Online Political Games and Courses for Students | MobLab
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Online Political Games and Courses for Students | MobLab

Phil Limberg
While MobLab games are played in economics courses, our experiments are also employed in political science classrooms. Instructors have used MobLab for various political science courses including Intro to Political Science, Comparative Politics, and Political Game Theory. Two MobLab games frequently integrated in political science courses are the Voter Turnout Game and Two-Candidate Election Game.

Models of Voting – Why do people vote? Some people take hours out of their time to cast a vote in an election in which their individual vote will most likely not change the outcome. Explore this fascinating political question with your students and teach them about the paradox of voting with our Voter Turnout Game.

The Voter Turnout Game tells the tale of a healthy competition over which is the best sport. Students are given a preference schedule between Basketball and Soccer and placed in groups. The act of voting for their preference is costly, but students also receive a payoff if their preference wins the overall vote. What will your students choose? The group size, distribution of voting costs, and the number of students with respective sport (political) preferences are configurable parameters in the console. These parameters help illustrate the following political science concepts:

  • The Competition Effect
  • The Underdog Effect
  • The Size Effect
  • The Voting Cost Effect

After having competed fiercely with their political opponents, launch into insightful discussion about the key learning objectives using the results (displayed below). The aggregate cost distribution graph is a multi-round summary that plots how the decision to vote or abstain is related to the cost of voting. The x-axis displays the distribution of costs, and whether that student each student voted (blue) or abstained (red). The y-axis displays the number of voters with the associated cost. We observe that the students with higher cost draws tend to abstain more often as predicted by the voting cost effect.

Median Voter Theorem & Spatial Voting Model – Other aspects that motivate voters to turn out are who the candidates are and their positions on key policies. In the Two Candidate Election game, you can put your students in the shoes of the competing politicians to explore the Median Voter Theorem and Spatial Voting Model. Each student simulates the role of a politician deciding where to place their policy position along a political spectrum (left to right). Simulated voters will vote for the candidate whose policy more closely reflects their political views. The student who captures the larger portion of the electorate wins.

As an instructor, you can configure the location of the median voter. Then let them explore how the interest of being elected leads to a convergence towards the median position over multiple rounds.

After the game is completed, you can immediately debrief them by showing them how their policies tend to converge towards the median position you set. The results we present show, for each period, the extent to which play across all pairs converged to the equilibrium prediction of choosing the median voter’s policy.

While these two examples use voting to showcase political science principles, MobLab has additional games that can organically fit with most classes. Another very popular game is the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma, which you also can modify to play your own matrix form games for your political science course, to illustrate outcomes like the nuclear arms race. Political science instructors have found success in exploring the rest of our Game Theory experiments as well.

Would you like to learn more? Get in touch with our team. Whether you’re teaching in person, online, or both, MobLab has got you covered for interactive learning and engagement. Click here to schedule a one-on-one demo meeting.