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Democracy 3: Serious Games To Play Off Real Events

Positech Games is working on Democracy 3, the sequel to the "Serious Game" Democracy 2, using a custom-designed neural network engine that delivers a better political simulation. The game is expected to be released for PC by the end of the year.

Democracy was first developed by Positech Games in 2005, with a sequel released in December 2007. According to Rock Paper Shotgun, “Democracy 3 will benefit not only from updated code, being 95% written from scratch, it'll also update its political world to incorporate the events of the last five years.” The Democracy series offers one of the most complex political simulations on the market.

Positech Games is a one man company based in the UK (England). Cliff Harris, the man behind Positech Games, has also created Kudos, Gratuitous Space Battles and Gratuitous Tank Battles. He firmly believes there is a growing audience for games that play off real events.

Game Context and Gameplay

The third version of the Political Strategy Serious Game is about running an indebted country that brings together the financial crisis and the debate over government debt. There are six countries that players can run: United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, US and Canada.

Democracy 3 starts with a tutorial that explains the user interface and the ways in which each political action causes reactions in broadly categorized areas such as Law & Order, Economy, Welfare, and Foreign Policy. Adjusting a policy in one area can influence macro metrics such as GDP as well as localized measurements such as homelessness and alcoholism.

Each and every change to a policy can also change how people perceive your administration. Democracy 3 simulates the motivations, loyalties and desires of everyone in the country. A custom-designed neural network is used to model individual voters. Each voter’s income is modeled, along with their levels of complacency and cynicism.

Each policy (or law) in the game has a slider which allows you to fine tune its intensity to get the balance just right. A series of equations within the game allows the same policy to have radically different effects on each voter group at different points in the slider, so some voters may be indifferent to a policy unless it reaches extreme levels, for example.

Democracy 3 also models the global economy, including credit rating agencies and debt interest levels, as well as the impact of global events on your country.

Democracy 3 is a turn-based game, each turn being comprised of as many policy changes that can be accomplished with that round’s account of political capital. Controversial changes like drug legalization or tax increase cost a lot of political capital, while less contentious decisions cost little.

Each turn covers a span of three months, so there are sixteen turns in a game for a four-year mandate if you are “running” US. At the end of the term, whether you won or lost is decided at the polls - the goal of the game is to get re-elected to a second term.

User Interface

 White Circles=Policies you control; Blue Circles= Information; Red Circle=Serious Problems

Despite being vastly detailed under-the-hood, Democracy 3 has a unique user interface that makes visualizing the connections between laws, policies, voters and situations easy. A simple iconic-based view of your country issues allows you to 'drill-down' through all the relationships between policies and voters to quickly analyze the impacts of your decisions. Your trade policy may affect GDP, which will affect unemployment, which will affect poverty, and thus crime, leading to a change in tourism, which affects GDP... Hovering the mouse cursor over a given policy or metric opens a pop-up box describing what it is. It also enables a series of red or green arrows showing the dependencies amongst the disparate items.

From TPreview

“This is a hard game, but it needs to be in order to be in some way realistic. There’s so many different aspects at work here you learn a great deal about the thinking behind decisions (or lack of decision) as you play. If you’re at all interested in current affairs, it’s great fun and equally frustrating but I’m starting to think this game’s greatest market could be in education. Get everyone playing Democracy 3 (including adults) and you’d be seeing a lot less mindless complaints about the government. Or somebody would work out a plan for a perfect utopia, either way everybody wins.”