Gamification Can Save Dutch Politics

The general opinion in the Netherlands right now is ‘politics are boring and we never get what we want.’

Not surprising really: The political culture of the Netherlands has changed over the last couple of years. You see that flashy arguments and a bit of entertainment is the current ‘norm’ in getting the attention you want. For a lot of political parties this breeds the concern that we are no longer engaged in the underlying topics and more interested in flashy debates. We also see in the Netherlands that, because of this underlying shift in Dutch politics, people no longer really get what politics in the Netherlands is truly about.

the-hague-895640_1280The Hague

IamProgrez was  tasked with the following question: “How would we use Gamification in politics to get people more engaged in the topics and processes of the political parties? Politics are often seen as boring and something that only ‘dull’ adults are involved in. In my perspective that’s not the case. Politics can be thrilling and exciting and really interesting at times but somehow people (especially youngsters) don’t seem to feel that same thrill. You might argue that politics is boring and not for youngsters but I don’t buy that.

If you look at popular games and TV series you will discover politics is at the heart of them all. The most popular TV series at this moment, Game of Thrones, is about different factions battling for their land. It is filled with political intrigue and strategic alliances. Another highly popular TV series, House of Cards, nothing but politics and striving for the highest seat in the government.

It also exists where you might not expect it: Popular games (you’ll find that they contain a lot of politics). In some games that’s the core game-play mechanic that makes the game so popular. One of the most famous examples is the strategic game Civilization. Other games where there are lots of players online at the same time you’ll see that it’s the politics and the interaction between factions  that is  keeping these games successful and their communities engaged .

EveCCP Game’s Eve Online

A fantastic example of is the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game EVE Online where in the last couple of months a war waged between two opposing factions for weeks. During this war hundreds of players were engaged in battle at the same time and a million dollar (real dollars) were spent in game to win the war. The story of how this war started sounds like something out of a science fiction novel but it’s all real.

So why do we like politics in our games and TV series but are we not enthusiastic about the politics of our own country?

The answer is simple: it’s about Engagement. The reason we like House of Cards or Game of Thrones or games like Eve Online, which are bloated with politics, is that we are engaged in every choice that’s being made. The real success behind House of Cards is the fact that Kevin Spacey breaks the third wall and speaks directly to the audience about his plans. By doing this he gives you insight into every choice he makes  and you are inevitably engaged in the tough decisions he makes.  In Game of Thrones you view the series from the perspectives of all sides giving you insight into the core elements that drive them to make their political decisions.

house of cardsNetflix’s House of Cards’s Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey)

In gaming the link to engagement is more obvious. For example, in the famous strategy game series Civilization you are building an empire on a piece of land where other players or other world leaders are busy doing the same. The interactions you have with the other world leaders are crucial to the success of your Civilization. The cool thing about this game is that is also gives clear insight into the impact your actions have on the politics between you and the other world leaders. Once you place military units near their borders they will react. Once you invade another world leader others will be wary about you and might start punishing you for invading their ally. This game shows you the real effects and impact your actions can have on world politics and the importance of having good ties with your neighboring countries.

Civ‘A Simple Misunderstanding’ in Firaxis Games’s Civilization V

So, after making my (rather obvious) point of engagement being why we don’t like politics anymore, one might argue that democracy is based on engagement. While democracy can only function with engagement you still see that the way we like to engage in this time period is far from the way we liked to engage in times when democracy was created.  Because of this we see that in the Netherlands the only ones who are truly engaging in politics are only a small part of the general public.

This is creating a Plutocracy which is intolerable: For Dutch society or any other Society for that matter

Nowadays when you ask random youngsters how they feel about voting they will say that it doesn’t matter if they vote or not, because they never see the effects of their vote. I believe this is something that is key to getting people engaged. In Gamification giving clear feedback of someone’s actions is imperative if you want people engaged.

In modern politics right now that is certainly not the case. Too much is happening behind closed doors for the general public to feel like they have some sort of influence on decisions that are being made.

closed doorsWhat the Youth think of ‘behind closed doors’

So, how could we achieve this? I believe that we have the technology and the software to make all these processes insightful. To make politics more engaging we need to create a system which can show us the impact of a vote, the passing of a bill, maybe even the effect of a good debate on the perspectives of the governing parties and on the general public. With such a system we gain insight into how the political climate shifts and changes once we take certain actions. We could also Gamify this by granting people points or ranks for giving a good arguments or making a statement that gets accepted by the opposition party.

We can not do this not ‘just’ for the politicians but more importantly: Our Citizens!

Let them take part in decision making and level a digital rank based on how well they engage in debates, make arguments or create alliances. This way the general public gets real insight in the impact their voice has on the governing of their country and getting them engaged in the process. Participation is the principal component of democracy and through a system like this we could get people excited about politics once more.

People at first will not get how you can combine gaming and politics to make politics more exciting. But if you look around at popular games and series you’ll see that it are more exciting than ever before. We only need to implement new ways to get people engaged in political action and show them how it can be done.


I think it’s about time that politics gets a firmware update. It’s time to create a new democracy where we combine Gamification and politics to truly get people engaged in the governing of their own country.

All the pieces are there we just need to build it.

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