Have You Played… Democracy 3

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

That there are so few detailed modern political simulators has always surprised me. It seems like such fertile territory, given internet presence seems to go hand-in-hand with an outspoken political stance. But I suppose it is one thing to loudly object to something and another to bury yourself deeply in putting your beliefs into practice. Importantly, Democracy 3 [official site] isn’t about the sound and fury of getting yourself elected, and instead is concerned with how to keep the ship afloat once you are in power.

Clearly, the first time you play you’ll do so in accord with your own stance, and it’s fascinating/horrifying to encounter very practical as well as political reasons that you can’t simply steamroller on with your idea of utopia. It’s the second play that’s the most revelatory though: attempting to turn the nation into the very opposite of what you want it to be, and how the initial discomfort turns into an absolute determination to make it work. Politics (and power) makes fools of us all.


  1. Cinek says:

    Oh, yes, I did. One of the biggest disappointments of 2013. It’s basically a game about interface, cause nothing else is good in it. There’s next to no challenge, creating utopia state is so easy that I’m amazed 90% of world population doesn’t fart in it’s golden pants after eating foods of their dreams, while sitting in their personal harem room. People voting never do it based on emotions, but rather careful political calculation of your entire term, there’s no real interaction with other parties or politicians, every problem has an easy fix, and every type of society inevitably turns into some sort of utopia.

    It’s not really a simulation of anything. It’s an elaborate game of PacMan where instead of directing yellow mouth eating balls you choose which bobble to implement or remove first in order to eat popular support.

  2. iucounu says:

    I had fun with this on iPad and was impressed with myself for managing to turn Britain into an economic powerhouse with a strong Socialist welfare state. I posted a screenshot of my Utopian stats on Twitter to show how awesome I am at governing, and about five seconds later it was pointed out to me that I had, inadvertently and without even noticing, ethnically cleansed Britain by enacting horrendously harsh anti-immigration policies. (I did that as a knee-jerk reaction to some kind of short-term problem, and forgot to repeal them… funny how that happens.)

    • Jediben says:

      If only life imitated art, eh?

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      To be fair, it doesn’t sound quite like you ethnically cleansed Britain. It’s more like you made Britain ethnically stain resistant. Which still sounds awful.

  3. AngoraFish says:

    As a political simulation there’s so much wrong with the game that it’s hard to know where to start.

    The fact that the electoral cycle more or less revolves around building up implausibly whopping majorities approaching 100%, then losing because there’s nothing left to tweak, is as good a criticism as any. Then there’s the grossly over-simplified, if not demonstrably false tabloid-news stereotypes used as the basis for the various interest groups. Also notable is the lack of any kind of opposition party to set the agenda or attempt to outmanoeuvre you on policy… well, that kind of misses the point of most democracies right there.

    Cliffski might be a decent game programmer, and the game is fine for a bit as a spreadsheet tweaking simulator, but he sure ain’t no political scientist or sociologist.

    • Beefenstein says:

      Either or both of Democracy 1 and 2 made it seem as if ‘drivers’ were a homogenous interest group hellbent on making sure that we were all Transformer-like bipedal-car hybrids who had to fucking drive to the fridge to get a glass of fucking orange juice. They would quite honestly vote YES on “shall we kill babies to produce better shiny wax for our lovely lovely cars?”

      It was retarded and quite blatantly showed the shallowness of the ‘simulation’. It made me vomit and the vomit got in my hair and my mother laughed at me and I died.

  4. BradleyUffner says:

    This was one of the most boring “games” I have ever played. It’s nothing more than a front and for a spreadsheet. For a game that really seems like it should be about people it sure feels very lifeless and empty.

  5. Beefenstein says:

    I have registered an account on RPS after more than a year of reading it every single day just to excoriate this game as being something so unlike a political simulator that it should be exiled for the rest of its life.

    However I still hate the fucking life sim games more. Were they called Kudos? Jesus those were even worse.

  6. CannedLizard says:

    I want to love this game, but I can’t.

    I think my main problem (at least with this edition of it, I don’t think it was a problem in previous ones) is the credit downgrading mechanic. It always hits me worst when I try a playthrough where I try to eliminate the deficit (while trying to avoid slashing public spending, since I’m a Canadian pinko cryptosocialist…but also an accountant). As soon as I do, they downgrade my credit rating to BBB and my new debt interest payments put me back into the red.

    I mean, for one this means the game starts Canada at only an A credit rating, rather than AAA. I’m generally just tweaking tax rates up (as well as a bunch of social policy tweaks…so long faith-based school subsidies and creationism being taught in schools!), so I have no clue what would cause this.

    I guess my complaint is the credit ratings agencies in the game are terrible, arbitrary and inaccurate, so I guess that means it’s a perfect simulation. 10/10

    • Beefenstein says:

      I think you need to make Canadian Credit Rating Simulator. I am excited just thinking about it.

    • trooperwally says:

      Sounds like that aspect of the simulation might be working as intended. Cutting a deficit is a contractionary fiscal policy so has a negative impact on public finances (see debt deflation in Greece, they’re worse off now after five years of austerity than they were to begin with). Having a surplus or balanced budget is a nice to have but your creditors might not like you trying to get there if it means gdp-sapping austerity.

  7. Ufofighter says:

    The important question is, Can I ask for a 50 thousand million check while calling everyone nazi terrorist mob and so, and at the same time tell my citizen to calm down because we are not going to pay it back?
    If that’s not the case I’m sorry, not interested.

    • Beefenstein says:

      I’m not sure whether this relates to the UK or Greece. Well done!

  8. DanMan says:

    I was underwhelmed by this, too. It didn’t help that the translation isn’t good either. And I’m not just talking about choice of words, but also strings being to long and overflowing their dedicated space, becoming unreadable.

  9. draglikepull says:

    A big problem with games like this, I think, is that they treat “governing” and “campaigning” as being essentially the same thing, even though they’re vastly different. Political parties have a lot of skill/experience at campaigning, but most of the skill in governing is actually maintained in the civil service.

  10. MartinWisse says:

    Apart from all the other criticism, it’s very much designed with a two party, US style political system in mind and therefore doesn’t really play well if you want to play as the Dutch government. Not to mention that most of the issues are either American too (gun control!) or blandly generic. There isn’t the depth of history and contigency in the simulation to make this anything but a disguised cookie clicker type game.

  11. uxbn_kuribo says:

    I’ve played it. No matter how much of a utopia you build, someone will probably assassinate you.

    I made a socialist paradise with very little unemployment, next to no taxation, saved the environment, drastically lowered the crime rate… and got shot to death by the right-wingers. I find it incredibly unrealistic that your term is almost certainly doomed to end with your murder.