Fantasy Sports and Politics? New Online Game ‘Fantasy Congress’ Gives Midterm Elections a Fresh Spin

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Would an audience better informed and involved make smarter decisions? Creator behind Fantasy Congress hopes to get more people excited about politics.

Who would have thought politics could be fun? Web developer Allison Seboldt has brought together the usually distinct worlds of online gaming and politics in a most novel way with Fantasy Congress, a free online game based on the congressional elections. From the website: “Whether you’re an avid fantasy sports player of just want a fun way to stay involved in politics, this game is for you. Don’t miss out on the excitement this election season and get in the game with Fantasy Congress!”

Seboldt describes her inspiration behind the project: “Originally, I wanted to create Fantasy Congress as a fun programming exercise. I came up with the concept towards the beginning of my career and thought it would be a fun way to grow my skills. As I researched the concept though, I realized it could be much more than a novelty side project. There had been a previous fantasy congress game with a slightly different approach back in 2006. Supposedly it was very popular and many people online seemed sad it was gone. With interest in politics increasing, and the rise of politics in entertainment (such as with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Pod Save America), I thought there was enough of an audience that this concept could be a profitable business. And more importantly, could educate voters and do some good too.”

So how does the game work? Fantasy Congress is a free online game structured like fantasy sports where data gathered about congressional elections is converted into points. Players create teams of individuals running for office in the US House and Senate. During the “season,” congressional candidates acquire points based on three categories: how much money they raise, how often they are mentioned in the media, and how many votes they receive in the election. Like fantasy sports, teams in Fantasy Congress compete in small groups called leagues. At the end of the election season, each team with the most points in their league wins.

“Today’s fantasy sports players are involved, knowledgeable, and passionate about the sports they follow,” Seboldt says. “My hope is to replicate these effects in the world of politics. In sports, the rise of fantasy has dramatically impacted its audience. Fantasy players are more educated about game rules and governance, value individual players over teams, and consume more sports media. At 21% of the entire population in the US and Canada, the booming fantasy community is becoming increasingly influential. I believe replicating the positive effects of fantasy sports in US politics could expose fake news, dismantle brazen party loyalty, and stop the decline of compromise. After all, would an audience better informed, up to date, and involved make smarter decisions? Would they participate in the process more often? I think so.”

Midterm elections in the US will be held on November 6, 2018. All seats in the House of Representatives and one third of those in the Senate will be contested. Congressional elections are held every two years, as they are held midway through the President’s term in office. This year, an unprecedented number of women are running for office. While women are largely underrepresented in Congress, over 400 women are vying for a seat in the House of Representatives, in what is being called the Pink Wave. The majority of women running are Democrats, with speculation suggesting that the spike in female candidates is motivated by opposition to President Donald Trump. The US is far behind other countries in its representation of women in politics.

For updates, follow Seboldt and Fantasy Congress on Twitter.

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Sarah Mills is a managing editor and writer at Conatus News.

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