Politics governs everything we do, from religion to how much our bus ride costs, and where it’ll drop us off. Taxes, health and safety, sanitation, all of these services and practises were discussed at length in boring meetings over a lukewarm cup of coffee. That’s because politics is a complex system, with many variables, views and opinions to consider before making a decision. It’s not surprising then that there haven’t been many videogames based on this subject matter until the recent US election campaign, a source of entertainment itself.
Geo Political Simulator is the latest title to have a stab at bringing all the stresses of decision-making to the comfort of your family PC, and for the most part it does a sound job. Running in real time, the clock can be slowed down or sped up to influence policy changes quicker, and scrolling across the bottom of the screen is a news ticker keeping you up to date with the latest world news. There’s an entire wealth of information at your disposal with the various tabs arranged in a dock below the news ticket, however GPS’s problem is that it fails to display these details in an orderly manner. It’s not immediately clear what each bar and pie chart represents, or how changing the percentage of funding to a sector will influence the economy.
Tweaking funding and initiatives can have disastrous consequences with the country or certain cities striking against your decisions. Again, the problem is you never know how serious a protest each change will encounter as your cabinet never seem to intervene with helpful advice. Instead, you have to go find them, and even then it’s not clear what their jobs are or what they affect. Often enough decisions are made through blind faith or intrigue.
The confusing menus and layout of statistics and options are a mess in relation to the streamlined Democracy 2. Although lightweight in comparison to core gameplay, each decision has its potential pitfalls outlined from the start. GPS’s system requires much research and flicking between screens before altering sliders or issuing mandates agreeing to deals, which is more realistic but obviously grates after a year’s worth of play, let alone a decade in office.
Underneath the spreadsheets of numbers is a very playable political simulator should you have the time, willpower and lack a personality to persevere. Wars can be waged, economic treaties signed and religious codes of law adopted into society to your hearts content. The backdrop is a simpler version of Google Earth that can be spun round to view other countries or zoom in to find military units and view key parts of cities, and the music is rather hip for what you’d expect from a game of politics.
If you’re the sort of person who loves number crunching and aspires to become a politician (God help you if you are) then you’ll doubtless find hours, days and weeks of ‘fun’ in GPS. The rest of us normal people will find a confusing barrage of numbers, sliders and charts with barely any clue as to what to do or how our current performance rates amongst voters or other leaders. The lightweight and shallow Democracy 2 shows how to display important information in a way that’s easy on the eyes and the brain whilst allowing yourself to make an informed decision in seconds. You’re not quite sure what you’re voting for. Like the stereotypical politician, GPS is all substance with no style.