SwingState and the Developer’s Journey

The electoral college is a mystery of numbers that rears its ugly head every four years. Each state becomes a blue state, red state or a purple state with a number attached to it, and it’s up to 2 presidential campaigns to put the puzzle pieces together to get to that magic number of 270. 

In 2000 it was 537 votes that decided Florida’s 25 electoral votes. But did you know New Mexico and its 5 electoral votes were decided by a measly 366 votes? And in 1960 the swing states were Illinois, Missouri, and South Carolina, all decided by less than 10,000 votes?

Maybe I could create a game based on the swing states of each election year. And I could mix in the events that really swing the elections. The Daisy Girl ad in 1964, the Willie Horton ads of 1988, or Mitt Romney’s 47% speech. Maybe these will happen, maybe they won’t.

I’ve always been a lover of board games and especially Monopoly. I love the small amounts of money, the randomness of dice rolls, and the unpredictable nature of “cards” like Chance and Community Chest. And the ruthlessness of trying to bankrupt your opponent.

As much as anything, I drew inspiration from the “real” inventor of Monopoly, a woman named Lizzie Magie.  Long before Parker Brothers made millions on Monopoly, Lizzie Magie patented a board game called the Landlord’s Game in 1904. She created the game at least in part to advocate for a political position, in this case for the “single tax” (long story). I wanted to create a game that would advocate a political position. That is, our democracy is in peril. How can I do something to promote our democracy?

Early Version of SwingState

I developed the first version of the game, and it wasn’t very good. I actually abandoned it for a time. This little game I was creating was cute but there was serious work to be done to defend our democracy. Eventually I had time and bandwidth to devote as I entered semi-retirement, and the game took on a life of its own. First it was the “breaking news”. It’s things like Hillary’s emails and Romney’s 47% speech that really turn the elections, not the endless policy positions of the candidates. And presidential debates? They’re all a tossup anyway so let’s make it a mini-game of rock/paper/scissors.  Candidates lie during the campaign. Ya think? Let’s make it so you can get away with lies as long as you don’t get fact-checked. 

SwingState was a blast to develop.  I set out to create a game that can be played on any device and a 1 or 2 player game.  While there still are some rough edges I think the product accomplishes both.  Is it engaging and fun? That’s a question that only new game players can answer.

I hope you enjoy SwingState and if you do please share it with friends.  If you have any feedback please email support@swingstategame.org.

Matt Osber

Author and Developer