3I was sat on the Tube (the London subway system to North American readers) a couple of weeks ago, nursing a red bull on my way to a job interview, and observed a person waving a newspaper around in a heated discussion with a fellow traveller. The news-wielding person was extolling the virtues of a particularly strong policy on immigration, while almost in the same breath berating their partner for their opposition to same-sex marriage. This was really interesting as you could look at one of their views and say they were more of an authoritarian, but could look at the other and say they were more of a liberal.

At this point I decided to keep this bit in, the idea that you can be a massive hypocrite.

So there we got the system, not where on the spectrum you were, but how far you stretched either side of indifference. For each of Authoritarianism, Anarchism, Socialism, Capitalism, how much of each do you want from your government? What combination of policies do you want them to get behind?

The objective was now relatively clear – take the role of a political party and campaign for the support of these complex voters. I really wanted to keep the focus firmly on the voters (what later became know as the supporters), as most games about politics spend all their energy on the presumed leaders of the political world and generally American presidential hopefuls (this particular point became really important later on in coming up with the scenarios).

The question was now, how do I actually represent a bunch of different people, and how do I take into account people who might say ‘meh’, or ‘no way any of that’ or ‘I need at least this much of that’ or ‘no more than this of that’.

The answer turned out to be hilariously simple, just do them all!

So for each of the 4 ideologies, we have for each person, either:

  • I want at least X policies like this
  • I don’t want any more than X policies like this
  • I don’t want any policies like this
  • Meh, I don’t care

So we have a system for winning supporters over, get the combination of policies they want.

So back to the challenge at hand, how do I actually make this into a series of different supporters on a bunch of cards, that people can relate to, that look as if they might be real, without adding my own bias, without stereotyping whoever we decided to depict on that particular card.

The answer came in a bag of candy.

Silliness aside, I started to dust off my degree in Engineering and got to work putting together a fancy formula which would create a bunch of randomised people with diverse, complex, sometimes contradictory beliefs. It failed so many times. Like seriously my maths was so bad. Eventually I got it working, but I noticed that it was going to be really hard to do anything in the game as there was so much information on every card – so I did what every lecturer had told me since my first year of university – fudge the numbers until it works.

So I set about working out what it was I needed to do to reduce the colossal amount of information on these cards, but still keep a neutral set of numbers overall, so that essentially all possible supporters together didn’t represent any particular anything. Without going into the maths too much, I basically fiddled it so that overall the numbers represented a neutral set of people, but that every single supporter had unique preferences.

Technically speaking, the supporters could have 1 of 50624 variations, so that’s a few expansions…

Here’s a peek at the spreadsheet with the data in it, the hashes represent a meh, the positive numbers an ‘at least’, the negative a ‘no more than’ and the zeros a ‘none please’.