After the events of the last few days and the debate last night, some may feel that an anti-Trump game seems hardly necessary. But it is a way for gamers and game designers to express themselves in a rancorous political season. They modeled after the wildly popular Pokémon Go mobile game. The mission is to mobilize swing voters in social media networks to stop Trump.
About 10,000 players have already signed up to play the interactive web-based game, which taps social media networks, identifies undecided voters, and mobilizes them to elect Hillary Clinton and stop Donald Trump.
“What if literally every moment between now and November 8, you had a chance to do something that had an impact on the election? Wake up, pull out your phone and swing a voter. Just like catching a Pokémon,” said McGonigal, in a statement. “One-hundred and twenty million adults in the U.S. play video games daily and only 110 million adults vote in presidential elections. Imagine if we could get the rest of those 10 million gamers to vote, what a profound impact that could make. SwingVoter Go gives people a clear tool to influence those voters.”
In MoveOn.org’s SwingVoter Go game, players dubbed “Swing Masters” can find and engage undecided voters like Swingus togetherus (a swing-state resident with the power to make history by helping elect Hillary Clinton), Swingus trumpsalot (an undecided voter planning to vote for Donald Trump but open to changing his or her mind), and Swingus thirdstheword (a swing-state resident planning to vote third-party, or write in a candidate).
SwingVoter Go is based off of the principle that 1-on-1 conversations with voters, especially conversations in which the two parties know each other, have been proven to be powerful techniques to mobilize and influence voter behavior. Like Pokémon Go, the game features “lures,” which in this case are meant to draw an undecided voter into a conversation.
The community’s first goal will be to find and swing 10,000 undecided voters in key battleground states.
“Everyday, millions of people make connections and interact with their networks on social media, but rarely have these networks been tapped to mobilize voters and shape the future of our country,” explained Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, in a statement. “But we know people in our social networks. Whether it’s a family member in Virginia or a friend in Ohio, social media allows us to remain connected to a large community of people whose votes will directly shape this election in a big way.”
McGonigal has previously designed interactive games for Oprah, the American Heart Association, and the New York Public Library. She is a researcher at the Institute for the Future and the author of two best-selling books on the positive impact that games can have on society.
Earlier this year, MoveOn.org members voted to launch a multi-million dollar United Against Hate campaign to stop Donald Trump, keep him out of the White House and ensure the country rejects his hateful and dangerous rhetoric. MoveOn.org has hired more than 150 organizers in 8 states who are mobilizing MoveOn volunteers to knock on more than a million doors and making hundreds of thousands of calls to progressive voters.
In an email, McGonigal said she came up with the idea the morning after the Brexit vote.
“That was a real shock to many people I know. Everyone was predicting that the UK would vote to remain in the European Union,” she said. “And then suddenly the whole country woke up shocked and confused by what they had done. Voters said things like, ‘I didn’t really think my vote would count.’ The number one google search in the U.K. was ‘What is the European Union?’ After that vote, suddenly a lot of people in the U.S. woke up and thought, ‘Look, we really could be about to election Donald Trump no matter what the polls say. Especially if people who think the election is in the bag stay home and don’t result, or think it’s safe to use their vote to support a third party in swing states where the election may be decided.’ So that was the moment when I said, “I want to create something to help everyone think through this and stay engaged even though we’re increasingly frustrated, angry, alienated, stressed out or embarrassed by what this election cycle has become.'”
She added, “Also, I have to say it was a big shock to me to realize that more people have been playing Pokemon Go daily in the U.S. than will be casting votes in the swing states this presidential election. What bothered me about that is Pokemon Go is a game anyone can play. But only a small percent of U.S. citizens get to cast their votes in states where the election can be decided, thanks to the way the Electoral College works. I live in California, so I feel like I’ve been left out of the game that matters. I want to be a part of that game, the swing-state game. So this was my effort to make it possible for people to have an impact bigger than just their one vote, and to play in the swing-state game regardless of where they’re registered.”