Cliff Harris, the brain behind Positech Games (Big Pharma, Gratuitous Space Battles), has announced development of Democracy 3: Africa. It's a full-on "re-imagining" of the policy-juggling political strategy game Democracy 3, and will be standalone so you won't need the older game in order to play it.
Democracy 3: Africa will have new artwork and music and obviously a whole new set of events and dilemmas relevant to the massive continent of Africa and the diverse set of countries within it. The countries you can govern are Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, Senegal, Tunisia, Botswana and Mauritius.
It's got a rough PC/Mac release date of Q1 2016, and Cliff Harris is handing designer duties to Jeff Sheen from Stargazy. It's all Harris' idea and he's the boss, so to speak, he's just expanding operations a bit.
But why Africa? "When I told some friends about it they said, 'Why Africa? Who is interested in African politics?'" Harris wrote on his blog.
"And that's kind of the point," he added. "In the West, we tend to think of Africa as either the target of charity fund-raising concerts, or somewhere to go on a safari. We never think about the African economies, or African industry or exports. Lets not forget Africa is home to a billion people..."
Across many countries there are a melting pot of problems and opportunities including, in some cases, intense corruption and very low levels of literacy and infrastructure. It all makes for "a fascinating experiment in political strategy", said Harris. And Democracy 3 has been successful enough that he can afford to take a risk on "a version of the game that at first glance might not make commercial sense".
"Plus... when do you ever see Africa in a video game?" he asked. "I have no memories of it ever being anything but a destination where pirate bases or criminal gangs roam. Gaming seems to have a very distorted view of Africa, just like Hollywood does. I am under no illusions that this game will sell many copies in Africa (the gaming market is tiny) but I think it still makes sense because its such an interesting setting for a strategy game."
Harris' interest in Africa extends to him/Positech funding the building of a school in Cameroon - a project he announced in the summer.
"So there you go," his post concluded, "Democracy 3: Africa. And yes... I am going to get even more white supremacist spam (I got a bit after announcing the school we are building), and yes, we will probably get the tone of some of this wrong, and people will accuse us of misrepresenting African countries and people, and we expect to learn a lot, and to be in full-on listening mode. We are two white guys in the UK making a game about Africa. I've never even been there. I get that. I know we will make mistakes, but they won't be intentional. If we have any 'agenda' here at all it's just to develop a game with an unusual and interesting setting, and to learn a little about Africa in the process."
Democracy 3 came out in 2013. At first glance it's a sea of icons representing different policies, but beneath that are charts and flow diagrams and all sorts to help you work out which things are working for your country - and bottom line - and which aren't. Ideals soon fall by the wayside as you try to balance GDP, political extremes and legalising drugs (oh is that just me).