Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Visualising party membership & loyalty

Here is a screenshot from democracy 4 that I am not happy with, and I’ll explain why:

This is the parties screen in a 3-party game, and shows details of each party. The data presented is members, activist (real dedicated members who help get-out the vote, and then a scatter graph showing ‘approval of the party’ by every voter showing how close or far away they are from becoming members.

That third chart is the one I added today, and am thinking it kinda sucks. Its supposed to help the player understand fluctuations in party membership by giving them more than the ‘binary’ data of whether a voter is a member or not. This is because in the real world, people can be moderate members (they joined once, but don’t read the newsletter, and don’t get involved beyond just paying membership fees), right up to passionate members who become activists, hand out leaflets, attend rallies, and volunteer to help with fundraising and phone-banking.

The distinction is important, because you can have a party filled with extreme loyalists (unlikely to quit if you upset them a bit) or with moderate ‘soft membership’, where they are already disillusioned and the slightest policy shift will cause a collapse in membership.

BTW party membership matters because membership raise funds (used in campaigning), and members ALWAYS vote, regardless of usual turnout figures.

The problem is, I don’t think those charts make much sense to anybody who didn’t code the game… They shows party ‘approval’ on the Y axis (the X axis is random plotting), and approval depends on how close the voters opinions are to the parties position, and how close it has been over a period of time. This is complex and vague.

I think I might replace it with a single, taller graph that works differently and shows the range of approvals from zero (I HATE the government) to 1 (I LOVE the government), and plots everyone on that axis. We already have that (in a different axis) for the popularity analysis on the ‘everyone’ screen:

So I can do that but tilted anticlockwise 90 degrees. How does this help? Here is my magic idea:

I give each party a color (green, red blue) and I use those 3 colors to colorize the dots for each voter, showing how close they are to each parties platform. Voters who are members get colorised, others just get plotted in grey. I think this will work tons better, and it will make more sense… maybe. I’ll try it and post it tomorrow.

Ok…I couldnt stop and eat until i tried it. I think its better (needs some formatting tweaks)… thoughts…?

On social media…

Social media is awful.

Not exactly news, but something I’ve been mulling over a lot lately. I’m old enough, and techy enough to remember the very early days of the internet, where you dialed in with a 28k modem and paid by the minute to be online. In many ways the experience sucked, slow downloads (google was initially popular because its homepage loaded quickly), no possibility of video, and only real maniacs bought and sold stuff online.

But in many ways, it was much better then than now. There were few people online, and very little commercialisation, so nobody tried to monetize the net. Accessing it was slow and expensive, so encouraging people to be online all the time was impossible. There was no social media, and there was a thing called ‘netiquette’ that people actually (mostly) took seriously.

In 2020, the internet is an absolute cesspit, bringing out the absolute worst in human behavior. Its almost impossible to enjoy surfing the web without being sucked into social media. Every site wants you to log in with your social media usernames, so you can be tracked, analyzed, categorised and above-all, monetized. Clearly at some point, someone realized that the one thing that keeps people online (and thus seeing ads) was anger. Anger is the ultimate emotion. Get people angry and they will keep posting, retweeting liking, replying, hating.

The lack of moderation on youtube, twitter, reddit, facebook is not an accident. its not penny-pinching or ineptitude or cost cutting. It is deliberate. Its trivial to have a blocklist of 1,000 most common abusive terms, and shadow ban anybody for 24 hours if they use >1 of those per day. Trivial. 5 minutes coding. no cost, easy. But that might reduce monetization, so it will never, ever happen.

I know people with 100+ word blocklists for twitter who say they still find browsing the site infuriating and abusive. This is insane. We have all got addicted to anger, fury, yelling at strangers online. It affects all our mental health, and achieves nothing. How many people’s opinions are changed by twitter hashtags? if it was >0 Bernie Sanders would be president and Jeremy Corbyn would be prime minister.

The weirdest thing is I have found it affecting my own thinking in a stupid and unproductive way. Not only do I sometimes see something or do something that makes me think ‘ooh! this would make a great tweet’, instead of just enjoying/laughing at it, I actually feel a real *pull* now to ‘engage’ on social media.

A few nights ago I watched a fairly good(ish) thriller movie. Last night I rewatched The Rise of Skywalker. I could tell you what I thought about both of them if you like… but honestly why do you care? There are professional movie reviewers out there. I’ve almost forgotten what its like to read an article/listen to music/watch some TV and NOT tell the whole world what was good/bad/interesting/silly about it. Look at me! I watched a TV show, here is my HOT TAKE that you all NEED right now. How bad does it get? I ate a sausage roll this lunchtime. it was ‘meh’. OMG HOLD THE FUCKING FRONT PAGE.

In some ways, this is harmless, but in others its just a massive waste of human potential. How much time in my life has been wasted reading random stranger’s hot takes on the new X men movie, or hearing what they think of Socialism/Superhero movies/Elon Musk/Cats vs Dogs? How has my life been enriched at any point, in even a small way, by seeing hashtags? Why do I care what Sylvia in Chicago thinks about Trans bathroom rights? Why should I care if Donald in Michigan is a ‘proud trump supporter’, how the fuck is it neccesary for me to know what random strangers think about fringe issues and conspiracy theories…?

I’ve had a blog for a long time (a REAL long time), and I think its a much better place for writing down thoughts. They can be long form, actually edited (omg imagine the technology), they can’t be taken down by some silicon valley dicks who think they can censor the internet (this is my own wordpress install on a server my company rents), and if I dont like peoples replies or comments I can just fucking delete them, or even ban the commenters. I think I vastly prefer blogging to social media.

So I have totally abandoned facebook, (I have an account purely to message people in my village, and manage my existing pages for games), and am trying to restrain myself from using twitter. (I have zero belief that using twitter really gives you any kind of real business benefits in 2020. All those game devs retweeting your game announcement are just gamedevs, they also are followed only by each other. Its not going to move the needle in terms of marketing.) In a perfect world, I’ll have disappeared from all social media in a few months time, and be happier and healthier for it. meanwhile people can continue hurling abuse at each other without me needing to know about it.

I normally tweet about new blog posts, but seriously, why should I do that?