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We’ve seen quite a few politically orientated games come out over the years, such as Democracy and Realpolitiks, but what about a local take on the theme? A group of university students are indeed working on an SA election simulator of sorts, due for release next month.
The web-based game (actually called ECivix Election Simulator) is part of a youth empowerment project to “enhance and develop civic engagement and constitutional literacy”, says Daniel Eloff, one of the people behind the project.
The idea was conceived by a group of law, actuarial and economics students at the University of Pretoria, according to Eloff.
“We then approached the University of Pretoria’s Department of Computer Science to assign the project as one of their final year projects.”
The team also intends to hold free workshops alongside the game at schools across Pretoria.
How does it work?
The turn-based game is “roughly” based on the 2019 general elections, with statistics and politics “corresponding with our contemporary time”. However, you won’t be seeing real SA parties in the game.
Instead, the SA election simulator sees each player creating their own political party, choosing ten issues they’d like to cover as part of their campaign. Intriguingly enough, each issue has a “far left/centre-left/centre/centre right/far right” position.
The team used social grants as one example, with the far left position being social grants for all, ranging to the far right having no social grants at all.
An SA election simulator hopes to teach young people about politics and ‘constitutional literacy’
“With each turn, the user will be able to select a variety of actions, ranging from three types of categories of actions, i.e. campaigning, fundraising and polling. Each action costs a set amount of money and manpower. The ‘resources’ of money and manpower are determined by the level of support that the party has,” Eloff elaborates.
All in all, there are 24 issues to cover in the game: Crime, Symbols of History, Immigration Racism, Firearm Control, Same-Sex Marriage, Prostitution, Abortion, Regulation of Media, Sport Quotas, Drug Legislation, Mining Energy Production, Affirmative Action, Labour Regulation, Land Reform, Tax Of High Income Earners, Social Grants, Unemployment, Tertiary Education, Primary Education, African Union and Housing.
Race is a big factor in South African politics, so how are the developers tackling this challenge?
“The game uses a database which reflects South African demographics. There are in depth socioeconomic classes (nine to be exact) and these reflect the demographics of the country,” Eloff answers. “In terms of historical voting patterns (i.e. people voting for a party because of loyalty), we decide to not include it in our minimum viable product.”
The tight budget and free to play nature means that multiplayer isn’t being considered for now, but what about modding? After all, someone might want to bring the ANC, DA, EFF and other parties to the title…
“As the game is available online and won’t be purchased and downloaded, modding was not considered. If we are ever in the position to release the game on a platform like Steam, it would most definitely we open for modding. We just, unfortunately, aren’t there at the moment.”
The Unity powered game will be available at ecivix.org.za.