A look back on the Pilot run of Gerrymandering Game Night

On Wednesday, December 6, 2017, Glasshouse Policy hosted a test run of Gerrymandering Game Night, an app based game created to teach players about the redistricting process to show the impact gerrymandering can have on electoral politics.

For this game night, Glasshouse Policy joined forces with the League of Women Voters, the Austin Monitor, Austin Tech Alliance and the Texas Observer to host this small pilot event aimed at collecting criticism and feedback on the gerrymandering game.

To provide context on the issue, we invited Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune to open the night with an introduction into gerrymandering before players started the game. After the introduction, the rules of the game were explained and each team was assigned a political party. The teams were then challenged to gerrymander the existing boundaries of 5 Democratic and 5 Republican Congressional districts located in Central Texas .

We challenged the teams to maximize the voting power of their assigned party by strategically moving boundaries — being sure to keep within the population restrictions of 650,000 to 850,000 for each district. For the purposes of this game, we simplified the variables teams must account for when reapportioning districts such as: population density, median income, voting history, ethnic background, and party preference.

Throughout the night, we talked with each team to gain input on what worked well and what needed to be changed in order to have the best user experience. We received useful criticism from participants about the user interface of the application and creative new ways to present the game, including: adding a demo to the introduction of the game, simplifying the concept of the game, and incorporating story-based scenarios to make the game more engaging.

Below are survey results showing how 13 teams responded to the statement “I learned more at Gerrymandering Game Night than I would: at a lecture, at a panel, and reading about the subject”.

Overall, the survey results showed that attendees believed they learned more at Game Night than they would have at a traditional town hall event. In addition, the feedback garnered from this event was useful in helping identify improvements that could be made to the application and the program as a whole. As we continue to work on the game, we will strive to incorporate the feedback we’ve received to ensure our future Gerrymandering Game Nights are as user-friendly, informative, and fun as possible.

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