Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics is the title of a new book by Josh Lerner. It looks fascinating. The book describes how to make political participation game-like – from game theory to game practice. The book is practical, giving examples of techniques to use in contexts such as local planning decisions and policy design. The final chapter provides a policy-makers’ toolkit, and ends by recommending the application of the tools to democratic political participation.
Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics
Interestingly, the book advocates games in actual, physical meetings – hence the very local applications such as urban planning. Lerner argues that online games have far less impact – although presumably in any electoral context, participatory games would have to be digital. He writes: “Most enthusiasts of political games … start with digital tools. I instead focus on the basic mechanics of games, through the lens of face-to-face examples. This design know-how can then be applied to digital and non-digital games, and everything in between.”
So, an intriguing, practical book for activists, organisers, planners and local politicians. Without having read it yet, I’m sceptical about the book’s bigger claim that games can rebuild trust in democratic processes (‘transform politics’). And about how citizens’ greater participation through fun would help speedy planning decisions in the public interest when Nimbyism is so rife. I’ll have to read it to find out if games can incorporate the interests of those who can’t afford a home and so are not even participants in the decision-making process. Do they get a seat at the games table?