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6 Games for Talking About the Election

In the wake of the US presidential election, many of us are deciding what comes next in our classrooms and scholarship. There are no easy answers to this question, and the national divisions are echoed on campus with consequences we are only beginning to understand. However, if you do plan to address these topics in your classroom, games can provide a potentially less threatening opening for sharing experiences. Here are a few games with topics and commentary relevant to the election and current issues at the forefront of political discourse that might prove useful as conversation starters in the coming semesters:

  • The Voter Suppression Trail is a game created by Chris Baker, Brian Moore, and Mike Lacher, released by The New York Times earlier this month. It simulates the experience of different voters trying to overcome obstacles in the process of casting their votes. The game’s old-school, pixel art aesthetic (as shown in the screenshot above) and “difficulty” settings recall Oregon Trail, which helps make the difficult subject matter more approachable.

  • Win the White House, a game developed by Filament Games in 2012 and revamped for the 2016 election, is a presidential campaign simulator designed to make the election process more transparent. While it is really developed for younger students, it can be a helpful starting point for discussions about how these systems work.

  • The Migrant Trail, part of The Undocumented project, is also inspired by Oregon Trail. It offers two paths to players: play as a member of the border patrol, or play as one of several migrants trying to cross the US-Mexico border. Over the course of repeated playthroughs, the game represents the different experiences and fates of 12 would-be migrants. The aesthetic combines photography and videos with the game play.

  • Syrian Journey, a newsgame developed for the BBC, builds on documentation of the experiences of migration from Syria. The player is invited to make difficult choices on what path to take and who to trust in trying to make the journey. The game is primarily text-based, although it is supplemented by a number of videos and interviews as well as some illustrations and maps.

  • Choice: Texas, co-developed by Carly A. Kocurek and Allyson Whipple with a team funded in part through an Indiegogo campaign, invites players to take on the role of one of five women trying to navigate Texas’s reproductive care system. It’s a text-based game with an emphasis on narrative and developing the character’s lives and obstacles. Given current discussions regarding the fate of reproductive rights and access, the game is a powerful starting point for the national conversation.

  • Police Bear by Anna Anthropy was developed in 2011 as a concise text-based game commenting on interactions between police and protesters during Occupy Wall Street and related movements. It continues to be relevant today. It invites the player to occupy an exaggerated position of a police officer bear (yes, literally a bear) frustrated by interactions with protesters.

Have you played any games that are useful for discussing issues like these? Share them in the comments.

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