Social Studies

Social Studies
Fantasy Congress

Joe Blancato | 30 Oct 2007 11:39
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Rewarding and codifying results, rather than cramming a politician's platform into a 30-second infomercial, is already having a minor effect on the process in Washington. "We had one player call Representative Bart Stupak from Michigan and tell him to earn more points," Lee says. "And we had another ... who met up with Representative Gwen Moore and told her he'd really appreciate if she was more active in terms of pushing her agenda and really being able to score a lot of points on Fantasy Congress." So even if people playing the game - 65,000 in total, many of which are high school and college students playing against their classmates - are only taking their representatives to task to score more points, at the very least, they're holding their elected officials accountable for something. That's in line with Lee's goals. "Our hope has always been this grand vision of 'If we make can politics as fun as sports and people care as much about politics as much as sports, then we have a better government,"' he says. "It's trying to promote activism from the perspective that it makes an active spectator versus just one that's really passive and sort of gives up. ... The modern-day Congress right now is very much like if, instead of watching Kobe Bryant play basketball, all you saw was Kobe Bryant and Michael Vick get arrested all the time. The big difference for us is we wanna focus it back on the policy issues, back on the plays of the day, the politics of Congress. We wanna make it open to people."

And that's a goal the creators of the Constitution would likely have endorsed. The founding generation was uniquely literate and made liberal use of the printing press like few have since. In major cities, newspapers numbered in the dozens, each with its take on the news and heavy focus on inter-paper debate. Thomas Paine's Common Sense, which shifted much of the country in favor of revolution, was distributed partially in newspapers. Now, this generation is making use of another new technology, the internet, to shift the focus back on policy. "With the power of the internet, we're able to grab all different types of things that happen on a member of Congress," Lee says. "Political science was not developed enough until we came along. People have tried to do certain metrics, people have tried to use technology, but we've been able to do it on a minute-by-minute basis."

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What about the team's personal aspirations? Even though Fantasy Congress is politically agnostic, Lee's team runs the political gamut ("one of us is a Democrat, one's a Republican, one's an independent, I think one's apathetic, as well"), and anyone with as much interest in the process as Lee, who describes himself as a "political junkie," must have eyes on Capitol Hill, right? "No guarantee about running for Congress, although when I was a kid, instead of wanting to be a basketball player I wanted to be a member of Congress. But I'm just weird that way," he says. For now, he's focusing on the fantasy version. Currently, the team's working on an election edition. "It's gonna be this really cool game that will hopefully change the very way that we think of elections. And then [we're going] to continue to develop a better educational product. ... There's not enough interactivity in politics, and hopefully we can provide that."

Joe Blancato is an Associate Editor at The Escapist. His Fantasy Congress team, Team Wide Stance, is currently in fourth place in a 15-person league.

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