Local teacher gamifies democratic process

Winters High School teacher, Matthew Biers-Ariel had a hand in the creation of an iPhone game application encompassing American history, politics and culture. Courtesy photo

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Although it’s been riddled with calamity, 2020 is also perhaps the most important election year in recent history. To keep people informed and interested in voting, Winters High School teacher, Matthew Biers-Ariel has gamified the democratic process.

Inspired by his son’s interest in presidential and political trivia, Biers-Ariel originally hatched the idea for “Election: The Game” as a board game. Years later, it’s come to fruition as an iPhone game application encompassing American history, politics and culture.

“It’s a fun way to learn about our country and we cover America from George Washington to George Floyd,” Biers-Ariel said detailing about what the game entails. “You learn important things like how the electoral college works, how many justices are on the supreme court as well as funny facts like which state it’s illegal to get a fish drunk.”

With nearly 40 years as an educator – and 20 of which in Winters – Biers-Ariel insists people learn best when they’re having fun. It’s this mentality that begets the game’s tagline, MEFA – Make Elections Fun Again.

“Be the presidency going from state to state answering trivia questions about the state, but you can’t campaign if you don’t have the dough,” Biers-Ariel walked through how one plays the game. “You have to collect money to campaign, so in smaller states you don’t need a lot of money, but in a bigger state like California you need a lot of money. Whoever gets 270 electoral college votes first wins.”

Creating a game, however, requires more than conceiving it as an idea to bring it to life. Mark Fearing handled the illustrations, Phyllis Gallagher and Martin Hald assisted with software engineering while John M. Hull composed the music and sound-effects.

“I will say the game does skew left and president Trump is skewed a lot in the game because he’s broken so many political norms,” Biers-Ariel said giving his honest insight on the game. “There are questions that aren’t very flattering to him, but the questions for the most part are very objective, and you get a clear sense of American history and how politics work in this game.”

To Biers-Ariel, being a American citizen means staying informed and getting involved in the political process. Moreover, he hopes this game provides an avenue for people to do just that.

One can find “Election: The Game” in the Apple App Store – just be sure to include the colon when typing the name in the search bar. For more information on the game itself, one can visit the game’s website, https://www.electionthegameapp.com/. It’s only 99 cents and a fun way to strengthen your political prowess.

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