People who have spent time with Democracy 3 tend to fall into 1 of 2 camps: those who revel in tinkering with social policy and seeing what becomes of their experiments and those who complain it’s too easy. For the latter group creating a utopia is so simple there’s no challenge to the game at all. Whether coming at it from a right or left wing angle they seem to be able to make life in their chosen country so perfect there’s no point their playing anymore. They render themselves redundant. Clearly these people should be fast tracked into the political elite: politicians so good they eradicate the need for politicians sound ideal, or at least a lot better than the self-serving permanently-electioneering goons we currently have ruling over us.
There is a third camp, one which passes by unnoticed as it’s members seek to conceal their existence in shame. I’m among their number but now I feel I’ve lived too long in the shadows. I need to say this, once and for all, loud and proud:
I am terrible at Democracy 3.
Ok, that may have had more of an impact if the title of this piece didn’t give it away. But seriously: I am irredeemably awful at it. So bad in fact that I have never lasted longer than a single term in office. The first chance the public have to remove me from office they take with glee, often by a landslide big enough to bury a party for good, with the kind of voter turnout you’d expect if Hitler was running on a platform of 100% taxes and banning biscuits. In my defence I’ve only had maybe 4 or 5 games, all in Britain, but I’ve never shown any sign of learning lessons.
I decided I’d have one last go though. I should be able to do this. I think I’m reasonably politically astute – I watch Question Time most weeks, and sometimes I even stop shouting at the idiots in the crowd long enough to take in a few points. I keep abreast of the political news, occasionally even going so far as to actually click on the news stories rather than forming all of my views from the headlines. I’m a bit left of centre politically – not the most popular viewpoint if political commentators are to be believed (and they aren’t) but I’m hardly Chairman Mao, despite me slowly developing a similar physique. Surely I can put together a platform that won’t make voters run away faster than you can say, “Ed Miliband’s obilisk.”
I’m going to try and play calmly and practically and get myself through that election. Or, if not, at least try to pinpoint the reasons for my rampant suckitude.
Let’s see how that goes.
As an Englishman it’s only natural that I should take over as British Prime Minister. Britain is supposedly easy mode on D3, something which is further salt for my already stinging wounds seeing as it’s the only country I ever play. You start with GDP low and unemployment relatively high but with a small deficit giving you plenty of room to maneuver. For those who haven’t played it D3 works like so: you get a certain amount of political capital per turn, the number of which depends on how effective your cabinet is. With it you can introduce new policies or alter existing ones. You have complete budgetary control, able to raise or cut taxes or spending in which ever area you choose. Policies, the issues they affect and the groups who have a vested interest in them are all represented via a lovely set of interconnected circles.
I name my party Wanton Democracy in honour of my old blog and opt to go up against The Conservatives.
I start by introducing a couple of new policies. My usual mistake is to do too much too fast, confusing the electorate into thinking I’m some kind of blithering idiot, when my actions are clearly all part of a grand plan so complex that it can look to the untrained eye like incompetence. The trouble with the UK economy so far as I can see is that it’s something of a technological backwater, a dial up nation in a broadband world. To change this I introduce technology grants and throw some money at science funding. I aim to maintain a low deficit so I need to raise funds for this somehow. I can’t help but revert to my innate lefty instincts and soak the rich and introduce a luxury goods tax. My logic is that if you can afford to pay silly sums for labels and status symbols, the value of which is after all largely in showing off how much you have to spend, then surely you’ll be willing to spend a little more on it.
EVENT: There are events that require immediate attention between turns, as well as a report card on how things are going. My first one asks me to choose whether or not to allow same sex marriage. I say I will. I mean, if even the Tories can do it then surely Wanton Democracy can too.
I’m running a small surplus now so I introduce rent controls. It’s not an immediate problem but homelessness is a factor in the lack of productivity that’s keeping our GDP down. Following these chains is key to success in D3. I think. Not having been successful I’m just guessing. But more than anything it’s the right thing to do – as anyone paying rent these days knows it’s too damn high.
EVENT: I get asked whether I want to limit the activity of debt collection agencies. With a looming recession (having played this before I know the global financial crisis comes a-crashing within a few turns) I figure protecting those about to be hit hard wouldn’t be the worst idea.
I’ve now got a 7bn deficit. As I’d like to stay as close to an even keel as possible so I introduce a mansion tax. For the same reason I introduced the luxury goods tax really. Doubling down on hitting the wealthy is risky but I’m sure the well off won’t mind pitching in for when things get tough. Right?
EVENT: Stress epidemic! The long hours people are working is making them ill apparently. Also the humans rights lobby wants my head for some reason. Didn’t I just legalise gay marriage?
Back to my dreams of a technological utopia. I decide it’s time to end the teaching of creationism in schools. Not to curb it – to end it. Enough of that nonsense. If I want a scientific revolution I need people to think in scientific terms. It will inevitably piss off the religious but I figure I can live without them. And once the economy starts humming in my futuristic wonderland their complaints will be drowned out by the praise for me as the Great Moderniser that I am.
