Redistricting Game, 2006 – USC Game Innovation Lab
“Why would you need to rig the voting machines if you’d already rigged the election by making votes safe?” – USC Professor Jonathan Aronson
“It’s the perfect game to create because real-world gerrymandering is already a computer game, played for high stakes by incumbants.” – USC Professor Douglas Thomas
The Redistricting Game, an early serious game to teach the basics of redistricting, was produced by USC’s Annenberg Center and The School of Cinematic Arts Game Innovation Lab in 2006-7. The game effectively simulates the complex processes of congressional redistricting, beginning with a responsive 2D map-drawing puzzle, followed by role-playing to usher the map through three branches of government: a vote by the state legislature, the Governor signature and, if challenged, the courts.
The Redistricting Game was officially launched in June 2007 in the U.S. Capitol Building with Representative John Tanner and ex-Senator John Anderson, both proponents of redistricting reform. As far as we know this is the first digital game to be launched in the halls of the US Congress. The game has been available online since 2007. Play The Redistricting Game* at www.redistrictinggame.org
*The Redistricting Game has been unavailable since December 2020 with the demise of FLASH although can be accessed through a number of Flash emulators.
The Redistricting Game is designed to educate, engage, and empower citizens around the issue of political redistricting. Currently, the political system in most states allows the state legislators themselves to draw the lines. This system is subject to a wide range of abuses and manipulations that encourage incumbents to draw districts which protect their seats rather than risk an open contest. By exploring how the system works, as well as how open it is to abuse, The Redistricting Game allows players to experience the realities of one of the most important (yet least understood) aspects of our political system. The game provides a basic introduction to the redistricting system, allows players to explore the ways in which abuses can undermine the system, and provides info about reform initiatives – including a playable version of the Tanner Reform bill to demonstrate the ways that the system might be made more consistent with tenets of good governance. Beyond playing the game, the web site for The Redistricting Game provides a wealth of information about redistricting in every state as well as providing hands-on opportunities for civic engagement and political action.
Paper Prototype for Redistricting Game at SCA Game Innovation Lab, 2006
Redistricting Game Launch, 2007
US Congress: Rep John Tanner, Sen John Anderson
The Redistricting Game has been used in classrooms across the country to teach about gerrymandering,
mid-term elections, and the importance of state legislatures.
(Photo: Nate Bowling, Twitter Post 2016)