Prepare for anger. ;) Photo cc by Pexels

“Sick Democracy”, the Game

A dirty little game exposing a fundamental flaw in democracy

Democracy is a failing game. Understand the dark mechanics through this dirty game and then observe reality with fresh, shocked eyes.

Sorry, but our psychology doesn’t help with dealing and living a healthy democracy. There are so many dark sides to it, and this is just one, based on most people’s egocentric attitudes. Play to understand, win to corrupt, corrupt to win.

The Game Play

  1. Invite any group of players 3–13 players, as long it’s more than two. Anything between 5 and 13 might work best. Uneven numbers of players working better than even. When with an even number, you can play that the one making proposals can’t vote on their own proposal.

2. Put in the middle of the table a pile of (game)money, let’s say a 100 units/nuts/stones/coins/€1000 dollar bills.

3. Each turn one player (in clockwise order) may make a proposal to divide a pre-established part of the money; all depending on the currency you play with. This part should be 1/10th of the whole pile up to 1/30th part of the whole pile. This could for example be a proposal how to divide 10 coins over 7 players. Thus a game will take anything from 10 to over 30 rounds. ;) .

4. There is short discussion round, if so desired. The proposer may adapt the proposal according new insights at the end of the discussion. You can set discussion or debating time to adjust proposals.

5. During discussion time players may invite others for a private talk. Players may pay sums to other players during these meetings. If that needs to be public or not is decided by the players.

6. All players vote on the proposal. If the proposal wins the majority, the chips/nuts/dollars are divided exactly as proposed. Otherwise the proposal is off the table.

7. Players may never repeat a proposal that has been played before. This is the only rule that can’t be changed.

Example: In my turn I may propose something like: “Anyone with blue jeans on, gains 100.” This proposal is framed to have me in the majority, because I noticed most players wear blue jeans. Thus the more you are part of the majority, the more you win. After discussions about proposals you may adjust a proposal, like add to the jeans proposal “And anyone with black jeans gets a 50.” when you feel this way you win the vote, or don’t anger losers towards revenge when it is their turn to propose.

8. Decide to play blind or open before you begin. Blind means you may hide your winnings from sight. Open means everything stays on the table. Your choice is played until new rules decide otherwise.

9. When half the money pile in the middle is gone, also proposals for rule change or adaptations may be made. Before this starts however vote to see if the poorest player goes first or the richest.

Example: “Everyone who has more than a 1000 must give some money to those that have less.” if you want to show a ‘human’ face, but not challenge the system. Or go very sick: “From now on, only people with blue jeans may vote. Other players still may make proposals in their turn.” You will understand that at some point, even through the democratic process, the game has become rigged. Dangers of prejudice against minorities are huge. Only humanity can keep the losing side in. For the winning players it will become in their interest to keep the losing side playing, to win even more money in the long run. (Recognize this pattern? Anyone?) For this some risks have to be taken, because open revolt would of course spoil the game for all, mostly the current winners. That too makes the game sick. Only good thing though is you get to know your friends better, like ‘If John has been in Paris too, we may have a nice majority of people who’ve been in Paris next round.’ ;)

Winner is the one who has the most money when the pile in the middle is gone, without anyone stampeding out.

That is the real challenge or trick of course (for the elite/winners); how to keep people playing, when they’ve already lost? And mind the power of protest, dear players, because how else to make the (real world) game more honest?

NB: And you can understand that a group of people who enter the game later, read born and raised in the late game (millennials anyone?), may consider this late game as ‘the way things are’. And protestors can be seen as spoilsports, where perhaps some rules need address that issue. Also in late game, marketing and lying to keep losing players in, becomes part of the game, in order to prevent losing control, having players leave the table or have to undo rigged rules. Recognize this? Oh my.

2019 edit: we now see both Republicans and Democrats in the USA threatening to storm out, or shout false play to force the other to bend to their will, so everyone will keep on playing. We also see why sometimes letting minorities win is a good idea, as long as they don’t gain real power.

This is an article the game came from that exposes way more weaknesses. Lucky for you, it also wonders what may come after democracy? What can we do, to grow mature and change the game to make it better for all players?



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Floris Koot

Floris Koot


Play Engineer. Social Inventor. Gentle Revolutionary. I always seek new possibilities and increase of love, wisdom and play in the world.