Around the Classroom in 80 Games: Campaign Manager 2008

As the United States election process continues its grind towards November, the pre-Labor Day campaign period is as good a time as any to conclude my short series on election-based games. And apologies for the delay, but since posting about Die Macher, I’ve moved from Pittsburgh to Orange County and taken a new job. Phew!

So, today’s game is Campaign Manager 2008. Designed by the same team that brought us 1960: The Making of the President (a masterpiece of design), gameplay in 2008 features a very nice, taut balance between the two players. 

By itself, it would be illustrative to reflect on the ways the two games simulate differences between the two campaigns. That would be an intriguing lesson for high school students interested in politics. The way the two games address media and how media works would be a meaningful lesson. Moreover, the way the game understands the relationship of candidates to states interests me. In 1960, states that were safe were safer for other reasons than what was safe in 2008. In 2008, factional interests had become so entrenched, that the game doesn’t even need to simulate the election in the better part of the country. That would make this the only game I know of that’s interested in simulating an election that doesn’t even bother to simulate the whole election.

Campaign Manager 2008 does a very good job of capturing the essence of modern campaigning. The way in which states enter gameplay is highly reflective of the way the contemporary media environment goes local and then national and then local again. The way that the game handles the ebb and flow of issues is also intriguing. And also worthy of study.

If I were using this game out of the box in a classroom, I would want students to design a way to represent the unique economic conditions that prevailed in the 2008 election. It’s impossible to just create a straightforward election game in 2008 (or 1932 or 1860) when there are “elephant in the room” issues in the election. Also, my argument about 2008 and the collapsing economy issue intersects with the personality of the candidates. One candidate seemed smooth and steady. The other’s behavior was more erratic.

A worthy game for classroom use; more worthy still when paired with 1960.