US 2008 Election, Moo, World of Warcraft, and Online Activism

I think someone could make a large sum of money and/or increase the level of democracy by creating an online game to simulate the 2008 US Election.

You'd create an online gaming environment that might be similar to the World of Warcraft.

Basic game play would have users acting as regular Americans, however their goal would be to support the political party and actors of their choice. Thus for instance, you might have people trying to persuade swing voters, raise money, engage in dirty tricks, form an interest group, work within a party, or other activities.

I think a lot of value would come from following the actual electoral calendar, but preceding major events by a couple days. For instance, you would hold an online version of every primary a couple days before they happenned in real life. You could have real debates with user-submitted questions broadcasted in real-time audio (and even video). After all the real goal of this software is that you'd be influencing the real political process, by engaging people in the political process online - it would influence their off-line actions.

People could compete for influential campaign positions. Whereas World of Warcraft has weapons and getting your character to become more powerful, your ultimate goal in this game would be to win the nomination of one of the two major parties (unless a third party did really well) and to win the presidency (ex. you could become Hilary Clinton!). Minor achievers could settle for being in charge of campaign strategy for a state, city, or all the way down to a precinct. Or you could be a policy-wonk and try to change the party platform. There would be opportunities for third parties, but they'd have to collect a lot of signatures to get on the ballot in many states (as in the case in real life).

To obtain power in this game (money or political influence points), you would start off with an initial amount which could either be random, depend upon your existing level of power (eg see your class/race/gender/age/etc -- there is a socialist board game about class struggle that has the rich white straight male start first), or could be based on sliding scale registration fees (ex. if you get a free membership, then you will have less power than someone who pays money).

To increase your power in the game, several ideas that I've considered is that you could answer various political knowledge tests, develop tests yourself, create voting-awareness materials, or trade on electronic markets (based on the University of Iowa's Electronic Markets for political outcomes - Maybe we could make door to door canvassing similar to "fighting monsters". You see a possible Clinton supporter. Do you attack, retreat, ignore, or run? The leaning Bush (Jeb) voter is at a 30% chance of voting for Bush, do you give them a DVD, engage them in a converation about abortion, attack Hilary's character, or try to get them to put a sign on their lawn?

The game could do a lot with mapping, statistics, election prediction, and polls.

If you created the software and had a mildly successful launch, you could easily interest the media in it and over the course of the campaign it could become very popular.

One major problem with this ideas is that the user demographics and thus the level of support for various parties and individuals within those parties would differ significantly from that of the general population. One possible solution is to weight the results. For instance, if you had twice as many democrats as republicans in the game then the democrats votes would count only half as much.

Another problem is that young people, the typical audience for online computer games, might not care enough about politics for this to gain their interest.