There are so many simulators. Most of them are war and riot games such as Valorant that sometimes players make use of third party apps like valora boosting. This time, Why not a policy simulator that helps us find a government? North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister Armin Laschet quipped at the opening of the German Developer Award. And he is right: whether we govern a state, manage the election campaign, conduct diplomacy or decide on tax policies in a city, we find suitable policy simulations for all of this. But none of them comes close to real political operations. What should a good game about politics look like?
Politics Simulation Games
It is emblematic that the history of political simulations begins with a title called Dictator. In 1983 the game appeared on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum home computer. In it, as autocrats, we have to stay in power in a fictional state, satisfy different groups, keep finances together, and determine how hard we are to fight rebels.
A dictator is thus a spiritual forefather of the Tropico series, in which we take control of a small island state and can act very dictatorially. And since then, this tendency towards sole rule has been reflected in most games that make us act politically.
Because even in programs that do not seem to put us in the role of an autocrat, we are often endowed with almost limitless power. For example, the Civilization series puts the fate of an entire empire in our hands. From diplomacy to building the infrastructure to changing government at the push of a button, we can determine everything ourselves.
Extensive decision-making power is a typical feature of policy simulations. They are better at representing power than powerlessness. The problems and limits of what is politically possible are seldom felt, even though they are essential components of what real politics are. Even the most powerful politician in the world reaches its limits at some point – an experience that even US President Donald Trump had to experience, for example when he was banned from entering the country.
Politics is a game of negotiating, struggling for compromises, which in the end maybe nobody is really happy with. Is this field of setbacks and frustration generally not compatible with the medium of play, in which progress and the ability to act are essential motivating factors? Don’t we always want to move forward, celebrate successes, and somehow “win” the game at the end?