TL:DR: for the funs.
Seeing as this is our inaugural post, now is as good of a time as any to answer a question we get a lot: Why, exactly, are we making Political arena?
Today we’ll start with the first and most obvious reason: we want to play the hell out of this game.
We want to play a game that lets players scrutinize the demographics of Ohio’s 12th congressional district to decide whether we should over-index on digital spending; that lets players navigate balkanized party politics to ensure that their environmental bill is put up for a vote before all the interest groups we lobbied to support it don’t grow impatient and abandon the cause (and take their email lists with them); that lets players keep an eye on the media so that their Senate campaign announcement isn’t drowned out by coverage of a major vote, another politician’s scandalous misdeeds, or even a movie star slapping another movie star during an awards show.
No one has made that game, and moreover, there’s no greater gap in the gaming market than the absence of a comprehensive franchise set in U.S. politics. This has really ground our gears for decades.
Google movies or TV shows about politics (or novels, or plays, or experimental dance, for that matter) and the list is near endless: right now you can stream the fictional stories of vice presidents, political journalists, secretaries of state, lobbyists, members of Congress, presidents in love, presidents swapping places, presidents punching Russian separatists, and so on. Heck, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” was a paean to the appropriations process and parliamentary maneuvering. If the filibuster can be made exciting, you’d think the world’s largest medium would’ve caught on by now.
Yet search for “political video games” and the internet will ping back listicles of games that bear little resemblance to the politics of our popular imagination or games that only dip their toe in subject.
Civlizaiton, Suzerain and Europa Universalis are remarkably fun, but their politics is more statecraft than the campaign trail or K Street. Crusader Kings remains one of our favorites – and inspired some of our game design – but CK portrays a politics more akin to Game of Thrones courtly intrigue. We’ve really enjoyed the Democracy series, but no one is going to confuse its abstraction for the how-the-sausage-is-made drama of The West Wing.
There’ve been a healthy crop of run-for-president games where you can move a bobblehead Bernie Sanders around a map for a few turns, but good luck finding one that has you confronting the oil lobby’s bottomless warchest, click-hungry reporters and the kaleidoscopic demographics of 21st Century Texas.
In short, there just hasn’t been a game that captures the scope and feel of American politics. So where’s the NBA 2K of politics? The Red Dead Redemption of politics? The Cities Skylines of politics? Where is the game that takes the most significant subject in our society and puts it in the most significant medium of this century?
It ain’t out there yet, so we’re building it.