A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Political Machine 2020 is a downloadable strategy game for Windows PCs. The title deals with the upcoming 2020 election and touches on topics such as climate change, the coronavirus, LGBTQ issues, tax breaks, minimum wages, and many other political talking points. It also updates frequently to address and include current issues to keep it topical. It comes with five difficulty levels and decent customization of characters and agendas to test and challenge players' skills at juggling their campaigns.
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What's it about?
THE POLITICAL MACHINE 2020 scratches the surface of the machinations of hitting the campaign trail, tackling a wide range of issues, spending wisely to win votes and, ultimately, the White House. It features real-world politicians on both sides of the aisle (Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz, to name a few). Alternatively, players can create their own character, then set an ideology (for example, Biden Liberalism, Trumpian Populism, Tulsi's Better World, or Yang's Singularity) and take a stance on a wide range of issues to form a platform. There are five difficulty settings from Cakewalk ("A baby could become president in this mode. They shouldn't. But they could.") to Masochistic ("Warning: you will lose. There will be tears. You've been warned"). Players can take part in town halls, buy advertising, and appear on televised interviews to boost their voter base. There's also an AI versus AI mode where players pick opponents and let the computer hash it out, or a multiplayer mode against other political gamers online.
Is it any good?
There's a lot to campaigning for the office of president that gets overlooked, though this strategy game attempts to reference the depth of the entire process. Does The Political Machine 2020 manage to succeed? In a basic way, it hints at the complexity of the political campaigning machine and then tries to fast-track it by providing a resource gathering element (such as fundraising, spending cash on staff, or advertising) while scratching the surface of the issues facing the country. Yes, there are real-world people included to give some credibility to the foundation, but the way the game's put together almost trivializes the process. Players get points to build ideologies and take a stance on the issues, then traverse the country trying to win votes. The graphical elements aren't all that complex, which is good because that puts the challenge on the strategic elements. Honestly, the game is actually won or lost early when ideology and positions on issues are assigned points by the computer, because from that moment on, the player is either on the upswing or struggling.
The Political Machine 2020 allows for good customization and a great range of difficulty levels, and those are both positives. The downside is that it attempts to tackle a subject that's far too deep to embrace the entertainment elements of the RTS (real-time strategy) genre. Give the publisher kudos for the effort, and a round of applause for actually acknowledging how involved a campaign can be, but because the game is built for entertainment, it stumbles in the polls.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about staying safe in multiplayer games. Why is it important to protect personal information and identity when you're playing with others on the internet, especially with people you don't know?
Why is it important to understand the issues and challenges facing the country? Why is it important to vote?
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