Let’s Spore the National Debt


Yesterday, Matt Drudge linked to a USA Today article with the derisive headline "Video Game to Reduce Deficit?" But is that really as crazy as it sounds?

The USA Today piece reported that Erskine Bowles, who’s heading up President Obama’s "war on the federal deficit," talked to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer about making a video game that would let anyone "take a stab at balancing the budget."

The idea is that in order for deficit reduction to succeed, citizens have to understand the size of the budget, how the process works and, most important, what the tradeoffs are between benefits and their costs. That process, though already public, is basically inaccessible to anyone without the time (and patience) to read through thousands of pages of studies, estimates and commission reports. What the public needs is a compelling and concise model to play with that would let them get a handle on the dynamics of the federal budget without needing advanced degrees in accounting, law and economics.

And lo and behold, that’s just what game designers are good at — taking complex systems and making them intuitive and accessible by modeling them interactively. And what are we when we game if not problem solvers? Imagine what would happen if you put a "game" like that in front of the World of Warcraft community. Class balance, budget balance, what’s the difference?

It sounds like a joke, but we’re only half kidding. In fact, we’d like to see a whole range of government issues rendered interactively. People feel increasingly disconnected from their government and distrustful of their representatives. Meanwhile, the problems we face are increasingly complicated and lack simple solutions. Hard choices need to be made, and making those choices will require an engaged and informed populace.

Our federal budget is already a mess, we could do worse than put Will Wright on the case. After all, the guy only modeled life, the universe and everything…what’s $12 trillion in national debt?

|Story from sister-site GameCulture|

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