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Games Of July 2012: The Political Machine 2012

Pretending to be Mitt Romney is pretty fun. Who would have guessed?

By John Teti • August 9, 2012

The Political Machine 2012 was a last-minute addition to this month’s Digest lineup, taking the place of another, boring-er game. I thought talking about a political game would be fun regardless of how entertaining the game itself proved to be. But I was pleasantly surprised by Machine. It’s cute, it’s smart, and its simulation of the American electorate is in some ways quite sophisticated.

The snacks for today are Lucky Charms cereal rectangles. I have no words.

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74 Responses to “Games Of July 2012: The Political Machine 2012

  1. HobbesMkii says:

    It doesn’t sound like it changed much from The Political Machine 2008. In that game I found I had to do a fairly equal amount of fundraising versus speechifying & base-pandering. Is that balance still in play?

  2. X_the_Anonymous_Man_or_Woman says:

    I love the screenshot used on the main page. John has look that seems to be a combination of “Oh god what have I done” combined with and intense nausea that hints that whatever just went down will soon be back up. And then there’s Steve, excited with the need to know whether or not John will puke, his fist tensely raised giving away that a bet has been wagered, and soon the matter will be decided in his favour.

  3. Mitt Romney says:

    It is fun to pretend to be Mitt Romney. I do it on Twitter.

  4. Jordan Magadan says:

    I loved The Political Machine 2008, to the point that I hacked myself a custom scenario map out of the game’s source files, but the 2012 edition is a huge rip-off. It’s essentially the exact same game — the only new things are a few new “bobblehead” candidates (Cain, Santorum, etc.), an updated roster of issues (Obamacare, Tea Party, etc.), and a slightly shinier interface. The new issues are the most substantive change, but they’re essentially a descriptive paragraph paired with partisan approval stats for each state in a simple database. The actual gameplay is identical.

    In fact, TPM2012 is in many ways a step backwards. A lot of features that shipped in the ’08 game have been stripped out, including a historical tournament mode against famous past presidents, a handful of fun scenarios like the Civil War/Drengi/Europen Union, and a lot of the preinstalled candidates. The only thing left is the core 2012 campaign, along with the multiplayer version of same.

    There are so many cool features that Stardock could have implemented in the last four years — primaries, debates, third parties, a map/scenario editor, user-created content sharing — but they seem content to sell glorified DLC as a brand new game. Not worth it.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Bummer. That’s what I was afraid of.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      What about for someone like myself who has doesn’t own the 2008 edition? Would I be better served finding a copy of that one than getting the new one?

      • JMAG117 says:

        Definitely. As someone on the Stardock forums said, they could have simply added the new candidates and issues to the 2008 game (heck, you could do this yourself just by editing some of the game’s text files), and it would be an objectively better game since it had so many more features and gameplay modes.

        If you don’t want to spend money up front, seek out The Political Machine 2008 Express, a free demo of the 2008 campaign mode. The download was pulled from Stardock’s site when 2012 came out, but you can probably find it elsewhere. It’ll give you a taste of the game’s mechanics, and then you can buy the full game if you’d like the extra content like the tournament mode and the extra scenarios.

  5. Staggering Stew Bum says:

    If there was an Australian version of this game you’d just have to make your candidate appear to be toughest on boat people and repeat punchy slogans like STOP THE BOATS, and you’d romp in to power. Yep, plenty of ignorant xenophobic idiots infesting this country, it’s very embarrassing.

    As for US campaigns, I’d encourage anyone with a passing interest to read Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72, it’s one of the best books you’ll ever read, if only for the bit with Muskie and the Boohoo.

    • Girard says:

       Well, I’m certain all of the candidates making those claims are of Australian Aboriginal ancestry, and not a bunch of hypocritical white assholes whose ancestors came (or were sent) on boats themselves….

