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October 23, 2006

Blog 6 - Fantasy Politics: Who's Your Pick?

Internet is frequently used as a way to recreate fantasy environments. It can give you a chance to do things you cannot do in real life. Such notion is demonstrated by EA’s success in launching “reality” games like Sims and Sims Online. Another example is fantasy sports, which allows users to draft and manage their own team of real life players in all major sports, and compete against others for prizes or pride. Now, this phenomenon is carrying over in to the world of politics.

Just as millions participate in fantasy sports every year, college students in California have created a “Fantasy Congress.” Drawing much of its influence from fantasy sports, participants draft a team of real politicians and actually compete against other teams.

Fantasy sports, especially fantasy football have grown to such a staggering number that the growth of fantasy congress may not be out of the question. “A recent study found that fantasy football costs employers as much as $1.1 billion a week in lost productivity during the National Football League regular season, when nearly 37 million people spent an average of 50 minutes per week at work managing their fantasy teams.

Fantasy Congress has grown to include 6,000 participants from many US States and overseas. The point is to help draw more attention to the political elections and to politics as a whole. This has a huge potential to satisfy the political needs of many. According to a recent poll by AP, “some 35 percent of Americans, or 43 percent of likely voters, go online for election information.” (click here to read the article). The game also sets up to help create more of an interest in politics and elections for all people, especially younger kids.

Fantasy Congress could have huge impact on the political landscape of this country by bringing more attention to politics and make people care more about issues and elections. Just as many people watch or care about a football game just because “this player” is on my fantasy team, now propositions and politicians will become more important to many people. This is extraordinary, when you factor in the fact that the game targets internet users, who tend to be young. This could play an integral role in solving a notorious epidemic called “Political Apathy.” This could drive the younger generation to the polls.

Such interests also creates political transparency. The expansion of this idea will help make more people aware of new issues and what politicians are currently involved in. The fact that it is competitive will make people care more about what is going on and follow political issues more closely. This could, partially, serve as a potent force that could counter the recent decline in government transparency established under the banner of “USA PATRIOT Act.”

However, the main issue is to make sure that the point of the game is not lost. It is to gain awareness and expand interest. If this idea were to grow it is important it does not reach the point where people vote on propositions or politicians based on their “team.” The idea is to make people aware by creating a fun and stimulating environment, and it seems as though this new idea can definitely accomplish what it sets out to do. It is also important that such game could bring dramatic power shift in the American government. Because most of the younger generation leans towards the liberal camp, systematically compelling them to vote, could potentially end the Republican dominance. The problem? While this “enhances” the functioning of a representative democracy, this also affects the welfare of many. Here’s a list: