Doonesbury Election Game
Review By: Gringo

Al Gore won the presidential election of 2000. No, wait, George W. Bush did. Before I get tempted to write some really bad - and alarmingly old - jokes about who really won the election and try to drain one more laugh from stories of butterfly ballots (fly, little ballot! Fly with all your might!), I'm going to explain what the hell I'm jabbering on about. What a refreshing change. For some reason, while all the geeks and nerds (and other candies) are busy blasting each other to pieces in Doom III or investigating the disappearance of Queen Clusterfuck in some anonymous RPG - that's role playing game to you and me - I'm there playing the Doonesbury Election Game. And even worse, the game hasn't been updated since 1996. So technically it's like living Bill Clinton's re-election over and over again. Win! But this is no ordinary computer game about running an election campaign. Not that there are many games about running a campaign. Anyway! This game has an ace up its sleeve that saves it from politico tedium and brings it up to heights previously unimaginable. That ace is that ability to create your own candidates. Of course, this leads to the greatest possible prospect ever; President Harlan Sanders. Oh yes.

You too can wield the electoral power as you spend months trying to make a chicken cooker with a humorous beard from Kentucky the next President of the United States. The basis of this game is to spend August to November 5th (Election Day) campaigning to get your candidate elected. I AM HAVING BUCKETS FULL OF FUN ALREADY!! You get to choose which states your candidate - mine, like I said, was the Colonel - will visit, what they'll do there (press conferences, photo opportunities, seedy sexual encounters in a motel where they pay someone to gratify them for five minutes pleasure all for a handful of crack) and so on and so forth. Crazy! No, it doesn't sound very exciting and unless you've got even the slightest interest in politics you're probably going to dislike this game. Maybe even hate it with a passion. But I found it incredibly enjoyable because I'm (a) a dullard and (b) you want your reasons?!? Screw you! I think a lot of the fun I had with this game was seeing the Colonel's face so much. Oh, and the game comes with some video clips of well-known American politicians. But the clips weren't very interesting, so I won't write anything about lazy.

Regardless, when you start the game you choose the Democract, Republican and Independent candidates. I went for Colonel Sanders as Democract, because Kentucky's that kind of state, and chose his running mate to be Bernie Sanders. Sanders-Sanders in 2004! It can't fail! The Republican - played by the computer - was Ronald McDonald, who teamed up with Newt Gingrich for that extra capitalist edge. Finally, the Taco Bell Dog, desperately seeking gainful employment after being sidelined from the fast food chain's commercials, ran as an Independent, with Pat Buchanan as his Vice Presidential candidate. Why? Fuck you and your questions, Inspector Cluseau! So, with the heavyweight battle of the low cost, high calorie foodstuff figureheads in place, it was time to start the game proper. BUT WAIT! What's this? More choices? Fun multiplied by one million! You choose a spin doctor, communications director, campaign strategist and financial manager from what is apparently the cast of the Doonesbury comics. I know nothing about them, so just clicked randomly until the game let me get into the actual campaign. It took approximately five days. You're dumped in a cartoon-style office, and told how near you are to the target of 270 electoral votes. When the game kicked off, the Colonel was predicted 256 to McDonald's 286, which would have meant that burger-touting clown getting inaugurated!

Therefore, I had a challenge on my hands. Even my attempts to rig the election before it even began had failed. See, when setting up candidates, you get to choose their personal and political skill levels. I'd made all three contenders very anti-abortion, because they love families coming into their restaurants (more $$$) and ranked the Colonel's image as very high, because all crusty old men with beards should be respected. Meanwhile, although I'd set McDonald's fundraising abilities as excellent (even more $$$), I made him very conservative on employment and taxes, because just like any old Republican, he wants to see people working - no matter what the job - in poorly paid shitholes. But with lower taxes! To confuse the computerized electorate, I offset this by making all three candidates very liberal on immigration, simply because they love employing Mexicans and any other foreign illegal aliens at wages lower than those of their American counterparts. I figure they favour an open-door policy to get as many of these people in to the country as they can. Oh, I haven't mentioned that the spin doctor for the McDonald campaign team was called Mr. Butts. I found that hilarious. I also laughed at The Man Who Knew Too Little. You should stop reading now.

For those of you who are still reading, I salute you, comrades. Whoops, slipped into a bit of Darth Phenom syndrome there. The game itself is fairly straightforward. You have to play every single day of the campaign, and fill the candidate's diary with fun stuff to do and fun places to go. Sadly, whoring, lying and fucking your interns isn't on the list. Giving press conferences, making whistle stop visits and fund raising is. It's actually rather fun. Once you've decided which state to visit on a particular day, and filled up the diary of events, you click on the calendar and get shown what happens throughout the rest of the day. This is done in the form of newspaper front pages and internal memos, which more or less say pointless things like "Sanders Juggernaut Gains Momentum" (neither informative or amusing) or "Dog Gives Speech In Iowa" (all right, that second one made me smile like a fairy). Some Doonesbury reporter character sporadically tells you - via a news bulletin - that your candidate made a sucky speech or wowed an audience somewhere. And that's it. The game involves a lot of sitting, which is good. But it's also not exactly captivating. Which is bad.

I was going to reference that Simpsons joke about frozen yogurt where Homer keeps saying "That's good" and "That's bad" to the shopkeeper, but couldn't be bothered. The only alterable facets of this game are what to talk about at your political rallies and whistle-stop tours. The options run the gamut of policy, from unemployment to crime, but I didn't take much care in deciding what to talk about, where to talk about it or when to talk about it. I do remember scheduling an 8am press conference, because I thought it'd be funny to make all the journalists get up really early. Then I remembered it was a computer game, and that there were no journalists. I punched myself in the head. On regaining consciousness, I discovered the other options in the game you can actually have some input with. Well, I say options. It's one option - the Presidential debates. To set one up, you have to challenge your opponent to a debate, be it the Republican or Independent. Amusingly, you could just have the Colonel debating the Taco Bell dog and thereby ignore Ronald McDonald, but no. When (and if) your opponent accepts, you can plan how you will respond to questions and comments during the debate, but that's it.

Once the debate starts, you only get a popularity indicator and can't take part. At all. This game and the phrase "hands off" go very well together. The fun never stops in Doonesbury land! I suppose this game only appeals to the kind of people who can get enjoyment out of staying up on election night, watching the returns come in state by state. Yes, I am one of those dorks. I'll admit this game is difficult if you don't cheat (which you can do by making your candidate a superstar at everything...ever, and your opponent the equivalent of a monkey on broken roller-skates). It's tough to win, let alone hold onto any starting majority in the electoral college. But is the game a joyful bag of excitement? Actually, kind of, yes! For that very reason, I persevered through to the simulated November 5th, and headed into Election Day having fucked up my campaign. The Colonel was predicted to lose, getting about 200 electoral votes. Oh no! Despite the predictions, despite all the spin, despite all the electioneering, despite my crispy chicken cooker exploding (note: this didn't really happen), I remained quietly confident of a last-minute upset. Then the election results started coming in.

RUINED! The Colonel was ruined! He ended up with just 143 electoral votes, which was even worse than had been predicted just 24 hours before people went to the polls. Yes, the pro-chicken policies of that Kentucky capitalist were rejected in a landslide win for a stupid clown from California. Securing his home state - and 395 electoral votes across the nation - Ronald McDonald found himself becoming the next President of the United States. Still, beats having any of the other recent clowns who have held that title. Zing! The newspaper report helpfully said "McDonald Wins!!" Yes, there were two exclamation marks. On a supposed national newspaper. Quite. Anyway, he got 53,913,817 votes to the Colonel's 51,326,005, with the poor little Chihuahua from Taco Bell getting a paltry 6,565,791. Why do you want all those figures? You don't! But I hope you can sleep at night, voting in the leader of the McDonalds franchise at the cost of not putting a dead, fake Kentucky colonel in charge of the United States. Still, if the Colonel could rise from the grave to run for President this time around, I don't really think there's much stopping him going through another resurrection and challenging President McDonald's re-election bid. Four more years? Not if KFC has anything to do with it!

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