Oct 26 2008

Democracy 2

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 16RCN @ 5:25 pm

Review: Alan Graham

Keynesian Economy Simulator
Format: PC
Publisher: Positech
Developer: Cliff Harris (probably in his bedroom)
Price: £15.28

Bourgeois Democracy: Another simulation

Following on from the original Democracy, Clif Harris has released a sequel: imaginatively titled Democracy 2. The game is a simulation of politics. You have been elected President of X country and have to choose which policies to implement or not and how to deal with dilemmas and problems.

The social model

Unlike its predecessor, Democracy 2 has fictional countries which are caricatures:

  • Bananistan:Socialist and Agricultural
  • Biblonia: Religious State
  • Freedonia: Liberal and atheist
  • Gaiatopia: Eco-aware state
  • Gregaria: Wealthy and capitalist
  • Koana: Capitalist Heaven
  • Malaganga: debt ridden, compulsory voting
  • Mexilando: military state, monarchy
  • Zambeezia: Agricultural, poor

One nice addition is the party system, you choose who to be rather than just have opposition. There is a large list, and like all things in this game, can be modified by the player. If you wish to be the SSP with the Tories as opposition, go ahead and add them. Fancy being the Bolsheviks, just add the title to the list.

Balance

Like the first game there is a delicate balance to be maintained. I ran the socialist state, and had managed to get 55% of the population to be members of the Socialist Alliance. The only major problem I had was an Asthma epidemic. The only link I could see was Air Quality and the biggest effect on that was air travel. To cut air travel the only option I could see was a Carbon Tax. This was unpopular with the group everybody but I figured it wouldn’t be that much. Within 4 turns there were 0 members of the party and asthma epidemic was still rife. Further playing around would probably reveal the correct balance to maintain – maybe youth clubs and free school meals with an increase in funding to state hospitals with a very low carbon tax is the answer.

Virtual socialist

Virtual socialist

And that is the beauty of this series of games, it shows in simple terms how sloganeering and promises of policies which appear to solve problems actually work in the real world and not through the lens of sympathetic media assuring us that X policy is the answer.

The one major limitation of the game is the economic model. The worldwide market crashes and there’s a recession. You see GDP plummet so what do you do? There’s no option to fiddle with interest rates or model of inflation. It means the simulation limits itself to policies and their effect but not the economy.

On Income Tax, this game seems to have the same flaw as it’s predecessor: fraud. If there is welfare fraud you can crack down on it. It doesn’t have the option of cracking down on Tax Avoidance by the highest earners. Fair enough, this mirrors real life, and you can add it in yourself, but it means you have to play a reformist by lowering income tax to allow the middle class to be moderately happy.

Policies

There has been an increase in policies to over 100, including ID cards, hybrid cars and micro generation grants. The dilemmas and situations seem about the same, with a few added and removed.

What’s new?

There have been a number of additions, Ministers, political capital, opposition groups, voter detail and encyclopaedia are the most significance.

Ministers

You start off with 6 ministers, each of which have different loyalties and you can fire them and appoint new ones. Maybe it would be a good idea to replace that Tax minister who has sympathies to the Middle Class and Capitalists with John Doe who sympathiseswith Socialists and Trade Unionists? Each minister has different loyalty and experience (these generate Political Capital), the sympathies help influence those demographics to support you.

Political Capital

The major new addition to the model has been Political Capital. In the first game you could bin all the policies and add which ones you like. Now it takes political capital to raise, lower or cancel policies as well as introduce new ones. If each of the 7 ministers generate 3 political capital per turn then you get 21 each turn added to the pool. To raise income tax takes 34, to remove university grants takes 19 whilst introducing Micro-Generation grants takes 1. This reflects how much each change will cause people to support or oppose you.

Opposition Groups

The threat of a coup has been expanded with your intelligence services keeping tabs on everyone from The Army of God and the Socialist Army to the Secular Society. If you have no religious people then you probably don’t have to worry about the Army of God, if you are playing in the Theocracy and fund stem cell research whilst banning the teaching of creationism in schools, then you may have something to worry about from them although the Secular Society will probably back off a bit.

Voter Detail

Fat Cat

Fat Cat

Previously, voter demographics were defined by number and how they support your policies. It seems to have been expanded, with focus groups showing how cross sections of society support you. There is likelihood of them to turnout to vote and to vote for you. Added to this is the party membership, although this is again simplified into two parties with most votes winning the election. Once you lose it’s game over too, perhaps the next in the series will introduce multiple parties and the FPTP system: choosing ministers from your pool. It would be more in depth but move the games from being simulations to explain basic politics to being a simulation of politics.

Flaws

There is still a flaw in the model however. At the start there are new options including the option to set the number of socialists in the country. Having dragged the slider to the end I was happy to see 100% socialists. Woo, I can finally try raising Income Tax and introducing Free School Meals to see my popularity grow. Unfortunately it went down. It turned out that 65% of the Socialists were also Capitalists. Each voting demographic is counted as separate and each individual voter can belong to multiple groups including contradictory ones. My carbon tax example earlier could have got the same result if 100% of people were Environmentalists but 60% were car users and 0% commuters.

Encyclopaedia

Lot’s of policies and voter groups now have some explanatory notes to help you understand what they mean. When choosing Income Tax levels you can see the top levels in various countries and the income scales in the US. Choose Socialists and you can see a page of pretty non-biased explanation and some key dates from the publication of The Communist Manifesto to the abandonment of Clause 4.

Verdict

There are a number of things which seem worse than Democracy: mouse scroll speed is frustratingly slow, lowering accessibility, the movement to caricature countries, the limitation on changing policies. Most of these can be addressed however through customisation. Change capital required to 0 and add your own countries.

Positive changes have included a UI update with new options and the Minister system adds a touch of realism. You can still customise it as much as you want and for a game it is very cheap with a real educational value. There is a demo available of both games which allow you to have a few turns and to get the feel of them. Overall if you don’t have Democracy, try this one, if you have Democracy then only get it if you really enjoyed it.

Tags: , ,

One Response to “Democracy 2”

Leave a Reply