By Tim Hardy
Imagine a game for two players. Each in turn picks a number between 1 and 9 and you cannot pick a number that has already been chosen. The winner is the first to pick three numbers that add up exactly to 15.
Does that sound complicated? Well it’s not. Young children pick it up instantly.
Still confused? You just need to look at it differently.
If you could see a visual representation of the game, how it works would become obvious.
Formally, this is the same game as noughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe) even though the experience of playing it may be different. It’s an interesting thought experiment by games designer Marc LeBlanc.
How long does it take to learn how to play noughts and crosses? Not long. Definitely far less time than it takes to understand the rules described in the first paragraph above.
The lesson for us here is that complicated systems can be explained easily if we find a different way of representing them. So why is this important right now?
On May 5th 2011, we finally get to choose how we elect our MPs in the UK.
The challenge is that few understand what the choice is about yet explaining how the Alternative Vote (AV) works and why it is a better system than First Past the Post (FPTP) usually sends people to sleep.
Those who profit from the current unfair system hope to scare people with ugly and dishonest campaigns like the following.
(Image via YesInMay.)
They hope that dangerously misleading advertising like this might fool enough people into voting to protect the corrupt present system, a system that gives jobs for life to politicians in safe seats which makes them complacent and indifferent to those that they are supposed to represent and a system that continues to marginalise and exclude principled voices like those of Green Party candidates from parliament.
Let’s use our wits to fight this.
The right are always going on about “competition”, let’s steal their thunder and announce one!
This is a challenge to all artists, performers, indy game designers, musicians, comedians, bloggers and writers. Your goal is to find a fun and interesting way of representing the advantages of the Alternative Vote system so that even a child could understand. Your entry can be a video, an essay, an image, a web-based game, a play, a poem, a piece of performance art. The only limit is your imagination.
Upload a record of your work to the web somewhere and add a link to it in the comments box below. The deadline is midnight
Friday 18 March Sunday 17 April and the person who submits the most interesting entry will win the choice of either a copy of Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses or a copy of Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World; the runner-up gets the remaining book.
The prize will be announced
before after the TUC March for the Alternative on the 26th. I will try to find further special prizes to reward people whose work also promotes this demonstration in an original manner. Any other prizes that people are willing to donate will be gratefully distributed.
This is an age of cognitive surplus. We can take advantage of the free tools the internet provides and put to shame those who cannot think beyond dishonest scare tactics. Our creativity and generosity can drive reform. One small step at a time, together we can build a better world.
[Updated with new date: 15 March 2011]