Gaming The Body Politic

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Gaming The Body Politic

Postby toucana on April 15th, 2019, 1:46 am 

'The Poll' by Abeer Kapoor & "Unforgivable: Eliza" (鎮 山) by Edward Lin

Two stories from different parts of Asia this week highlight a rising social trend of using board games and smartphone technology to promote a novel form of public engagement in political issues.

The first story comes from India, a country with a population of 1.3 billion which is about to embark on the world’s largest exercise in electoral democracy.

India, a former colony, has followed the ‘Westminster Model’ since it gained independence from Great Britain in 1947. Political parties field candidates for seats in the Lok Sabha or lower house of parliament, and whichever party wins a majority of seats gets to choose a prime minister.

Across 543 constituencies, candidate will vie for votes from an electorate numbering 900 million, nearly triple the entire population of the United States. The winner will be announced on May 23. The ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is being challenged by a coalition led by the secular Congress Party.

The Poll: The Great Indian Election Game is the brainchild of 27-year-old journalist Abeer Kapoor, who came up with the idea in 2017 after covering national and state elections.

The game, which is available in Hindi and English, was launched in January, and Kapoor has been traveling the country to promote it. The author has noticed numerous local variations of the game developing in use, as players modulate the rules.
"In Uttar Pradesh, which is the hub of Indian politics, you see there's a casualness built into corruption. One part of the game is where people argue to keep their constituencies, but by the end of it they were just trading money. They saw money on the board, and they didn't care about the arguments," said Kapoor.”

Meanwhile in Taiwan, a new mobile game called Unforgivable: Eliza (鎮 山) examines the ‘White Terror’ period of the 1980s through a ludonarrative lens.

Unforgivable was written by Edward Lin, a 39 year old Taiwanese-American NYPD detective crime novelist. Thirty years ago, his grandfather Danny Lin was murdered in Taipei (the capital city of Taiwan) by being thrown off a cliff. The killing took place during a brutal period of political suppression and martial law in Taiwan which was controlled at that time by the remanents of the Kuomintang who had been driven out of mainland China by the communist revolution of 1949.

The White Terror which began with the ’228 Incident’ on 28 February 1947 and lasted for 40 years was a taboo topic in Taiwan until 1995 when President Lee Teng-Hui addressed it publicly for the first time.

Edward Lin’s new game is a narrative AR (Augemented Reality) game played on a smartphone, similar to Pokemon Go. The game unfolds as a digitally enhanced tour of New York and then Taipei with bright manga-esque presentation.

It has an autobiographical narrative format that begins with the admissions of a mysterious Japanese-Taiwanese woman in a Manhattan ramen restaurant, before Lin travels to Taiwan to unravel the mystery of his grandfather’s death.

Fifty percent of the game’s funding - 1million NTD ( about $32,300) came from Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture. It’s part of the government’s effort to promote stronger political ties between modern democratic Taiwan and expatriate Taiwanese Americans.

One reaction to Unforgivable that has been surprising to the game’s publisher Allen Yu CEO of Toii has been its reception in China
“We didn’t expect that” he says. On Tap-Tap, China’s version of Google Play, the game rates an average 9.8 out of 10 stars. We wonder why (it’s rated so highly) because we talk about the Taiwanese democracy movement, and a little bit about Taiwanese identity. These kind of topics are forbidden in China. But I guess that’s what attracts Chinese players”.
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