There are simulation games that try to be neutral. SimCity never sets out its urban planning philosophy. With democracy, you can rewrite the rules to play any democratic system in roles. These are games that aim to reflect reality, and sometimes developers even shy away from the idea that they have an ideology at all.
The simulator for democratic socialism is not an allegedly dispassionate system. It is a new project from Molleindustria, the studio founded by Carnegie Mellon professor and developer Paolo Pedercini and known for games like Phone Story and Every Day the Same Dream. DSS is partly ironic edutainment and partly a joke and makes you America's first democratic-socialist president. You will then be hit by scandals, lobbyists and the impending environmental damage, all of which are played with colorful talking animals.
The DSS user interface puts your (literal) cards on the table and encourages you to rebuild America based on environmental sustainability, economic equality, employee organization and civic engagement – "all the good" as the game calls the "people's power" meter. This is done through a binary selection system in the Reigns style. Consultants ask political questions that can be as serious as building a border wall or as trivial as choosing your outfit for a speech. You pull the card towards one of two options, and the game responds with short- and long-term consequences.
Instead of being a monarch, you are the president. So your decisions don't just make you more or less popular. Some are not possible without a congressional majority, depending on the Democrats' performance in the midterm elections, which depends on how many voters you win or alienate. Decisions can disappoint your advisors or even make them stop – and since they're all cute anthropomorphized animals, like a polar bear protector or a black panther civil rights activist, this is emotionally devastating.
Swipe left with the Space Force
The game requires more pragmatism than the name suggests. In an introduction to the game, Pedercini says that it is not designed as a "power fantasy" for democratic socialists, but as a way to design ambitious strategies like the Green New Deal while exploring their obstacles – you can even create a table with everyone Read election and selection episode. So the options are not all socialist, the socialist options do not always have positive effects, and you cannot dampen the opposition by disregarding traditional politics. (Let the deficit grow too much, and even Jacobin – sorry, "Jackalin" – will scold you!)
The game includes hard fail conditions such as the loss of your reelection bid, the request to resign and failure, the violent removal from office. At best, hand over the country to a new president with a decent democratic approval rating, a solid political record, and a significantly reduced carbon footprint.
My DSS playthroughs were characterized by sluggishness and compromises. I was thrown out of office twice: once as an unshakable socialist and once as a corporate xenophobia that blew up my budget for deportations. Otherwise, I held the course in a predictable way. I would put my emphasis on nationalizing Google or massively taxing pollution, and then throwing a bone at the billionaires at a conciliatory meeting. Regrettably, swipe left on some of the smaller files on the left. Then treat yourself to a little sincere satisfaction (end of deposit!) As a reward.
But pragmatic is not the same as amoral. DSS is written like a light-hearted but pious DSA Twitter account that makes fun of overloaded military budgets ("Budget Item: Space Force … is still finding its purpose. Very promising"), shy centrist democrats and a hyper-ventilating one Fox News Presenter is literally a fox. It allows for different political positions, but does not present them as equally ethical and does not suggest that the players simply express themselves in a judgment-free sandpit.
At the same time, Pedercini suggests that DSS has no clear message about socialism, also because it is based so much on randomness and unintended consequences. The text emphasizes that you are playing simulations that naturally involve simplifications, artificial limits and possibly direct errors. Instead of commenting on whether socialism "works" or how it can be achieved, the Democratic Socialism Simulator is simply a political game that treats democratic socialist politics like sensible ideas and then plays off their compromises in a surprisingly delightful environment. This is more than enough reason to try it out.
The Democratic Socialism Simulator is available for Android, MacOS, Windows and Linux and is waiting for approval by the App Store for iOS.