Campaign ‘84: The video game!

Last week I wrote an article for Slate about the Howard Dean online video game. I called it the first-ever game to explicitly model the dynamics of a U.S. political campaign.

I was wrong. Vince wrote in to point out that back in the 80s, the ancient ColecoVision system had a game called Campaign ‘84. Follow the link in that last sentence and you can read a full writeup of it at Classic Gaming, which neatly describes the satiric gameplay:

After you pick your issues, you receive generous grants from AiPAC and immediately start funnelling all your campaign contributions to your secret offshore Cayman Islands holding corporation. No, wait… actually you pick your political affiliation. You can either be a Donkey, a political animal noted for its stubborn steadfastness and quiet elegance, or an Elephant, a proud beast known for its ability to squash smaller creatures beneath its mammoth heel. Then you must campaign across the entire United States (except Hawaii and Alaska), collecting money and avoiding scandal. See the realism?

Speaking of realism, one of the “scandals” is apparently “your intern being discovered nude in a pile of Cuban cigars”. Christ, who programmed this thing? Tiresius?

Anyway, all you truly hard-core gaming freaks can download a ColecoVision emulator — and then a version of the Campaign ‘84 game itself, from Classic Gaming.

(Thanks to Vince for finding this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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