Democracy! Review

Democracy is not so much a game as it is a political simulator. You are placed in the position of president or prime minister of one of the world's great democracies and given one simple goal: stay in power as long as possible. To do so you must keep as many of your citizens as happy as you can so that come election time you have a majority of the vote.

The game is played from a pretty simple interface that displays the various factions and demographics that your citizens comprise. There are the obvious groups such as conservatives, the middle class, and environmentalists, but there are also some that would not immediately spring to mind such as motorists and drinkers. Each faction is represented by a rectangle with indicators that display their relative size in terms of population and their satisfaction level with your performance. You keep the people happy by enacting policies such as setting the tax rate, establishing trade tariffs, or implementing pollution control mandates. Each action will inevitably make some people happy and some angry, so you'll have to balance things to keep just enough people happy with you to get reelected. To make things tougher on you, you'll be limited to the number of actions you can perform in a turn. Since each turn is three months of game time, there will be only so much that you can do until the next election rolls around in four years.

At first the game has a certain intrigue to it, but before too long its simplicity is its own undoing. There are a number of countries available in the game, but they all seem to have the exact same problems, wants, and concerns, so picking a country comes down to a matter of which flag you'd like for a background wallpaper while playing. Keeping enough people happy to keep you elected isn't much of a challenge as it is obvious how your policies impact each group and it's a simple matter to only select policies that your largest blocks support and avoid those that would be overly divisive. Also small groups can effectively be ignored, which makes you wonder why they are there in the first place. One small group that can unrealistically be ignored is the wealthy, which would be political suicide in any real-world democracy. You'll play the game a couple of times, find that you can just about get yourself elected president for life, and then grow bored with the whole thing and move on.

Democracy doesn't work too well as a game, but what about as an educational tool? The things that it can teach are that you can't please all of the people all of the time and that there are two sides to every issue. As a government simulator, though, it is far too removed from reality. You're a president, but you have dictator like powers in that you can enact any policy that you'd like. There's no senate or parliament to fight your tax cuts tooth and nail, and no political parties with agendas to fulfill. Winning an election is simply a matter of having 50% of the people plus one happy; there's no campaigning or fundraising to be done. The total simplicity that makes Democracy struggle to hold your interest for too long as a game also limits its usefulness as an educational tool.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 60%. Democracy sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is to play.