Government simulation game

Last updated

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. [1] They differ from the genre of classical wargames due to their discouragement or abstraction of military or action elements.



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 [2] 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. [3] National politics has remained a vital area of board gaming, with products such as the 1986 board game Die Macher featuring elections in Germany, [4] and Wreck the Nation which satirizes the politics of the United States under the Bush administration. [5]

After enjoying years as a play-by-mail game, Diplomacy was one of the first games to move to take advantage of e-mail, and continued to be a popular email game into the 2000s. [6]

Computer gaming

A screenshot from the 1985 Atari ST version of Balance of Power BalanceOfPower.png
A screenshot from the 1985 Atari ST version of Balance of Power

As computers became more sophisticated, games in this genre moved beyond e-mail to more complex simulations. For most users in Europe, the first well known politics game was Dictator  [ ru ], released in 1983 by DK'Tronics and running on Sinclair's ZX Spectrum. 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. [7] [8] 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, Spectrum Holobyte's Crisis in the Kremlin and Hidden Agenda .

Conflict simulated a hypothetical situation in 1997 in which the player assumes the role of the Israeli Prime Minister and is obligated to employ various diplomatic and covert directives to defeat its rival nations. Surrounded by hostile nations, the player is restrained by a very limited military force and thereby encouraged to employ peaceful means to remain in power until he acquired more advanced weapons systems and power. [9]

In Crisis in the Kremlin , the user could play as the protege of any of the following Soviet politicians: Mikhail Gorbachev of the reformist faction; Yegor Ligachev, leader of the hard-line faction; and Boris Yeltsin, who was the prevalent figure of the nationalist faction. The player could use the simulation to test certain strategies to lead the failing Soviet Union into a new era of prosperity or force its dissolution and integration into the new world order. This game introduced the concept of budget management, citizen and faction satisfaction as well as multiple economic values and political spectrum. [10]

In Hidden Agenda the user takes the role of the president of Chimerica, a post-revolutionary Central American country, trying to juggle international relations and the needs of the country's citizens.

Early political simulation games were intended more for education than entertainment. In 1987, On the Campaign Trail was developed as a tool at Kent State University's political campaign management program, and engaged students in decision-making regarding the campaigns for United States Senate elections between 1970 and 1986. [11] Subsequently, a commercial market developed for packaged games involving elections and campaigns.

A screenshot from Stardock's 2004 game Political Machine PoliticalMachine.jpg
A screenshot from Stardock's 2004 game Political Machine

The 1992 game Power Politics (and, before it, 1981's President Elect) [12] focused on domestic United States political campaigns (but not the running of the country upon election). In 1996, this was adapted to the Doonesbury Election Game, designed by Randy Chase (who also did Power Politics) and published by Mindscape, in which players conducted a campaign with the assistance of a pool of advisors selected from characters in the Doonesbury comic strip. [13] A successor entitled Power Politics III was released in 2005. [14] In 2004, Stardock published Political Machine, in which the player steers a candidate through a 41-week election cycle for United States President, developing policies and tailoring talk show appearances and speech content. The game is heavily tied to modern polling methods, using real-time feedback for how campaign strategy impacts polling numbers. [15] In 2006, TheorySpark released President Forever 2008 + Primaries , an election simulation game that allows the player to realistically control an entire election campaign through both the Primaries and General Election. President Forever 2008 + Primaries itself a follow-up to the highly successful general election sim President Forever, released in 2004

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 favourability rating changes amongst certain types of voters. [16] Candidates make promises before each election, and failure to follow through can result in lower support during the player's re-election campaign. [17] Other examples are the Geo-Political-Simulator series, produced by Eversim, boasting an array of choices for domestic policy and decisions based around current geopolitical issues, [18] and Tropico series.

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 revolves 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.

Online games

Web-based games such as NationStates allow players to manage the day-to-day decisions of individual governments, and compete against rival nations. [19] [20] Other, similar games like Politics and War include trade and war mechanics. Less formally structured games are also played out in internet forums, where players manage governments and nations according to a set of agreed rules. These such forum-based simulation games - often known as "Polsims" - simulate the politics of one specific nation throughout rounds set in differing time periods. Not all "Polsims" take place on a national level. Some Polsims take place internationally, whereas others take place on the state or local levels. Players on such games play as fictional politicians and participate in debates, media activity, and simulated elections. An example of a "Polsim" like this would be AustraliaSim. [21]

In other web based games players register, apply for an open position (either a country or person inside a country such as a politician or army general) and carry out game activities either through newspapers or other activities or (more commonly) through gamemasters.

City-building games, such as Lincity, require the player to manage the governing features of a city. Lincity-ng.png
City-building games, such as Lincity , require the player to manage the governing features of a city.

