Gaming in e-democracy

A presentation by Ben Whitnail of Delib on games and narrative in e-democracy:

  • Just because young people are on the internet and you are on the internet – doesn't mean you're going to meet.
  • The big question: why would anyone want your content?
  • Online is about choice, driven by search, people find what their looking for – not what you want to present to them.
  • Casual games act as a motivation for people to come and visit your content.
  • Games are growing as a marketting tool. Branded games. Viral games.
  • Games are great communication tools
    • Incentive and reward
    • Structure and narrative
    • Interaction and exploration (for education / informing)
    • Inputs and information capture (for consultation)
    • Personalised, shareable experience (for peer-to-peer collaboration)
  • "You could learn a lot about someone from watching the way they play the Sims"

Types of games:

  • One-to-many: Demgames – simple narrative but sophisticated ideas are shared.
  • Many-to-one: Budget Simulator – priority setting mechanisms for budget consultations – with feedback about the impact of choices
  • Many-to-many: Pimp my Party – game for the a conservative think tank that introduces serious questions mixed in with 'fun' questions
  • Sharing – MyAbodo

Key elements

  • Every game has a clear proposition at the start. E.g. captain campaign – "this game is about winning public support for your issue"
  • Inputs and interactions – feedback tools


Q: Can we take what is said in a game and use it to inform policy.

"You said you wanted more Parks in your game – That's where we've spent the money…" "But I only said that in the game!"

You have to frame the tool in context. If you tell people their views will feed into decision making – then the users have to be accountable for their views.


In games you provide input, and you see the consequences. In consultation, you provide input…. and you don't get to see the consequences for a long time. What about in-person games with young people and councillors looking at local planning? Participative simulation games?

Is the feedback about choices made in budget simulator democratising or giving too much power to councils to decided what the impact of certain budget decisions will be? Budget simulator is a mixture of consultation and educating citizens. Do we need consultation pure? Or can we have this mixture…