Democratic Socialism Simulator

Wish fulfillment is more fun when you have to work for it. That’s why fans can delight in imagining gay relationships through against-the-grain interpretations of pop culture. If a showrunner provides this as pre-packaged fanservice, though, the fun is gone. That’s the problem with Deocratic Socialism Simulator, a game which puts you in the role of the first socialist president of the United States.

The setup is straightforward enough. Your advisers provide you with a series of policies. Tighten gun control? Improve public housing? Scrap defense programs? Swipe right to enact, swipe left to trash. Your objective is to push through as much eco-socialism as possible, measiured by gauges of pollution and of people power. And you must do it all without being thrown out, losing control of Congress, or running out of money.

But: it is too easy. Any activist knows the wading-through-treacle experience of trying to push through even the slightest reform. Here, it is just a matter of saying yes to left-sounding policies. The game mechanics, heavily rigged in your favour, will take care of the rest. Almost any reform you enact will have an astonishingly fast payoff, rewarding you even within the short time horizon of American electoral politics. And near-infinite money is available, provided you are willing to shut down military spending.

The socialist president does need to make a few compromises, but only in the most superficial way. You’re mostly fine if you tack to the right on symbolic gestures, and to the left on material reality. In my first run I could achieve socialism at the cost of postponing gun control and attending some events with billionaires. As a measure of compromising your ideals, that barely moves the dial.

A game of Democratic Socialism Simulator lasts half an hour or less, and my experience is that replaying brings little variety. Then again, maybe that is long enough for wish fulfillment.

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