Please vote today, whoever you support and even if you think your vote won’t matter.
In honour of today’s plebiscite, here’s a 5MA of an early Speccy sim/management game, where you play as the UK Prime Minister (and de facto Chancellor of the Exchequer) trying to steer the ship of state without sinking her. Politics ahoy!
Firing up Great Britain Ltd you’re greeted with a crudely-BEEPed rendition of Rule Britannia and a copyright notice putting us firmly in Adrian Mole territory at 7/82. That’s earlier than I’d remembered it being and helps explain why this memorable single coder game is all in BASIC, the humble Speccy itself having only been released in 1982.
Next up you’re called upon to enter your name, with a generous allowance of 24 characters allowing for some creativity. E.g. in screens below the “Rt.Hon.” is automatically prepended, but the notional Bronze Swimming Certificate is my own addition. Choosing a party is next, this is back when the Lib Dems where still two separate entities, which means you can pick the one in the prettiest colours should you so desire. Shame that there’s no option to input your own and/or go Monster Raving Loony Party.
The game proper begins here. The top of the screen displays vital details such as exchange rate against the dollar, unemployment, popularity, national debt and inflation (we’ll come back to that one).
Whilst there’s a certain unreal Studio Ghibli-esque air to the game in that the more unpleasant aspects of history aren’t present (except inflation, but again we’re coming back to that), the 1982 starting prices for staples did cause me a similar doubletake to the price of a 5MB Hard Disk in my Finders Keepers overview.
After these screens of very broad-stroke information play proceeds to Budget Day. You can’t refer back to anything not displayed in the header, so you’d better have a piece of paper handy, a good enough memory or else be willing to simply set policy to match your prejudices like a real politician (***NOTE: SATIRE***). Here you have a chance to set levels of taxation and benefits, before being given the chance to invest towards social reforms in the areas listed below.
Achieving a social reform in one of these areas seems to give you a popularity boost. However, this is very much a game where you’re playing against the unknown assumptions built into it and given that they were set in a different world (i.e. 1982) yet rapidly diverge from reality (because inflation is an absolute uncontrollable swine) it’s hard to judge the value of doing so. Well, without pressing BREAK and having a nose through the code.
The next screen is the Bread Riots Screen. Well, technically it’s one or more canned News Bulletins, but for me it’s almost always (implicitly bread) riots. Vote Stevenger!
From here gameplay loops back to the tax receipts and retail price index screens for your second and subsequent years in office. After 4 or 5 years a General Election is announced instead, sadly you don’t get to call it yourself.
You’re given a semi-random number of weeks notice, which in gameplay terms translate into attempts to tweak your platform to maximise your popularity before Election Night.
The Election Night screen comes with a soupcon of drama, counting up the votes for the each of the four parties in their tens and pausing every so often.
Should you be lucky enough to be re-elected the game continues, with the opportunity of being awarded a Knighthood for something per the code. You’re much more likely to be Portilloed or suffer the near-miss ignominy of a Con/Dem pact or something though.
The game’s fun for a few goes once in a while and best not taken too seriously. I’ve mentioned inflation several times and even doing nothing to the default values in your first budget seems to result in massive runaway inflation. There are several versions of the game, as it was picked up and republished by a marginally larger entity than creator Simon W Hessel himself. I don’t know if either of the other two revisions address this propensity though.
If this at all tickles your fancy, you might also want to try the remake linked on the games’ World Of Spectrum page. It’s from this very year of 2017 no less, although at time of writing I’ve not played it and can’t speak for it. You may also be interested in Software House, a 1988 management sim which was later featured on a Crash covertape.
Finally, if you’ve read this far I hope you’ll forgive me repeating myself now. If you can vote today, then please do so. If you’re a Future Person reading this in The Mysterious Future, then please vote whenever next you can. Also, I’m sorry for whatever that thing we do wrong was. Also-also, you know when I am if you want to punt me a sports almanac, yeah?
God Bless America / Game Boy Advance, they’re the main two!