What can a 30-year old Spectrum game tell us about the election?
Well, today's general election day here in the UK -- obviously there'll be plenty of news articles about that everywhere, but here on Retronauts I wanted to use today to highlight...well, one of the weirdest ZX Spectrum games ever released -- it's 30 years old this year, and oddly enough it's about elections! You'd hope so anyway, seeing as it's called Election. Why is it so weird? Well, the best way to demonstrate that is through video:
The thing with ZX Spectrum games is that there's plenty of them where you just take one look at it, or try to play it, and you have absolutely no idea what on earth's going on or what you have to do. You might just put that down to the game being old, but don't -- because no-one had much of a clue what Election was about back then either. According to Virgin Games, it's an electioneering game where you take control of one of various candidates and try to influence other people to vote for you in various ways -- either traditional or through more underhanded techniques. I guess it's some sort of satire? That would make sense as an aim of the game, even if little else about the game does.
It is curious in that the game is very much an open world that apparently boasts 40 intelligent people (or rather heads that move around) that you can influence or can be influenced by the other candidates, and it's not like Virgin didn't push the game hard -- this was a full price game back in the day costing £9.95, and Virgin certainly advertised it a lot. As far as Virgin Games in the 1980's goes, it's not actually that weird -- they also published games like indie band simulator The Biz (written by Frank Sidebottom, and a game that will certainly be talked about here soon), an adaptation of Adrian Edmondson's book How to Be A Complete Bastard, and a licensed game based around Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Some of those games were actually alright, and Virgin carved some sort of niche as an "alternative" games publisher, albeit one with a hell of a lot of money behind it -- but then that fit the image of Sir Richard Branson at the time. Election is most certainly not alright, but it's a strange artifact...and can it tell us anything about the General Election today? Well, not really -- but in the end despite all the hustings and opinion polls and speculation, there's not an awful lot out there that can, so a lousy 30 year old ZX Spectrum game is probably as good a choice as any.