Also to help with the stress levels I introduce maternity leave at full pay. I can’t believe this isn’t already a thing to be honest.
Event – BRAIN DRAIN! Successful people are leaving the country in response to the cost of luxury goods and mansions. This probably shouldn’t be too much of a surprise but I didn’t expect it within 2 turns of introducing the policy. Policy shifts aren’t instantaneous on D3 – and yet straight away I’m being deserted by the rich. However the electorate love me – 73% will vote for me if an election is held at this point so I smugly ignore it. I’m sure it’ll be fine.
I’m asked about fracking – I say boo. Boo to fracking. I’m not sure if this really fits into the sciencey thing I’m going for but my gut says no, despite my knowledge being limited on the subject. I don’t have time to research. This is politics from the heart. To lead us to a country ruled by the mind.
At this early stage it becomes apparent that I may not have a complete idea of what I’m doing.
There’s a small deficit, nothing to worry about, so to appease the brain drainers I lower the luxury goods tax a bit. Which could be seen as something of a flip flop, or being held ransom by rich people. However with the global economy about to drop like my trousers after a particularly strong gin and tonic I figure I could do without the best and brightest leaving. To prove (to myself if no-one else) I’m still committed to Sciencetopia I introduce technology collages. It’ll pay off in the long run. I’m certain.
I also introduce a plastic bag tax. Because I live in wales and it’s an idea nobody minds and does some good. Seriously England, why do you not have this?
EVENT: CREDIT RATING DOWNGRADED! Ah. The global recession has hit like a sack full of horse dung being swung by a maniac in a tuxedo. All those crazy gambling banker’s schemes have come home to roost and as the man in charge I get all the blame. Great stuff. I have less of a deficit than the UK government did in reality at this stage so you’d think I’d be ok with the credit agencies. But that’s the confidence of the market for you. It’s as fragile as a teenage boy on his first night on the town approaching the object of his affection with his heart in his mouth. My investing in things and refusal to play the austerity game is the equivalent to a loud guffaw in the poor boys face, a self-esteem shattering reaction that can only lead to one thing: a BB rating.
The deficit following my tax cut/spending raise of turn #5 is at 28bn. This is, to say the least, a bit of a jump. Whether I like it or not I’m going to have to cut spending. Being the flexible, dynamic, forward thinking man I am I do exactly the same thing that I always do in this scenario – hack at the military. I take us down to reservists. We’re not in active combat anymore and I don’t plan on us being so (if this Tory government has taught me anything it’s that any trouble that arises can be carpet bombed away anyway – who needs ground troops?) so it makes sense. To me at least. I also reduce funding for CCTV – an ideological move perhaps but I’ve always found their proliferation an affront to civil liberties. Also I need the money. I figure the human rights groups might be onside now too – I’ll need support wherever I can get it.
EVENT: MEDIA BACKLASH! I have angered the capitalists and so they’re using the only mouthpiece those poor, unfortunate billionaires have to get back at me – the entirety of the media. My popularity with the people is at 60% despite their smears so I’m not worried. I may have to try and give something to business to get them off my back but I’m short on cash to cut taxes, so I’ll have to try and weather the storm. Surely my technological breakthrough will be here any day now.
The deficit is still rising – the cuts haven’t kicked in yet. The sight of the 36bn spending gap makes me panic a little though. I may need to make an unpopular choice. One of the other factors affecting productivity is alcohol consumption. As much as it goes against everything I believe in the idea of getting a GDP boost and some extra funds is too tempting, so I raise taxes on alcohol. It’s good politics but for the first time Wanton Democracy’s Britain is a place I wouldn’t want to live.
I decide to offset this with something popular. And something cheap. Always a tricky thing to come up with in a pinch but after searching through potential new policies I find something that’s just the ticket – a telecommuting initiative. By promoting people working from home I can ease the stress epidemic, lower car usage (thus helping cure the asthma epidemic – another dampener on productivity apparently) and get a boost in the polls – all for next to nothing. Genius! I should have done this sooner.
Event: ANOTHER DOWNGRADE!
Crap. That’s not good – I’m sticking to my guns and not resorting to swingeing cuts – despite my love of the word swingeing. You don’t hear it in any other context do you? Such a waste. Anyhow, I’m at 66% in the polls despite the credit agency’s naysaying, which gives me some confidence that I’m on the right track. If I can hold around this mark until the technology I’ve invested in starts paying off I’ll be ok. I think. And it can’t take that much longer, surely? What could possibly go wrong in the meantime?
Oh, y’know. Only everything.
Tune in next time as Wanton Democracy continues to gamely battle through the financial crisis whilst contending with civil unrest, angry capitalists and an election it could probably have prepared better for..