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…

Are we starting from youth…

I'm at a conference on Young People, New Technologies and Political Engagement.

The title of the conference is the right way round – but most of the parallel papers I've listened to have been presented back to front. They seem to have started from Politics and Technology – with only a passing reference too or understanding of young people.

Unless we start exploring e-democracy for youth engagement from an understanding of the 'objective' processes of youth development, from young peoples subjective experiences and from the perspective of the political issues facing young people – we're going to keep on missing the point.

We need to define the population we're talking about. We need to understand if anything makes this group different. What are the features of this population, either as a generation cohort, or as a stage of life – that makes their engagement with democracy or with democracy through technology different from that of any other population?

Young People, New Technologies and Poltical Engagement

I'm at a conference on Young People, New Technologies and Poltical Engagement for the next few days and I'm going to hopefully be experimenting with blogging as a way of distilling insights gathered and making sense of the wealth of ideas, learning and input I'm expecting. (battery power and WiFi permitting).

I'll probably be posting without links at first, and I'll come back to posts later in the week to tag and link – as the blogging client I'm using seems not to like tagging posts properly…

Also experimenting with twittering short nuggets that I'm not going to be able to turn into blog posts…