November 3, 2004

101 Clicks

by Andrew Stern · , 4:52 pm

I’m suddenly inspired to make one of those new political video games. In it, you click on young apathetic voters lazing on their couches to get off their butts and vote. You click to dial phone numbers to call friends who normally wouldn’t vote in an election, and manage to get them to vote too. At a cafe and dinner table you are seated in front of family and friends who normally vote for their pocketbook, and you click as fast as you can to express your passion to vote for the larger issues.

You click and click, and you make progress — your energy actually motivates many of those apathetic voters to vote! Your passion actually convinces reasonable people to change their votes for the first time in decades! You think you’re going to win!

But then you find out, for every 100 apathetic voters that vote your way, 101 other apathetic voters somehow spring up, who vote the other way. For every 100 votes your candidate gets, the other candidate gets 101 votes. For every 100 clicks you make, you discover some other player somewhere has made 101 clicks. (Or maybe your mouse button is broken by now.)

Finally, your clicking isn’t channeled into affecting voters, but instead turns into frantic clicks on your television remote control, pathetically seeking a TV channel that will tell you your candidate has enough votes to win the election. You click and click and click, but you come up short.

The point of this political game is not that you shouldn’t play. Rather, you realize you need a new interface that gives you more agency.