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Gerrymander your Game

That Republican isn't very happy that I took her Cuban base to form a new congressional district.

I don't know anything about political redistricting, but I know what I like.

Games written with a didactic purpose typically suck, but The Redistricting Game is loads of fun. You play a political consultant assigned with redrawing the political districts so one party (or both, see below) can screw the system.

The Redistricting Game makes good use of the gamer learning curve. To beat each level, you have to learn the system better. The better you learn the system, the more you know about the issue. Perhaps teaching a new generation of gamers how to gerrymander effectively isn't the best way to champion election reform, but the game does make its point. On the last level you have to redistrict without any polling data at all.

Stuff I learned from this game:

  • Redistricting is fun, but scary

  • Bipartisan redistricting is really creepy

  • No matter how you redistrict, Vox Populi is never satisfied

  • Unless you put her in charge of the non-partisan redistricting commission

  • Proportional representation is a highly malleable concept

This is Vox Populi. Every time we redistrict she writes a mean newspaper article about how unfair we are.

I learned a heap about gerymandering in this game, but it also left me with some questions. How do you ensure that the non-partisan commissioner is truly impartial? How do you shield them from demographic data? Who does Vox Populi represent? The people? The media? Pro-redistricting intellectuals?

Can we agree it's fair to say that, inasmuch as redistricting enters the public awareness at all ("the people" and "the media" probably both enter into it), it is always perceived negatively? Changes will inevitably satisfy some folks and enrage others, and rage is more audible, so it's what dominates the Vox Populi.

I feel like it's worth pointing out the cleverness of the games inversion of the boss-monster: the lessons you learn in how to manipulate the system are made useless in the last level, sending the clear message "...OR, we could do it this way." Although, now that I think of it, I've seen a few agenda-delivering-games with hooks like that.

I also want to know how you'd keep voter registration info secret, barring not collecting it in the first place. Maybe it's a matter of making that information useless? Since the only rules left are "Divide the population equally" and "make the districts look regular-shaped," anyone with a map can tell when gerrymandering is happening. As long as the board is held responsible for its decisions, it seems like significant manipulation would become impossible due to the crime being so easily seen and readily understood by almost anyone.

So Vox Populi is expressed as rage or indignation? I'll buy that. I take the fact that the game left me educated, but not 100% convinced as a highly positive point.

"it seems like significant manipulation would become impossible due to the crime being so easily seen and readily understood by almost anyone"

Yes, maybe that's what they're aiming for. That's a reasonable target. I'm always suspicious of solutions that smack of idealism. A solution that harnesses and limitss ambition and outrage in support of a positive goals seems much more likely to succeed.

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