Other construction and management simulations require government management. For example, city-building games such as the SimCity series of games developed and 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 2013 was in its fifth major release. [22]

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 control over resources, and the building of an empire.[ citation needed ]

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 Victoria a player must not only conquer, but implement the Second Industrial Revolution while warding off (or ushering in) political revolutions such as the upheavals of 1848 and communist revolt.[ citation needed ]

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." [23]

The 2008 game Spore features a "Civilization" stage where the player controls vehicles and interacts with other cities until they have control of all 12 cities.

Training and education

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. [24]


Related Research Articles

Simulation Imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time

A simulation is the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time. Simulations require the use of models; the model represents the key characteristics or behaviors of the selected system or process, whereas the simulation represents the evolution of the model over time. Often, computers are used to execute the simulation.

A simulation video game describes a diverse super-category of video games, generally designed to closely simulate real world activities.

United States Institute of Peace

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is an American federal institution tasked with promoting conflict resolution and prevention worldwide. It provides research, analysis, and training to individuals in diplomacy, mediation, and other peace-building measures.

Sim (simulated) racing or racing simulation are the collective terms for racing game software that attempts to accurately simulate auto racing, complete with real-world variables such as fuel usage, damage, tire wear and grip, and suspension settings. To be competitive in sim racing, a driver must understand all aspects of car handling that make real-world racing so difficult, such as threshold braking, how to maintain control of a car as the tires lose traction, and how properly to enter and exit a turn without sacrificing speed. It is this level of difficulty that distinguishes sim racing from "arcade" style driving games where real-world variables are taken out of the equation and the principal objective is to create a sense of speed as opposed to a sense of realism.

Combat flight simulators are vehicle simulation games, amateur flight simulation computer programs used to simulate military aircraft and their operations. These are distinct from dedicated flight simulators used for professional pilot and military flight training which consist of realistic physical recreations of the actual aircraft cockpit, often with a full-motion platform.

Text sims are computer or video games that focus on using a text based element to simulate some aspect of the real world. Text sims typically focus on creating as detailed a simulation of their object as possible, and therefore, other traditional game elements are often set aside in pursuit of creating an accurate simulation experience for the user. This pursuit of accurate simulation often comes at the expense of some or most audio or graphical elements. Numerous examples of soundless and graphic-light text sims exist.

<i>Hidden Agenda</i> (1988 video game) 1988 video game

Hidden Agenda is a 1988 strategy video game intended to simulate the conditions of a post-revolutionary Central American country. The player takes the part of the newly elected president of the fictional country of Chimerica, which has recently been liberated from the rule of the corrupt dictator Farsante and his ruling clique. It is considered a forerunner of the Games for Change movement, alongside other early Macintosh games including Chris Crawford's Balance of Power.

Life simulation games form a subgenre of simulation video games in which the player lives or controls one or more virtual characters. Such a game can revolve around "individuals and relationships, or it could be a simulation of an ecosystem". Other terms include artificial life game and simulated life game (SLG).

PeaceMaker is a video game developed by ImpactGames, and published in February 2007 for Windows, Mac OS and Android. It is a government simulation game which simulates the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Labelled as a serious game, it is often pitched as "a video game to promote peace".

<i>Democracy</i> (video game) 2005 government simulation game

Democracy is a government simulation game that was first developed by Positech Games in 2005, with a sequel released in December 2007 and a third game in 2013. The player plays as if they are the president or prime minister of a democratic government. The player must introduce and alter policies in seven areas – tax, economy, welfare, foreign policy, transport, law and order and public services. Each policy has an effect on the happiness of various voter groups, as well as affecting factors such as crime and air quality. The player has to deal with "situations", which are typically problems such as petrol protests or homelessness, and also has to make decisions on dilemmas that arise each turn.

Construction and management simulation (CMS), sometimes also called management sim or building sim, is a subgenre of simulation game in which players build, expand or manage fictional communities or projects with limited resources. Strategy video games sometimes incorporate CMS aspects into their game economy, as players must manage resources while expanding their project. Pure CMS games differ from strategy games, however, in that "the player's goal is not to defeat an enemy, but to build something within the context of an ongoing process." Games in this category are sometimes also called "management games".

<i>President Forever 2008 + Primaries</i> 2006 video game

President Forever 2008 + Primaries is a political simulation game that incorporates realism mixed with fiction. It simulates United States presidential elections and primary elections in 1960, 1980, 1992, 2000, 2004, and 2008. President Forever 2008 was developed and released by TheorySpark, a developer specializing in political games, on October 12, 2006. The game is an updated version of the original President Forever.

