The gamification of politics

Politics and video games aren't typically discussed in the same breath, but digital strategists say gamification can actually be a powerful tool for identifying and engaging the public.

“67 percent of households are playing games," said Jordan Raynor, vice president of media and public affairs at Engage. "Why can’t we make politcal advocacy fun?"

Raynor was part of a Thursday panel at C&E’s 2011 CampaignTech conference that examined how nonprofits and other advocacy groups are using online gaming to engage constituents.  

The idea of weaving game features into campaign strategies isn’t necessarily new; after all, the basic premise of competition is at the heart of both gaming and politics. But now technology has enabled practitioners to take it to the next level.

"Marketing through games is acknowledging that there’s a tremendously large audience that engage with them," said Michael Silberman, the global director of digital innovation at Greenpeace.

Silberman pointed to a campaign called VW Darkside, which is an effort designed to convince German automaker Volkswagon to support climate change policies. The campaign is a spoof of the company's popular Super Bowl Darth Vader ads and enlists new members to join and bring friends into the fight as Jedi.

"Make the basic message as interesting and compelling to reach as many people as possible," said Liz Mair, founder of Mair Strategies.

One way to make gamification more practical is engaging canvassers in competitions and encouraging attendance at campaign events.

"Gamification has a place for expanding the pie [for entertainment]" Raynor said. "In political campaigns I don't think we're looking to expand the pie, I think we're looking to make the pie sweeter and more substantive."

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