If you’re tired of politicians playing games with people’s lives, this could be your opportunity to turn the tables and play games with them for a change.

Log Hob Games, a new local game design studio, has just launched its first game, Politicks, on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, where the game has already raised more than €2,000 in the first two days of its campaign.

The game casts players in the role of political party strategists tasked with winning the next general election. Players hand-pick politicians to gain the support of lobby groups and, if that doesn’t get the job done, they engineer events to gain the upper hand.

Described as “a fun-packed card game with a tongue-in-cheek take on Maltese politics”, the game features many popular – and not-so-popular – local politicians from the present and recent past.

I got to wondering how we could simulate the political process, built as it is around two big parties, while poking harmless fun at politicians and the whole political system

It is designed by Gordon Pace, a professor in computer science, with illustrations by political cartoonist Mark Scicluna.

“Politics is taken far too seriously in Malta,” Prof. Pace told the Times of Malta. “So I got to wondering how we could simulate the political process in Malta, built as it is around two big parties, while poking harmless fun at politicians and the whole political system.”

Each politician in the game has a set of attributes which make them attractive to different types of lobby groups – conservative or progressive, for example – as well as special interests such as the environment or the economy, which they can use to their advantage.

They are also given a score to reflect how attractive they are to voters on either side of the political divide: Education Minister Evarist Bartolo is quite balanced, according to the game designer… and Labour MP Joe Debono Grech is less so.

“We’ve also included a lot of inside jokes,” Prof. Pace said. “Franco Debono, for example, is a card that you can hand on to someone else in exchange for another politician. So he ends up being handed round; nobody really wants to hang on to him. And once [MEP and former Prime Minister] Alfred Sant is played, he goes back into the deck, so you can never get rid of him.”

As for Nationalist MP David Agius, who hit the news a few years ago when it emerged that he had been caught copying in his final year at university – his card copies the attributes of another politician.

While Prof. Pace has not yet had the opportunity to discuss the game with any of the political figures it features, he is confident they’ll take it for the light-hearted fun at is, and maybe derive some amusement from their caricature and depiction.

The game also has the dubious honour of being released in the midst of one of the largest political controversies of recent years, the Panama Papers.

The Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, in fact, references the situation by suspiciously offering shipping to Panama alongside more expected destinations, but Prof. Pace insisted the timing was purely coincidental.

“We had been planning the launch for about six months, and we definitely didn’t have any advance information about Panama,” he said.

“But of course having politics in the news a lot more than usual is helping us, and we’ll be finding a way to include the scandal in the final version.”

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