We created an election card game in two days. Here’s what we made.

On Super Bowl weekend, while many prepared for the grand finale of this year’s football season, a group of journalists, designers and developers gathered at the HQ of Cards Against Humanity to try and answer this question: how might we grow community around games/gaming?

Organized by the Society for News Design, this latest iteration of SNDMakes challenged its participants to build a prototype in an attempt to solve the above question. Our team — composed of Mallory Busch, Cherisse Datu, Aidan Feay and myself — recognized how much of an impact games have when it comes to educating players (whether they realize it or not) on a variety of topics, like quizzes were you match flags to countries or playing historical simulations.

Working from our collective interest in card games and our desire to work on a project that you can hold in your hands, we decided to create an election-themed card game. From the get-go, this could have been an impossible task. Elections are extremely complicated beasts. How do you capture the complexity of the electoral system in a prototype where we only had two days to conceptualize and build. We decided to focus on a slice of the election pie: the interaction between the stance a candidate takes on an issue and the voters they need to attract to win.

Enter Platform, a fast-paced card game of swaying undecided voters to join your team while attempting to steal voters away from your opponents. The game mechanic is fairly simple, and it offers an important lesson in regards to electoral politics:

  • a candidate has to be strategic about what kinds of voters to attract while ignoring others — you can’t catch them all;
  • voters are complex and hold a diversity of opinions regardless of party preferences;
  • the positions candidates take on issues will have consequences with existing and potential voters.

Platform engages a millennial audience (such as the readers of BuzzFeed Politics, Vox, and Fusion) in localized, offline community building and encourages political participation. In doing so, we’re bridging the gap between news consumers and game players and paving the way for more informative gaming.
News outlets, organizations or gamers could host events where this game is played, providing an opportunity for people to come together and talk about the elections while also having fun through the card game. Think of debate-watching parties, where people get together to watch and discuss a debate. Maybe they play bingo too.
The point is, we think there is potential to have your cake and eat it too: get together with friends or strangers to play a fun game while also coming away with a greater understanding of what’s going on politically than you did coming in.

Platform is still a work in progress, and we need your help to cross the finish line. Here’s our current wish list to help make the game the best it can be:

  • play testing the game to work out the kinks in the rules;
  • seek out possible partners in the media and beyond who may have interest in leveraging Platform to better educate their audiences on political issues;
  • research and make more realistic voters that best reflects the diversity of needs and opinions in the current political landscape;
  • develop possible expansion packs that allow you to play historic or futuristic elections (robots!);

You can download Platform for free here. And here are the rules. Feel free to contact us with questions or comments.