Democracy 3 or How I Learned to Perpetually Worry and Build a Socialist Utopia

So, there’s this game called Democracy 3. The game is an intense political simulation. The goal is to be continually re-elected. That’s not my goal when I play the game. My method of gameplay could more be described as an ideological crusade. I’m quite left-leaning by nature, which is unsurprising considering my environment (economically lower-middle class, university educated creative who has had first- and second-hand experience with the welfare system). With this left-leaning nature, I tend to be in favour of higher taxes for those in the top brackets of society. Call me crazy (and also not an economist) but one percent of people owning most of the wealth while homelessness is still a problem and people are routinely harangued by the welfare system over less than a billionaire earns in a second, doesn’t sound like a great system. Does that make me a socialist? Sure, if that’s what you want to call me.

Rants aside, why is my admittedly simplistic view of the situation important to how I play this game. Well, like I said, for me this game becomes an ideological crusade. Every time I play I convince myself that I can increase taxes and welfare spending, but something goes awry. Here is the story of how I keep getting targeted by capitalists and conservatives in Democracy 3.

There are a few mechanics you have to be aware of before any of this starts to make sense. First is the budget itself. Obviously, you want the budget to be in surplus when deciding your policy agenda. You can’t build a vision of the future without some money. Fortunately, it seems that however you came to power at the onset of the game didn’t involve any powerful backers. You have certain political pressures being put upon you but you’re not in anyone’s pocket after your election which is a slight fantasy itself. The next mechanic that you have is capital. You have a fluctuating amount of political points to establish and alter policy as you wish. The popularity of a given policy will affect how many political points it costs, more popular policies being cheaper. The third is the complex web of options, how they affect voters, and so on. Let’s use an example to explain this.

Let’s say that you want to implement a carbon tax to reduce carbon emissions and increase tax revenue. You can probably guess who this effects on both ends of the spectrum. On the positive side, fans of the policy might be environmentalists and it will be a new source of revenue in your budget. On the negative side, the tax won’t be popular with those with capitalist interests and vehicle owners/homeowners. The game has a variety of metres judging your popularity with these groups. Bringing this back to my playstyle, I tend to tax the rich quite heavily and increase welfare.

Democracy 3

My issues in this game begin when the more right-leaning members of my pre-selected cabinet start making a fuss. Threats of resignation as their interests are being ignored. A short while later, there are rumblings of a conspiracy against me. Soon after, an assassination attempt. This is often how my playthroughs of this game end. There was one instance where, following two assassination attempts, I convinced myself that I was immortal. I was promptly killed by the third assassination attempt. I can never remember the exact policies that took me down that route but I assure it was nothing despotic, which admittedly is exactly what a despot would say.

Anyway, what did I learn from this? The game seems to create a scenario often where the central path is the one most likely to get you re-elected. Sweeping changes may work for the future of the nation but a political career they do not create. I think there’s a truism in the mechanical nature of being trapped on either side of the centre. If you want to elected/re-elected putting yourself in the middle is the safest bet. Sure, groups further on either side of the spectrum won’t vote for you for not being enough on their side.

Most people vote for the person in the middle because being in the middle seems like a reasonable place to be. The ideologue and idealist in me hates that fact. I wish that we rewarded forward thinkers and radical thinkers. Mind you, I can see that history’s greatest monsters could have been called radical thinkers. Perhaps my desire for fiery politics is because my own country has found its two major parties headed by two of the most milquetoasts old white dudes that you will ever meet. Democracy 3 reminds me that Australia has a crappy concentration camp policy that feels like it will never change because human rights abuses are partisan and central apparently. Both of the major parties ignore this ignominious blight on our record because taking a position would be too radical apparently.

Democracy 3 is a political escape for me when I feel pessimistic about the direction of the country I find myself a part of. Democracy 3 then punches me in the gut and reminds me why nothing ever feels like it changes politically.


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