Dec

15

Is Social Gaming the Future of Government?

Mark Stephens

Have you ever doubted the use of social gaming? I think we caught a glimpse of its healthy future last week in the UK when Conservative MP Nigel Mills was caught playing Candy Crush on his iPad when he should have been listening to a crucial committee meeting on pensions...

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Far from this being worthy of our outcry, I think it represents the future of social gaming and of politics. It’s fantastic that Nigel Mills was forward-thinking enough to be an early adopter!

What happened?

Picture the scene. Pensions experts are giving evidence at a House of Commons hearing. Things get a little too boring for MP Nigel Mills and besides – he’d had to leave his game of Candy Crush at a crucial juncture a little earlier at breakfast.

His mind begins to wander. Surely no-one would notice if he had a game or two? He slips the iPad out and logs in with the sound down. Level 94 beckons.

The two-and-a-half-hour meeting simply flies by, with Mills swiping the screen of his iPad, madly trying to complete a new level before the bell rings for home time.

Nobody notices. Just someone who happened to film it and then alert the media so that it was all over the national press the following day. Whoops!

Since then footage has emerged of the same MP using his iPad in three other Commons committee meetings in the past month. Whether he was playing Candy Crush or Hyspherical remains to be seen.

The backlash

The backlash was predictable. A taxpayer-funded iPad being used by an elected member of parliament to play a matching game that his four-year old son also likes to play (OK, I made that last but up, but you get the picture)!

Caught in the act, he had to admit it:

‘There was a bit of the meeting that I wasn’t focusing on and I probably had a game or two’

Yes, he probably did.

Labour politicians predictably jumped on the incident and milked it. One said: ‘I think it’s disgusting. He’s an MP and I find it very worrying.’

More shock and awe followed. Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to admit that he indulges in the odd game of Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. Unfortunately he didn’t elaborate on whether he did that while talking with Vladimir Putin, demanding more austerity measures, or raising the terror threat level. He did say:

‘It is quite addictive, but I want to reassure you I don’t spend a huge amount of time on it.’

Er yep David. We believe you. Ahem!

Potential for politics

The negative reaction is understandable but has anyone considered the huge benefits of more MPs playing social games?

Instead of having elections and voting for our politicians to represent us in the future, how about we just have a massive multiplayer all-in social game between them. The one who complete 50 levels of Candy Crush first is prime minister and the next 20 quickest become his cabinet.

Think about it for a second. No huge amounts of money wasted on political advertising; no endless debates to sit through; and no broken electoral promises.

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Instead we hook them up to iPads, film them and see who comes out on top. Hell, they can’t be any worse than the current crop of politicians we have in Europe, can they?

There are plenty more social gaming initiatives that we could test out with politicians. Instead of writing to our local politician to get something done, we could simply send them an in-game message and emoticon; when we find out they are not doing their jobs properly we can deduct one of their three lives (or maybe all three if they are especially useless); and if we catch them lying or taking bribes we simply suspend their account.

You see…nobody has thought this through properly until now.

This is your political correspondent Mark Stephens reporting for Monkeybin News and returning you to the studio.