As the New Zealand 2011 General Election approaches, members from both the Labour Party and Green Party have incorporated computer games into their campaigns to more effectively communicate their platforms to young voters.
Green MP Gareth Hughes launched a Private Member’s Bill along with a new game designed to raise awareness of the lignite coal mining issue in New Zealand. Accurately titled, Keep the Coal in the hole, the game is essentially Tetris with a different skin. Instead of attempting to clear brightly colored blocks, the player must manipulate blocks of coal to, you guessed it, keep all of the coal in the hole.
The Labour Party game is a little more abstract. Players are presented with two choices and then asked to respond to the options. Some of the choices are “getting busy” with Princess Leia or watching Labour MP Trevor Mallard and National MP Tau Henare slug it out. However, the alternative choice is “Let’s not”. All options eventually lead to a question about state-owned assets and a warning that voters have another choice to make on November 26.
While these aren’t the most exciting or innovative computer games out there, it is interesting to see politicians utilizing video games to appeal to their constituents. Yet the question still remains, are these games actually advancing a lively political debate? Or are they the equivalent of a polarizing campaign ad?