What if … you had to play a simulation game before you could run for office?

  • Analyst Opinion - In computer games, we have one-word terms that are taken for multi-word definitions. For example, if I said simulation what would you think of? Probably you would think of a game that requires you to use a strategy to simulate an aspect of reality but your actions would be mitigated by the sim engine’s rules, as is done in a life game, geo-political, geological, or in a stock exchange game. How far can you take simulations and do they apply to the aspects of real life?

    Taking the example mentioned above, some of you might think of something totally different, like a military weapon simulation (e.g., an atomic bomb test) or an F-117 flight simulator, or even a car driver training simulation. And others might think of trial forensics, or accident simulators. One person’s simulation is a game where someone else’s simulation is a factor in real life and could mean a life or death decision.

    There has been a lot of talk in the U.S. about adopting some kind of a national service policy, to put kids into the real world for a while before they are sent off to college, and to teach them about the needs of others as well as the rewards of helping. But that is really something that cannot be simulated, you can’t smell with a computer and you cannot feel a hand on your arm when you deliver food or medicine. Kids need to learn that.

    I have an additional proposal.

    What if anyone running for office was required to play a simulation game for a full day before they were allowed to run? And this would be for each race they wanted to run in. What if a person who wanted to run for governor had to play the governor simulation game? Such a game would start out with a fixed budget and some other resources. It would have forest fires, earthquakes, floods, and massive storms. It would have crops and transportation issues, water usage disputes, and demands from the federal government for the National Guard. Schools would have to be built and repaired, as would roads and hospitals.


    The problem is that all newly elected officials come to the job with no experience. They are just like you and me. The think they know what to do and hopefully what not to do. But it really is an untested area.

    Outside the realm of governments and politicians, simulators are use to avoid serious problems in design, and save gazillions of dollars in trial and error prototyping, and millions of lives in safety and fault testing.

    A simulator would teach them the consequences of their actions. And in the case of some of simulators would also teach them where places like Turkacacus are, who lives there and next door. It would teach them that if they don’t repair the roads and there is a flood, people may not be able to escape to higher ground. And it might teach them that if we know there is a high probability of an earthquake, some reserves should be put aside to deal with it when it happens. I’d like the game to have a consequence of education too, what if we don’t give our kids a good education, where do the tax receipts come from to pay for the governor’s new airplane?

    The problems in getting such a plan implemented are two-fold. First, the people who would have to pass the law to mandate would be affected by it, and we all know they’re not going to do anything that changes a fat cat deal. And if it were seriously proposed, it would be buried in committee study by problem number two: Who decides what is in this simulation and what not? Who determines the consequences of decisions?

    Yes, there have been some government simulation or political simulation programs (we can’t call them games) such as training simulations for managing law enforcement policies (such as racial profiling), or the simulation of hospital responses to emergency situations. There was a rather famous game, Balance of Power, designed by Chris Crawford and published in 1985 that featured the conflict at the height of the Cold War, using political and policy decisions to shape outcomes rather than warfare. And of course we have the famous US Army game. But in all my research I haven’t (so far) found any simulator or simulation program or game that would teach a president, governor, senator, mayor, or chief of police what-if.

    Think about it: What if our leaders had to take the what-if training? Do you think they might think differently about some of their actions? Aw hell, it’s just a game, right?

    Dr. Jon Peddie is the founder of multimedia market research firm Jon Peddie Research.

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