The Political Machine 2012

Game review by
Chris Morris, Common Sense Media
The Political Machine 2012 Game Poster Image
Kids experience civics by building a dream candidate.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about current events and the political process in this informative simulation/strategy game. The Political Machine 2012 focuses on the same issues dogging candidates for the presidency, ranging from the economy to defense to gay marriage. The option to run your campaign as you see fit gives players insight into how the election process works -- and the pros and cons of smear campaigns. By managing a campaign, kids simulate running for the presidency and explore campaign methods. 

Positive Messages

Players can choose to run either a positive campaign or one filled with attack ads targeting their opponent. Either strategy can be effective. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are multi-racial and both sexes are represented in the game. Appearance doesn't matter for the most part, though. It's a game that focuses on the issues, although you can hire a stylist to help boost your poll numbers. 

Ease of Play

The game is easy to pick up and has an adequate tutorial. Players must take stances on issues that are likely to win votes, while simultaneously winning endorsements and raising cash. 

Violence

There's no violence in the campaign, though there are references to real world events, like troops in Afghanistan and video game violence. 

Sex

There's no sex in the campaign, though there are references to real-world events, like the Chick-fil-A gay marriage controversy.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Political Machine 2012 is a political simulation/strategy game that lets players get a feel for campaign life. Players pick a political figure (ranging from the current presidential candidates to political -- and non-political -- figures from the news) from either the Republican or Democratic Party or create one of their own and attempt to win votes around the country. While there are no direct references to sex or violence, the issues on the campaign are some of the real ones facing candidates today, including troop withdrawals and gay marriage, which might be a bit much for younger players. It's also the player's call as to which way the campaign will run: on the issues or focused on attacking opponents. There's a multiplayer mode with lobby chat functionality that could expose kids to inappropriate language. 

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What's it about?

Players can run the campaign they want to see in The Political Machine 2012. Whether it's issue-focused or an out-and-out brawl, they get to set the tone as they try to sway voters. Candidates will fly to the state of their choice, where they can create an ad for newspaper, radio, or TV (helping to boost awareness of their stance on an issue), give a speech on the issue of their choice (with topics ranging from unemployment to video game violence), fundraise, build a headquarters (to help bring in money and build political capital), or lobby special interest groups.

The game shows critical information such as electoral votes, your awareness level, and the top issues of that state to help guide your campaign. After you've decided on your candidate and opponent (or made your own), you start campaigning, with each turn representing a week. Every action in the game costs stamina (of which you have a limited amount per week) and cash, meaning players must decide on how best to use their resources.

Is it any good?

The Political Machine 2012 won't turn people who can't stand politics into political animals, but if you've got even a passing interest in the process of governing, it's a fun (and semi-educational) look at how leaders are selected. There are a lot of moving parts to keep up with -- from finances to political operatives to endorsements to stump speeches -- but it's well organized and never becomes overwhelming. Political Machine 2012 lets players focus on how best to communicate with voters. Do your views mesh with theirs? Should you pander? Should you go on the offense and run a vicious attack campaign? The strength of the game is you have the opportunity to do each and see which is the most effective way to win. 

And while it's fun to run as Obama and Romney, it's equally fun to play "what if" scenarios -- such as if Donald Trump or Michelle Obama were the candidates instead. It may not predict the results of November, but it will put you in control of the candidates, if only for a short while. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the issues the game presents. What's more important to kids? Healthcare? The economy? Taxes? The environment?

  • Did you think this game taught you more about the political process? Do you like playing games that teach about history and civics?

Game details

For kids who love simulations and learning games

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