Government simulation game
A government simulation or political simulation is a game that attempts to simulate the government and politics of all or part of a nation. These games may include geopolitical situations (involving the formation and execution of foreign policy), the creation of domestic political policies, or the simulation of political campaigns. They differ from the genre of classical wargames due to their discouragement or abstraction of military or action elements.
A screenshot from the 2005 computer adaptation of Diplomacy, first created as a board game in 1954.
Games based on geopolitics and elections existed long before the emergence of personal computers and their ability to quickly process large amounts of statistical data. One of the earliest such games was The Game of Politics, created by Oswald Lord in 1935 which remained in print until 1960. In 1954, the board game Diplomacy was created, which differs from other wargames in that it features a "negotiation" phase during which players reach agreements with other players, and then execute military moves simultaneously. National politics has remained a vital area of board gaming, with products such as the 1986 board game Die Macher featuring elections in
A screenshot from the
As computers became more sophisticated, games in this genre moved beyond e-mail to more complex simulations. One of the earliest titles in this genre was Balance of Power, designed by Chris Crawford and published in 1985. This game features conflict at the height of the Cold War, using political and policy decisions to shape outcomes rather than warfare In Balance of Power, any armed conflict between the player and the opponent superpower results in a nuclear war, which is considered a loss condition.
Other Cold War era games included Conflict: Middle East Political Simulator created by Virgin Interactive, and Spectrum Holobyte's Crisis in the Kremlin. Conflict simulated a hypothetical situation in 1997 in which the player assumed the role of the Israeli Prime Minister and was obligated to employ various diplomatic and covert directives to defeat its rival nations. Surrounded by hostile nations, the player was restrained by a very limited military force and was thereby encouraged to employ peaceful means to remain in power until he acquired more advanced weapons systems and power.
In Crisis in the Kremlin, the user could play as any of the three Soviet politicians Mikhail Gorbachev representing the reform party, Yegor Ligachev, the leader of the hard line party and Boris Yeltsin who was the prevalent figure of the nationalist party. The player could use the simulation to test certain strategies to lead the failing
Early political simulation games were intended more for education than entertainment. In 1987, On the Campaign Trail was developed as a tool at
A screenshot from Stardock's Political Machine game.
The 1992 game Power Politics (and, before it, 1981's President Elect), focused on domestic
Some games in the genre involve enacting policies and budget decisions to sway voters. One such game is Democracy, published in 2005 by Positech Games. In Democracy, players make decisions during each turn regarding which policies to support. As turns progress, the player views how their favorability rating changes amongst certain types of voters. Candidates make promises before each election, and failure to follow-through can result in lower support during the player's reelection campaign. Another is Commander in Chief (video game), produced by Eversim, boasting an array of choices for domestic policy and decisions. Another such game is Tropico.
There can also be found games that puts the player in the seat of a state leader, such as SuperPower, and its sequel, SuperPower 2, whose goals are to produce economic stability and prosperity, but the game mainly evolves around foreign policies, with the abilities to interact with other countries in many ways. The game includes a great number of real-life treaties that influence countries.
A mature city from SimCity 4.
Other construction and management simulations require government management. For example, city-building games such as the SimCity series of games published by Maxis simulates the experience of being a mayor. SimCity features a real-time environment in which the player can create zones for city development, build roads, power and water utilities, and watch as their city develops based on their decisions. The game was originally published in 1989 and as of 2003 was in its fourth major release. Strategy games frequently make use of government management challenges. 4X games require the management of a government, be it tribal or interstellar. This includes tasks such as building infrastructure and conducting trade. Galactic Civilizations II requires players to manage their approval rating to keep their political party in power. Domestic policy is sometimes abstracted with more emphasis on international conflict. For example, the Civilization series gives players total control over resources, and radically restructuring an empire is a matter of clicking the "REVOLUTION!" button.
Other strategy games focus on government management to varying degrees. For instance, in the Hearts of Iron games (set in World War II) the civilian population is only a factor with partisans and manpower, whereas in
Government and politics have also been incorporated into adventure games. A Mind Forever Voyaging, published by Infocom in 1985, was an interactive fiction game in which the player controlled a sentient computer capable of experimenting with potential future scenarios based on varying public policy decisions. Newsweek said of the game, "It isn't '1984,' but in some ways it is even scarier."
Beyond entertainment, these games have practical applications in training and education of government personnel. Training simulations have been created for subjects such as managing law enforcement policies (such as racial profiling), the simulation of a military officer's career, and hospital responses to emergency situations.