American Politics are like a poorly-written video game.

I had it in mind to write two posts today: one was going to be about our broken political system as exemplified by, among other things, the sequester.  The other post was going to be about video game writing and criticism thereof.  But as I was mulling over these ideas, I came to a startling realization: the points I wanted to make about both were essentially the same.

The point of video games is interactivity, and in the kind of games I mostly play–Role Playing Games–that means you’re given choices in dialogue and influence over how the story plays out.  In a well-written RPG the player has a lot of control over how the story develops.  In a poorly-written RPG, the player gets “railroaded” into following what the writers want, or is given poorly-explained choices, an artificial or unfair set of choices.

The same is true of politics. As I have written before, (using this same gaming analogy) the system forces us into making sub-optimal choices. The two major parties enjoy too much power to set the agenda for the voters.  In this way, they are like bad video game writers, imposing their ideas on the player, or, in this case, the average citizen.

But where this analogy specifically relates to the sequester mess is in another, related problem that crops up in choice-based gaming. This is The Choice That Exists For No Reason.  I won’t spoil it here, but there is an example of it late in Mass Effect 3, where the player is presented with what appears at first to be a choice, but in which there is really only one “right” decision to make, because to do anything else results in losing the game.

The politicians have created just this sort of choice for themselves, and then failed to make the right choice.  The sequester was designed by them to be so awful no one would ever let it happen, and then they let it happen anyway. In general, you should never commit to doing things that are meant never to be done.

What's your stake in this, cowboy?