E-Game Puts Players at the Helm of Campaigns

Posted October 20, 2004 at 2:50pm

Anyone can run a presidential campaign with Cable in the Classroom’s three-dimensional, high-speed animated Internet game “eLECTIONS: Your Adventure in Politics.”

The free game aims to “educate people on the political process and the power of one vote,” said Sharon Metcalf, director of special projects at CIC and one of the game’s creators. The nonpartisan game allows “everyone to come in and have a fun time learning about the election process,” she said.

Players define a platform, decide which events to participate in, decide how to spend campaign funds, choose key states to run in and hold fundraisers, Metcalf said.

Inspired by The Game of Life, the eLECTIONS has a bouncing donkey and elephant that travel across the game board. Each square on the board reveals information such as breaking news or a skeleton in the closet, she said. Based on this information, the player chooses where to hold a fundraiser and how much money to spend.

“The results of the game are contingent upon the decisions that the players make,” she said.

Metcalf said the secret strategy to the game is to “stick with your issues.” “A lot of people just go for the big bucks and don’t do too well,” she said.

“Consistency is the key,” she said. She joked that the real-life presidential candidates could learn from the game.

The game is not based on the current election and does not require players to follow straight party lines, she said.

The one- or two-player game can last up to 15 minutes when a single player plays against the default opponent and up to 25 minutes when two players play against each other, Metcalf said. To involve more than two people at a time, Metcalf suggested dividing a group of people into campaign staff for the two candidates.

eLECTIONS has sidebars called “Digging Deeper” that offer “a historical and contemporary perspective of elections” with documentary footage from the History Channel and news segments from CNN, Metcalf said.

“Players see new things every time they play the game,” she said. For example, one link shows the presidential campaign commercials dating back to Eisenhower, she said.

The game “engages kids and adults in self-directed learning,” she said. With its combination of text, graphic, audio and video content, the game “appeals to diverse learning styles,” she added.

eLECTIONS is intended for middle-school age players and up. Metcalf said when adults started to play the game at a dinner party, the teenagers who had left the table earlier returned to play the game. “It’s a great game to engage everyone,” she said.

Metcalf said her 16-year-old son enjoys the game and introduced it to his school. The game is helpful to her son who “wants and needs to understand” the details of the election process, she said.

Metcalf, who has played eLECTIONS about 25 times, said the game “pulls you in.”

“It can really be addictive.”

Metcalf said Macromedia.com will feature the game as its Site of the Day this week. She said she was pleased since Macromedia “only chooses sites with rich content and quality multimedia.”

Following the 2003 Webby-nominated “Shakespeare: Subject to Change,” CIC chose the “timely theme of elections” for its second online learning experience, Metcalf said. Starting in June, Metcalf said she and a team worked “24/7 for three months” developing the game.

Metcalf said CIC joined with its partners, CNN and the History Channel, to create eLECTIONS. “The game would not be as rich without this partnership,” she said.

In September, Metcalf said she showed the game to the education and civic community for feedback. Based on the feedback, Metcalf said CIC made changes to the game such as adding resources and teacher tips, and making sure the game was equipped for both Mac and PC users.

CIC “represents the cable telecommunications industry’s commitment to education — to improve teaching and learning for children in schools, at home and in their communities,” Metcalf said. Next year, CIC will release two more online learning experiences — one on weather and one on a topic to be determined, she said.

eLECTIONS is “an evergreen piece that can be used any time,” Metcalf said. The game will still be accessible to all for years to come after the election.

To play the game or for more information, visit https://www.ciconline.org/eLECTIONS.