The Howard Dean for Iowa Game
The first official U.S. Presidential Election game
About The Howard Dean for Iowa Game

Launched at Christmas 2003 to help Dean supporters understand grassroots outreach and to encourage them to participate in pre-caucus campaigning in Iowa or in their local area. Ccommissioned by Dean for America, the game was the first ever official U.S. Presidential Election game.

There are two gameplay features that may be difficult for the individual players to understand now that the campaign is over and the game is played only rarely.

First, every player's results affected the games other supporters played later. The regions of the Iowa map start out near-white, and as each player generates more supporters in each region, that data is stored on the game server. Each time the game loads, it adjusts the blue tint in these regions to indicate how much support has been generated in the past 24 hour period. Increasing support in a region also makes it easier to generate more support. As you play the game, you will notice that supporters in bluer areas are more effective than those in whiter areas. This may be hard to see, since far fewer people play the game on a daily basis than did during the time it was promoted by the campaign.

Second, the game allowed players to send Instant Messages (IMs) via any of the four major networks (AOL IM, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, and ICQ) to online buddies. The message came from special Dean for Iowa handles created for the game. If the message was delivered successfully, the player would get a special supporter unit in the game, labeled with his or her IM buddy's screenname. This was a fun way to spread the word about the game and also to implicate unsuspecting people inside the support network. Because of the cost of maintaining this feature for the long term, it has been removed from the game, and any attempts to send IMs will result in error messages.

The game was Exhibited at "Videogames with An Agenda," Curzon Soho Cinema Gallery, London UK (October 2004) and "State of Play: Games with an Agenda," Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne Australia (March 22 - June 18, 2005).

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