Can you imagine knowing exactly how a country will be affected tomorrow by the decisions you make today? That's the question at the centre of the upcoming iOS sim Shadow Government.
The twist is that the simulations playing out within the game are based on tested, real-world theories. This basis in real life adds an educational element to an intriguing strategy premise.
Watching the dominoes fall
In Shadow Government, you play a puppetmaster pulling the strings in a major country. Your political, environmental, and other policies play out over the course of several decades. You have to create the best, most balanced city possible by the time your game ends.
It sounds just like SimCity until you realise that the cause-and-effect models are straight from The Millennium Institute, a real-life consulting firm.
This behind-the-scenes group is an expert on how cities function. It's most famous for the Threshold 21 (T21) model, which uses 21 factors, from educational level to ecological vitality, to determine how long a city will thrive or struggle.
Want to see how America would function under a Marxist government? Set it up and see for yourself.
Touch and go
The intimidating premise actually translates into simple gameplay. As in a traditional RTS, you can drag factories, housing, and other items onto the screen. Tapping on an icon brings up its stats. The visuals are big and detailed, making it easy to navigate your city.
Environmental issues have been explored before in games, but Shadow Government is interesting in that it adds political persuasions to the mix. For instance, a radical liberal or a dyed-in-the-wool conservative can see his political stance in action by observing how, say, a free market or socialist ethos would play out in real-life city simulations.
You can also visit other friends' cities, which - Shadow Government developer Playmatics hopes - will open up dialogue about how we each fit in our actual societies.
There's no real competition between players, but it will be hard not to engage in a little smack talk while watching your buddy's "foolproof" political philosophy burning his young country to the ground.
Keeping it (too) real
While the basic game is solid, we're most excited about the streaming news events. Once Shadow Government launches, it will integrate news events ripped from real-life headlines.
For instance, following an earthquake somewhere in the world a similar earthquake might take place in the game, leaving you to manage the consequences.
Little doses of chaos are what make city-building so difficult, and we expect these news events, paired with the game's T21 modelling, to make Shadow Government creepy and compelling.
Shadow Government will be out later this spring as a Universal app.