Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Can You Balance The US Budget? Can You Make Decisions Like A Chinese Official? (American Public Media And Wikiversity)

With all the brouhaha concerning DIA's recent announcement concerning the creation of several video games to help train new analysts, I thought it would be worth mentioning a couple of other "serious games" I have run across (one yesterday and one quite some time ago).

The first, Budget Hero, is a flash based game (see screenshot below) that lets you pick options to help balance the US Federal Budget. Basically, after a short intro brief, you get to pick tax and spending policies in order to try to accomplish your goals without busting the budget. Once you have selected your series of policies, the game calculates how well you have done against a couple of benchmarks and then reports back to you on how well you have accomplished your goals and how well in tune you are with others who have played the game.

The game really gives you a good idea of the relative values of different policies. It also highlights the fact that some policies are important for their emotional impact but have little real impact on the total budget (By the way, if this game is at all accurate, the next administration will have its work cut out for it. The kind of answers that tend to work are not going to be very palatable). The best I have been able to do is to keep the government afloat until 2044. If anyone figures out a way to beat that, drop a comment.

The second game is one I have been meaning to blog about for some time. One of our former students (he just graduated), Pat Noble, an analyst with the FBI, put together an interesting simulation of Chinese political decisionmaking processes called Forbidden Kingdom (he did this last year in my Advanced Analytic Techniques class so, no, there is no relation to the movie of the same name). The screenshot below shows the game board (which you have to build) and the rules and all the other materials you need are available for free over at Wikiversity.

All simulations have to balance playability with realism. Pat's challenge was to make a game that captured some of the essence of modern Chinese political thinking in a short, interesting game. As someone who watched the research and development of the game, has played the game and heard countless stories about others playing the game, I think Pat accomplished just that.


Chad Tilburg said...

I was able to keep the government going until 2070+ I was also able to maintain national defense and gain energy independence.

Kristan J. Wheaton said...

Drop the other shoe!
How did you do it?


Chad Tilburg said...

I cut some social programs that were very costly. I also attempted to get all the pork out of the budget. To increase revenue, against my personal belief, I increased taxes on those making more than USD 500,000.