  6. Effigy_Power says:

    For anyone thinking I wasn’t going to shamelessly replug this:

    You were wrong.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Oh, hey, Eff, did you know that every Thursday at 9:00PM Eastern/GMT-05 the Gameological Society Steam Group (GSSG) runs a Team Fortress 2 Night? And that you can join up with the GSSG by pressing the Steam button under “Our Many Tendrils” in the right-hand side bar

      And that is how you shamelessly plug something.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        I was trying to be somewhat less obnoxious in my shamelessness.
        Also, you forgot that every Tuesday at 9PM Eastern the Gameological Steam group hosts and open game night, so come on in and join the chat…
        If you shamelessly plug, at least don’t miss out on anything.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Whaaat. How long has that steam link been there?? 

        I AM A GOD!

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Oh wow, when did this happen? That’s so cool! Gameological already has fan art. 

      Let’s just hope we’re exempt from rule 34. 

  7. The_Misanthrope says:

     I haven’t played it, but it reminds me of this:

    I do like simulations that give me a sense of power, all without having to get off my ass.

  8. AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

    I am fairly certain this is the only page on the Internet where the American 2012 elections have been mentioned and someone hasn’t already been accused of hating America or being evil, stupid, etc. etc.

    The game seems interesting though. The mechanics of elections are fascinating, at least until you step back and understand what those mechanics say about people, including yourself.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      I actually deleted a few posts I was about to make because they felt too strident in tone.
         Lord knows I have ample opinions about this Fall’s election, but everyone here is so chill, I don’t want to be the one to upend that with my strident vitriol.
         Well, about politics anyway.  Don’t even get me started on DLC or DRM or FPS or whatever… I have all sorts of uninformed opinions I’ll yell at you!

      • ToddG says:

        I just can’t trust that Obama and his regenerating healthcare plan.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          You know that plan was originally Romney’s when he forced Massachusetts to give up their health packs, right?

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph says:

           I’d like to add that on Steam, I often go by the handle Latte-Sipping Liberal Scum. This often results in other players changing their names to “Queer-Hating Conservative Scum” or “Deer-Hunting Republican Jerk.” And once when I won, someone told me it was only because I had healthcare.

          My point is this political FPS needs to happen, if only to observe the reactions to it.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          I was wondering who that was @AHyperkineticLagomorph:disqus . I love people who make their steam name funnys. 

          Fun fact, the very first TF2 server I joined several years back I was kicked after a few minutes for “disrespecting Dostoevsky.”

    • Fluka says:

      Yeah.. As someone who felt vaguely nauseous when she realizes we have three more months of this shit, I’m not sure how I’d feel about playing a game version of the American electoral process.  On the one hand, it could be extremely cathartic, what with getting to laugh at the absurdity of it all and mess around with various weird scenarios (I would totally vote for M.Obama/Franken 2016).  And the word “game” certainly characterizes our elections.  On the other hand, I find I often play games to *escape* how depressing the state of modern American society and democracy is.  Now, if you excuse me…*takes precautionary notes on the Canadian points-based immigration system.*

      • Fluka says:

        Come to think of it, another idea for a modern political game: US Immigration RPG.  Points earning, lots of dice-rolling to determine success, plenty of random encounters with government bureaucrats.  Make your own custom character in one of several depressing classes!  (Heterosexual married partner, H1B skilled worker, poor student, overstayed-visa illegal, etc.).  Note: the balance between the classes may be terrible.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      I enjoyed The Political Machine 2008, and it sounds like this game didn’t change the formula much at all. It’s kind of sardonic, the goofy presentation takes a lot of the bite out of the commentary. And it does say something about the US political system, even if that sometimes gets ridiculous, like being able to get the US Chamber of Commerce to back a Democrat who’s in favor of tax increases. They also had spin doctors, and who can say no to spin doctors?

  9. ToddG says:

    So being Romney is like starting as the banker in Oregon Trail?

  10. The game w/Romney was set to ‘easy’ which is why it was a cake walk to take New York and California.  You would get a more accurate idea of the game if you are mindful of this setting/trying it on different settings. 

  11. I also think that the 2008 version accurately predicted the outcome of that  election.  In addition its possible they will add on more features to the game as time goes on, I understand patches are already available. 

  12. Phaerisee says:

    I am a conservative christian and I was planning on voting for Mitt Romney but after checking out this little bit I have changed my mind.