Weather Gage Workshop Talks Politics

Wherever we show Congress: The Board Game, players give us one of two reactions. Most have a morbid fascination with our realpolitik tabletop game and find catharsis in playing pretend. That is the first reaction. The second reaction is shock and dread from the moment they see our banner. "Ugh, politics!" they say, "I don't even want to deal with this game because [real-life political event]." This second reaction concerns us a bit. We're not saying we think we deserve to have everyone love our niche game. We greatly appreciate all those who have expressed interest so far! Still, we know it's not for everyone. Instead, our concern is that people have created such strong negative associations to a real-world subject that even a fictional game about that subject reopens wounds. It would not be weird for a person to dislike a math game, but if they exclaimed "Ugh, math! I don't even want to deal with this game because [real-life math problem]," we could say there is a deep, latent issue that needs attention. At the same time, we sympathize. Even on a good day, politics is a contentious subject. Given the state of American government right now, navigating a discussion between opposing views is like playing "Red Light, Green Light" in a minefield. We have lost the art of the civil argument, and it's much easier to let it stay lost than try to reclaim it over Thanksgiving dinner with your racist uncle.

So, we're here to talk politics - a little, tiny, itty bit of politics. We are game makers, not politicians. Still, we believe that people of all walks of life can and should be vocal about politics. Our goal isn't to become a political blog or opinion page. Instead we wish to write occasional pieces about the general working of politics: things like "how and why you register to vote," "electoral vote vs. popular vote," or "primaries vs. generals." Even with neutral topics, we know that we'll be biased. Everyone is biased about everything, and that's normal! It's impossible to speak on a topic without bias. In fact, it's irresponsible to pretend to be unbiased about a topic. So we promise to be open about where we stand on issues while reporting as accurately and fairly as we can. With all that said, we're still a games company first. We're not pivoting to being "activists who make games," but "gamers who believe in activism."

Because of the strong reactions we get, we realize we have a unique position to speak from. Every game designer can and should speak about issues that matter to them, but our game is about politics. It would be weird if we didn't! We use real American states, real political parties, and real terminology. If anything, we have erred on the side of too little discussion of real politics. Though Congress: The Board Game has many humorous elements, it is not a "silly" game. It is not a parody game. We take great pride in what we've made and believe that, even if you strip away the jokes and exaggerations, our game stands up very well on its own. It's been more than two years in the making and we stand by everything in it. In fact, we believe that if you find the game humorous, it's only because we take the thematic material seriously. Our fascination with politics and with "political theatre" is genuine. It would be wrong of us to pretend it's just a comedy game, to take inspiration from the real world and to give nothing back. No game is an island. We have lost track of the amount of times playtesters have asked us if we've considered pitching to teachers or schools. Our playtesters recognized within minutes that this game satisfies a real-world need. It's funny because we didn't set out to make an educational game, or "edutainment," but now we recognize the possibilities in the real world. Perhaps in some cases, it is a bit out of turn for someone in the entertainment business to speak about politics. But in our case, we believe it would be socially irresponsible not to speak. There are two reasons for this:

First, we believe it's futile to avoid politics. It's everywhere and everything. You can try to distance yourself, but it will cost you. If you cut off all offensive media and avoid uncomfortable conversations, you make yourself subject to the whims of politicians and bureaucrats appointed by the people who don't. Only the most privileged can dissociate and suffer no consequences. For many Americans, like the poor and marginalized, politics is a matter of life and death. Perhaps you can remain neutral at no cost to you, but your actions will betray your fellow countrymen. Neutrality on politics is the same as ignorance - as if when we close our eyes, the monster can't see us.

Second, we believe a politically active population is a free population. Our dream is that American society in the future looks back at our game and wonders why anyone could have ever reacted so negatively to its subject matter. We want everyone in the country to be enthusiastic about politics. Not everyone needs to be an activist, but everyone needs to be active. An informed population is harder to control. And the most crooked politicians want you to be uninformed and unmotivated. They want you to feel life is too complicated for you to grasp without them telling you what to think. They want you to believe that your vote doesn't matter so that you stay home in November. But that's not what we want. We wish instead for a country in which everyone knows they are empowered to make change. We know this is possible because it has happened before. If you look back at issues like gay marriage in the 2000s, civil rights in the 1960s, worker's rights in the early 1900s, slavery in the mid-1800s, and even back to our independence from Britian - if you look back at all of these events, change came through a concentrated effort made by an informed and active people. A lot can happen when we work together for our good.

Okay, we're getting ahead of ourselves here. We are just three guys with day jobs, making games on the side, and with a teeny-tiny fanbase so far. Heck, we've only got the one game to speak of and we are still trying to get it funded. All that means is our stage to speak from is very small. However, we will use whatever space we have to speak to the best of our ability and make the largest impression we can. Perhaps we can only reach a few people, but everyone is important. We hope you take this message to heart and that you are encouraged to be a force for good in America (or wherever you are). We hope that you share this message so that it can reach people we haven't even met! While most of our activity will be focused on our games, we ask you to be on the lookout for more articles and notices about your representatives, how to get involved, and important issues.

Most of all, we hope you join us. Thank you,

The Weather Gage Team

Alexander Larson
David Matlock
Michael Matlock