Video Games, Internet Sites Going Political

Online games aren't just for entertainment anymore.

"Fantasy Congress" is just one of a host of new online ventures designed to politically engage a digital generation.

"Fantasy Congress" is the brainchild of Andrew Lee, a senior at Claremont McKenna College.

He says the game is not unlike other fantasy sport games. It is designed for users to earn points as their team -- in this case, four senators and 12 House members -- push legislation toward a successful conclusion.

"It's just like fantasy football," Lee said to ABC News, "but instead of drafting football players, you draft members of Congress."

Based on actual legislation making its way through the hallowed halls of Congress, "Fantasy Congress" gives power to the people and allows its users to draft a team of 16 real-life legislators ranging across the congressional spectrum -- i.e., you can't just pick the All-Stars -- to earn points as bills move through Congress and to the president's desk.

"You're gonna have to do some research and try to figure out: Who are the House 'Rookies?' Who are the well-performing people in the bottom-third of the U.S. House of Representatives?" Lee said.

In keeping with the rules of other fantasy sports, members of Congress can be traded on weekends on and off a team's active lineup to most efficiently strategize for the next week.

Where it might differ, say, from "Fantasy Football" is in the length of time it takes for a bill to become a law versus the length of time it takes for a football to travel down the field.

To Lee, the game's goal is to teach.

"If people cared about Congress as much as they cared about football," Lee said, "we'd have a much better-educated populace."

With the presidential election two years away, this election season, catering to a world where the politically minded and Internet-inclined seek online shelter, "Fantasy Congress" is not the first and won't be the last.

For a video-game creator like Randy Chase, engaging interest in politics across new media territories is a been-there, done-that scenario.

For 14 years, he's been doing it -- operating on a personal philosophy to stimulate intellect along with audiovisual reflexes.

In 1992, he debuted a game called "Power Politics."

In 1995, he followed with "Power Politics II," better known as the "Doonesbury Election Game." In 2005, "Power Politics III" was released.

"The biggest danger to our form of governing isn't terrorism. It isn't China," Chase said. "It's apathetic ignorant voters. And I hope that my games might spark interest, maybe educate them, and make them think about what they see on the evening news."

In Chase's video reality, it is the presidential election season, and the user is cast in the role of a campaign manager trying to help his or her candidate win the presidency.

The game incorporates the candidates' statistics and a cast of hundreds of real-world potential running mates to recreate the voting landscape.

Hooked on the sport of presidential campaigning since the Nixon-Kennedy race of 1960, Chase became fascinated with the science and strategy of candidate marketing.

"There is no perfect candidate. They all have strengths and weaknesses," he said. "One of the goals of my game is to show how to tailor a campaign based on those strengths and weaknesses."

Playing to those strengths and weaknesses is the name of the game as candidates are rated on charisma, debating and marketing, among other things.

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