The Political Machine 2012 (Stardock)As the race for the White House heats up, presidential hopefuls find themselves in situations that were unthinkably outlandish just a matter of months ago as they do whatever it takes to win.
While this metaphor could arguably extend to the real-world candidates, we're actually talking about the scenarios conjured up by the cottage video game industry that springs up during election years. The 2012 election has become fair game for developers to exploit -- and the advent of the social and mobile gaming world has opened the floodgates.
This year's crop of political games runs the gamut from semi-serious to absolutely ludicrous. If the stump speeches, endless bickering and countless photo ops are beginning to wear down your interest in who will become the next leader of the free world, maybe these can help bring you back to the party — whichever one you prefer.
It's not a real election until there's a simulation game about the election. Run as your candidate of choice or enter the fray with a new candidate of your own, complete with animated 3D faces and more than four hours of voice impersonation. You'll hit the campaign trail, stump, deal with Super PACs, budget your campaign and (natch) get into dirty politicking. There's also a 'realistic' mode that uses actual opinion polls and vote projections, which are updated regularly. The $20 game also has a multiplayer mode.
Approval rating: 65 percent. It's a great game for people who are deeply into the mechanics of politics and want to see how they'd fare on the trail, but the high price tag could scare a good number of voters away.
The veteran candidate in this race, The Political Machine has been a part of election-themed gaming for years. Playing as one of the major candidates (or one of your own choosing), you'll try to sway voters and win the presidency. What makes the $10 game unique is how closely it mirrors the actual political hot potatoes of the day. This year's version, for instance, just added "Chick-fil-et" as a new issue, letting your candidate weigh in on the fast food restaurant's gay marriage stance.
Approval rating: 80 percent. The price is right. The game is topical. And it accurately captures the feel of the campaign.
There are card decks for just about everything else on earth, so why not politicians? And if you're going to go through the effort to make 'em, why not add some humor to them? True political wonks can get an actual set of these playing cards, but the rest of us can enjoy them in this 99-cent online solitaire game. All of the various political figures are depicted in a classic Hollywood movie with a related movie quote. (Ron Paul, for instance, is shown in a scene from The Music Man, saying "you've got trouble right here in River City, with a capital T".)
Approval rating: 55 percent. Plenty of the jokes fall flat, but it's hard to go wrong with solitaire.
You might expect Comedy Central to have one of the sillier games of this election year. Instead, it has one of the smartest. Players answer a series of questions about the world of politics (ranging from what makes Washington's senators unique to nicknames news anchors have for candidates) and attempt to win enough states to conquer their opponents. It's a quick-witted political trivia game that includes the requisite Daily Show level of snark with some really smart gameplay.
Approval rating: 90 percent. This one's a lock for re-election in our free time.
This free iOS game matches some of the most familiar faces in politics -- including Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump (though not President Obama, unless you get the paid version) -- in an ongoing series of "debates," which are actually a match-three game. The quicker you get matches and the more you stymie your opponent, the more momentum you build, ultimately winning the debate.
Approval rating: 45 percent. It's full of wildcards and is good for a quick diversion, but ultimately the repetitive gameplay keeps it off the ballot.
MTV plans to launch this desktop/mobile game in the coming weeks. Players will draft a 'team' of candidates — much like a game of fantasy football. They'll then earn points when those candidates exhibit "behaviors voters deserve," while they'll be penalized for "behaviors that hurt our democracy" according to a statement from the network. Those points will be based on data from the network's partners, including the Center for Responsive Politics. Players can also get points for checking in via FourSquare at election-themed events.
Approval rating: TBD