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May 7, 2016
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If you need an entertaining distraction from the onslaught of ridiculously serious political drama online and offline, where heated, sometimes ungrammatical (“bias” ka!), exchanges between supporters of opposing candidates can result in unfriending sprees and brawls, then look no further than political satire card game, Politricks, the first political card game in the Philippines.

The game’s mechanics are a mix of Monopoly Deal, Uno, and other Take That-style (the genre, not the boyband) card play.

“We wanted to make a sort of satire about Philippine politics,” creator RB Ting says. “Because it’s been happening since the dawn of our history. Since the Heneral Luna period, all these insane tricks over and over again.  

It may be their first foray into making games, but a lot of research and planning went into the creation of Politricks. For instance, the creators consulted with a leftist congressman, an elections watchdog, and the common folk about the current political atmosphere. 

It took the team a year to conceptualize and work on the game before they finally launched it last February. Ting and co-creator PJ Lim even crashed a media forum on narco-politics and the oil industry and marketed their game to a crowd of journalists and officials that included Senator Koko Pimentel. 

They want to change the country’s voter decision-making skills with a pack of cards.

Dirtying up the polls

Politricks features a portly gentleman with a well coiffed ’do (his hair is big ’cause it’s full of secrets), sporting a tacky golden watch (costing well beyond his declared salary), and wearing a classy piña fabric barong tagalog (naturally funded by clueless taxpayers) greets you on the front cover.

His name is Sir Pol, and he is Politricks’ own version of Monopoly’s Rich Uncle Pennybags. Sir Pol is your typical poster boy trapo, who personifies nefarious political tropes and common issues in a cartoonish, manner—similar to the aesthetic of The Oatmeal’s Exploding Kittens.

You’ll see him dancing onstage, taking selfies with tycoons, canoodling with his mistress, and staging a coup d'état among other things. You’ll also see actual pigs representing the Pork Barrel Scam.

Ting, Lim, and their team of co-creators keep the game’s design light-hearted to prevent the subject matter from getting too grim and depressing. Most of humor stems from real-life problems after all. 

Of course, the main objective of Politricks is to win the elections by any means necessary—legal or illegal. From epal posters and showbiz endorsers, to stealing votes and bullying voters. Anything is possible!

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A taste of corruption

Politricks is a quick-play game, requiring at least 15 minutes of your time, which is perfect for the casual gamer.

The gameplay is so simple to learn even a kid can understand it—although, we wouldn’t advise kids to play since the box suggests it’s for mature players only. You could even dive into Politricks without any prior knowledge about politics. The cards would probably educate you more as a voter than a symposium. 

Lim and Ting suggest not hoarding too much money since it can be stolen when other players team up to bring you down. And should they all gang up on you in the game? Worry not, corrupt candidate, because there are some equally underhanded moves you can pull off in order to stop your rival in his tracks such as the “Flee The Country,” “Bishop Opposes,” “Freeze Bank Account” and “T.R.O.” cards.  

Like in real life, alliances in this game are fleeting and formed out of necessity and self-interest. Walang kaibi-kaibigan nga naman. The “Riding In Tandem” card even forces a rival to become your running mate, banning them from attacking you. After all, you’re still vying for the prized seat in government. 

Due to the chronic backstabbing nature of Politricks, nobody holds the lead for too long. The most powerful card in the deck is the “Ambush” card, which permanently ousts a player from the game, giving you all his votes for the low, low price of 1.5 billion pesos. It kinda works like the much-reviled Blue Shell in Mario Kart. Much like Mario and Monopoly, Politricks is the kind of friendship-ruining game we’d play over and over again.

Game imitating life

It is a telling sign about the state of our local politics and its repetitive cycle of clichés, when a card game can accurately predict events, months before taking place during the campaign period. Notable ones include “Hack The Vote”, “Host Political Gathering”, “Accuse of Foreign Blood”, “Expose Rivals’ Mansions”, ”Woo A Big Sect”, and most recently, “Lifestyle Check”. (Can you match the card title to the real-life event?)

“We didn't even know that all these things would be happening right now,” Ting says. “Maalaga kami na di kami makakatama [ng tao]. We didn't make [the cards] to coincide with current events. We didn't plan on this. It just kept on recurring. People have even been sending us links and news articles.” 

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Adds Lim: “We always try not to be too candidate-specific, kasi it defeats the game’s purpose, which is to show that all trapos behave in the same way and the outcome (winning the election) is more important than the dirty tricks that they employ. We are not bashing a particular (group of) candidates and we keep things in a more generic way.” 

When playing the game, Lim and Ting wanted gamers to feel like they were actual corrupt politicians. There is no “clean” action in this deck of cards. It helps the would-be voter to get into the mindset of a politician.

Ting adds,It's very easy to demonize politicians and say, 'This guy's an asshole for doing all these things.' But if you were in that position with all sorts of money and advice of how to do these dirty tricks, wouldn’t you yourself be tempted to do these things?” 

Through humor and experiential gameplay, Lim and Ting hope players/voters will have a better understanding of Philippine politics. That they may think of results for themselves instead of complaining about the current state of affairs. 

As Lim points out, “The new generation doesn’t want to be told what to think. They want to think for themselves. So all you have is a medium [Politricks] where you can make your own judgement.” 

Ting adds, “We want the [player] to enjoy the game and then think for themselves. We imagine the game to be a method or tool for people to talk about politics in a casual manner. The idea is to transcend all these dirty tricks that's happening in our country. You'll understand what to do in terms of the law, in terms of incentives, in order to make them stop doing these things.”

Politricks (P600) is available at the following stores: Laruan Atbp, Snacks & Ladders, Fire Sword, Ludo, Dyce & Dine, Puzzles, Onboard Game & Gastropub and Burger Company. They are also available at game shops such as Neutral Grounds, and online at Gaming Library, Abubot.ph, and directly from their Facebook page.

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