Using Democracy 4 to teach politics and economics I’ve been selling educational site licenses for the Democracy series of games pretty much since I started making them, after people who taught politics started to contact me. I’ve always been very proud of the fact that a long list of educational establishments around the world have been using the game to teach so many people. It feels like a sort of vindication of the game’s design that teaching professionals think its accurate and reliable enough, that they will use it in education. I have to admit, that I don’t really put that much effort into promoting the game as an educational tool. I have made a few attempts to do so in the past, but I found it quite frustrating to make any progress. It reminds me a lot of the sort of bureaucracy that I have experienced in trying to build a solar farm. The amount of paperwork, accreditation, form-filling and documentation required to sell educational software is enough to put me off. Its ironic that teaching establishments, which should ideally be very future-focused (after all, you are teaching people at the start of what could be very long lives), are in fact incredibly slow when it comes to adopting new things. The minute you add a ton of bureaucracy or process to a system, you make adopting new technology or ideas more trouble than it is worth, especially if there is no pressure on the people responsible to update their teaching methods. When I studied at the London School of Economics, it was a very dry, and very boring process. The cutting edge technology at the time was for students to place their own mini tape recorders or dictaphones at the foot of a stage where an extremely bored tenured professor would drone on about IS/LM curves until we all fell asleep. Lectures were not put online, for the very simple reason that there was no online yet. I find economics, and Politics to be fascinating topics, but the way they were taught in the early 1990s was far from exciting or interesting. The topics were presented mostly as maths, and mostly as equations drawn literally in chalk on a board. There was no excitement, no attempt to make the subject matter appealling, interesting or memorable. This is something that modern teachers like Scott Galloway are doing a lot to change. Its perfectly possible to make subjects exciting, interesting, even hilarious. I would LOVE to trade in my education back then, for learning science and business from scott galloway’s youtube videos, or veritasium and similar science channels. Youtube is the new lecture theater, and its way, way better. Democracy 4 takes all this a stage further, because not only does the game present the topics of politics and economics in a much more accessible way than a textbook, its interactive. Its one thing to read a dry textbook description of hyperinflation, or sovereign debt crisis throughout history, but its another thing (and I suspect far more memorable), to experience them as disastrous events in a computer game you are playing, as they upset and derail all your plans for your country! In general, its far better to learn things in a multi-sensory and personal way, than to have facts book-splained to you in a dry and academic environment. Interactive learning is orders-of-magnitude better than just expecting people to read dry descriptions and memorize theories and principles purely because they might come up in an exam, and that might have some impact on some future job interview that you might reluctantly apply for… I didn’t set out to make edutainment, and I would definitely not describe Democracy 4 as an educational game. Its a game about a topic that is often taught in schools, and its as accurate as I can make it, while still being fun. I absolutely believe that this is the best way to about creating software that can be used in schools. Make something interesting and entertaining and fun, and then also make it accurate where it matters, and that way students will WANT to engage with it, and will take a real interest. One of the most boring topics in economics is interest rates. What makes it worse is that a HUGE swathe of macroeconomic theory is about interest rates. I studied it for year and still found it boring. However, when you wrap the topic up in a video game where government debt interest becomes a variable that the player has to keep an eye on, in order to ‘win’, the topic suddenly becomes much more interesting. I suspect we are heading towards a future where physics lessons are more like playing kerbal space program, where art classes are like using VR sculpting tools, where astronomy is taught using universe sandbox and where yes, economics is taught with Democracy 4. The only barriers to making education like this, is getting past the ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome that has historically kept ‘games’ out of schools. Both teachers and parents still seem resistant to the idea that games can teach, and probably fear looking like they are slacking their ‘serious’ responsibilities by introducing something marketed as a game into a classroom. I suspect I do not have the time, or the patience to work my way around the school-boards and educational departments all over the world to persuade them to buy Democracy 4 site licenses, although I would love it to be more widespread. If you are a teacher, or work in education in any capacity, I urge you to give it some thought. Ideally I’d do some deal with a country’s department of education to make it usable in every school, but my mind just recoils in horror at the number of meetings that would require :D.