As the U.S. Congress continues to move ahead with the world's most unbelievably ill-considered game of financial chicken, it's a stark reminder that politics is basically just a game — a game where everybody but the players lose.
But now it's a game that everybody can play, in a way that's a lot less boring than just watching C-SPAN and voting: Congress, reduced to a fantasy-football template.
ThePolitik.net is the brainchild of local artist Steven Prochyra, who thought it up over a beer with a friend and learned how to build a website just to implement it. "I taught myself how to program this spring," he admits. "I just kind of geeked out on it."
Here's how it works: Leagues can choose from one of two modes of play. The first, "Congress Mode," allows fantasy managers to populate their teams with members of Congress and is scored on the basis of how much legislation their "players" draft, sponsor and pass. More legislation means more points.
The second, "Capitalist Mode," is where it gets interesting. In it, the league has a set of issues that it weighs based on importance — issues like "Education," Health Care," Big Business," "Oil Drilling" and "Bail-Outs" — assigning point values based on interest. So let's say a league is interested in populist measures; they might value educational measures and give "Education" a value of five points, but really not like oil companies, and thus give "Oil Drilling" a value of -4 points. Every time one of the three senators and seven house representatives on your team passes, or fails to pass, legislation, you gain or lose points based on the values you've assigned. Did your team member's education bill fail? You lose those points. Did your Democratic star player work on an oil bill that passed? You lose points (and vice versa). In addition to the ten starters, team managers also get ten alternates for their "bench" that they can switch up once a week.
Interestingly, Prochyra evidently thought up ThePolitik.net independently of Andrew Lee, another Colorado kid who had the same basic idea when he debuted his "Fantasy Congress" a few years back (see Patricia Calhoun's October 26, 2006, column, "Play Bawl"). Lee's site folded in 2009.
But if Prochyra's fantasy politics site sounds complicated, he's confident people will get the hang of it; in fact, he's banking on it. "I wanted to make it so that, even if you didn't know jack about politics, you can still play," he says. "I'm actually pitching it to schools as a way for kids to learn about poli-sci." The main idea is getting people to follow the issues by giving those issues a more immediate effect. "You know, you listen to the news, and you find out about what's happening in politics after the bills are already passed," he notes. "If you can get people interested, maybe they'll find out about this shit on their own, before it happens."
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According to the Craigslist ad, the 3,200-square-foot house has been "fully restored with historic finishes," includes five parking spaces, and is wired for office use. In fact, office users or other businesses would be preferable to residential renters, Nashak says, because they close up shop in the evenings. "Perfect for a non profit, Dr.'s office, Dispensary, Chiropractor etc!," Vine Street's Facebook post reads.