If you’re not into politics, the election season–with all of its uncertainties and unpleasantness–can seem interminable. So if you’re a candidate, particularly one who isn’t a bile-spuming human sweet potato, how do you keep voters engaged long enough to absorb your talking points? If you’re Hillary Clinton, you borrow a few pages from Farmville‘s playbook, and task them with running their own virtual campaign office to get out the vote.
The Hillary 2016 app is a free download on iOS, with Android version forthcoming. It puts you in charge of a digital regional office for the Hillary 2016 campaign. You’re tasked with turning it into a bustling campaign HQ by buying upgrades like new posters, office furniture, art, and more, by collecting starts–the game’s in-app currency. But you don’t pay real money for stars: you earn them by performing microtasks in the app, like syncing the 2016 Election Calendar to your own, or taking a quiz about the many, many, many falsehoods of Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
Right now, the Hillary 2016 app rewards stars for things like filling out quizzes, but there’s nothing stopping the developers from letting players win stars from watching debates, tweeting links of support, signing petitions, and more. Exciting or not, it’s a clever way to keep inactive voters involved–and it’s easy to see how it lays a foundation for future features aimed at getting people involved on a more grassroots level. For example, one feature lets you find events to participate in on a local level, from phone banks to canvassing.
When it came to building the app, it wasn’t just farmed out to the lowest bidder–the app’s design team within Hillary For America has a pretty impressive mobile design pedigree behind it. According to the campaign, it included Stephanie Cheng, the senior product manager, who recently co-founded the game company Kooapps, and previously worked at DreamWorks Animation’s app division. Meanwhile, senior product designer Denny McFadden led the design team at the large nonprofit charity: water. Other employees have experience at Etsy, Timehop, and Livestream.
The app’s not going to be for everyone, and there’s already some who are calling it joyless. I don’t know, though. In an election year that could very well just be a vote away from the apocalypse, I found there to be something soothing about the pablum-like game mechanics of Hillary 2016. This year, I don’t really want to play a partisan iOS game about U.S. politics that gets my blood boiling any more than it already is; I just want to fall into a zen-like state, collect my stars and upgrade my Hillary HQ to Aeron Chairs, because this election is fucking “exciting” enough.
Meanwhile, rumor has it that Donald Trump’s own virtual campaign office app will be a re-skinned version of Five Nights at Freddie’s. Okay, not really. But can you think of a more appropriate choice?