with a 4th likely.
  • Pharaoh: An ancient city builder with ancient graphics but great game play.
  • Zoo Tycoon (1 & 2): Always wanted to manage a zoo but not fond of human sized feces? Here’s an alternative.
  • SimCity: Reviews for the 4th and most recent edition were solid and it also has a strong online community for extended play.

  • Stronghold: An engaging castle builder with the 3rd game in the series on the horizon (likely to release this year).
  • Tropico: The 3rd game of this series is available now, all you have to do is decide if you want to wrap yourself in a red commie blanket or kiss the feet of the capitalist dogs.

Lay out your [city] plans right and you can have a gaming companion for years to come and another nerd to join the herd. Hey ladies! Have other games that brought you into video gaming? Let me know about them in the comments.

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*Newb is leetspeak for an inexperienced gamer who is capable and willing to learn. Not to be confused with noob: a gamer who is unable to learn and unable to improve at gaming.