Vehicle simulation games are a genre of video games which attempt to provide the player with a realistic interpretation of operating various kinds of vehicles. This includes automobiles, aircraft, watercraft, spacecraft, military vehicles, and a variety of other vehicles. The main challenge is to master driving and steering the vehicle from the perspective of the pilot or driver, with most games adding another challenge such as racing or fighting rival vehicles. Games are often divided based on realism, with some games including more realistic physics and challenges such as fuel management.

Social simulation games are a subgenre of life simulation game that explore social interactions between multiple artificial lives. The most famous examples from this genre are The Sims and the Animal Crossing series.

A space flight simulation is a genre of flight simulator video games that lets players experience space flight to varying degrees of realism. Common mechanics include space exploration, space trade and space combat.

<i>Commander in Chief</i> (video game) 2008 video game

Commander in Chief, also known as Geo-Political Simulator, is a government simulation game that allows a player to simulate being a nation's head of government. Players have a large amount of control over their nation, although this varies based on the form of government the player's nation has. The English version was released on July 25, 2008, and has also been released in French, German, Spanish and Russian. The French version has been named Mission-Président.

<i>For the Glory</i> 2009 video game

For the Glory is a grand strategy wargame that is based on Europa Universalis II and Paradox's Europa Engine. It was developed by Crystal Empire Games, a studio composed of members of the Europa Universalis II modification "Alternative Grand Campaign / Event Exchange Project" (AGCEEP) team, and published by Paradox Interactive. It was announced on September 4, 2009 and was released November 10/11, 2009. The game is available for Windows.

<i>Power Politics</i> (video game) 1992 video game

Power Politics (game) is a Government simulation game published by Mindscape who obtained it from Will Vinton's Cineplay Interactive. Vinton was famous for Claymation featuring the California Raisins.

Kremlingames 2014 indie game development cooperative

Kremlingames is an indie game development cooperative founded in 2014. They specialize in making geopolitical strategy games in which the player is given the opportunity to rewrite the history of the Soviet Union (USSR) and other countries. The studio is co-owned by Maxim Chornobuk and Vasiliy Kostylev, with other members contributing to important decisions.


  1. Tom Leupold (2004-08-12). "Spot On: Games get political". GameSpot. Archived from the original on March 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-07.
  2. Time Magazine, February 3, 1936, "Monopoly & Politics"
  3. Allan B. Calhamer, Europa Express #10, "The Roots of Diplomacy" Archived 2012-07-31 at
  4. Erik Arneson, "Playing Politics"
  5. "BuzzFlash Reviews". Archived from the original on 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  6. Jim Burgess, "Play-by-Mail Diplomacy vs Play-by-Email Diplomacy"
  7. Chris Crawford (2003), Chris Crawford on Game Design, ISBN   0-13-146099-4
  8. Robert Mandel, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Jun., 1987), "An Evaluation of the 'Balance of Power' Simulation", pp. 333-345,
  9. Zzap! Issue 70, February 1991, p.48, "Conflict: the Middle East Political Simulator"
  10. Social Science Computer Review, Vol. 12, No. 3, 447-448 (1994), "Software Reviews: Crisis in the Kremlin"
  11. Nadine S. Koch, "Winning Is Not the Only Thing 'On the Campaign Trail': An Evaluation of a Micro-Computer Campaign Simulation" PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Dec., 1991), pp. 694-698,
  12. "President Elect." Moby Games (retrieved on January 25th, 2009).
  13. "IGN: The Doonesbury Election Game". 1995-12-30. Archived from the original on February 25, 2004. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  14. "Power Politics III (PC)". GameSpy. Archived from the original on February 5, 2008. Retrieved 2007-12-22.
  15. Jason Silverman (2004-08-19). "Campaign Game Mimics Real Life". Wired. Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2007-12-22.
  16. Jess Nickelsen. "Democracy (PC)". Archived from the original on 2014-08-05. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
  17. "Positech Democracy" . Retrieved 2007-12-06.
  18. Jackson, Stephen (2018-04-04). "Best Political Games To Play On PC in 2018". Gaming Respawn. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  19. "NationStates - Walkthrough, Tips, Review". Jay is games. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  20. "A Web Site of Virtual Nations". ABC News. 2006-01-07. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  21. Wilson, Cameron. "People Are Role-Playing As Politicians On Reddit And It's Actually Surprisingly Wholesome". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  22. Tal Blevins (2003-01-14). "Sim City 4 Review". IGN. Archived from the original on January 17, 2003. Retrieved 2007-12-22.
  23. "Ad-Blurbs for A Mind Forever Voyaging". MobyGames . Retrieved 2007-12-22.
  24. Dave Carey (2007-01-06). "Simulation games help prepare government, unite local businesses". The Washington Examiner. Archived from the original on 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2011-03-18.