UC journalism students use games to make politics fun

John Osborn and and six other students at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism created this interactive game about the California propositions

Let’s face it: ballot measures can be dry. And boring. And difficult to understand, often leading people just to vote “no,” because a measure is too complicated.

A group of seven students at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism set out to change all that. They created a guide to California’s ballot measures that looks more like a video game than a voting pamphlet. Called Gimme Props! the game uses colorful avatars, clickable cartoons, quizzes, and simple language to explain the motivations, money, and interests behind each measure.

One section of the site has “Tax Fighter” which pits Prop. 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s measure to raise taxes to fund education, against Prop. 38, attorney Molly Munger’s competing proposition to fund schools. By answering a quiz that poses a series of steps you think the state should take, Gimme Props! predicts which measure you should support.

“Every time these ballot measures come along they are presented in a way that is drab and complicated and full of jargon,” said John C. Osborn, a second year student at the journalism school (and former Berkeleyside contributor) who spearheaded the coding aspect of the project. “We thought “could we create a way to tell the story of California propositions in a way that is light-hearted and interactive? … The audience we had in mind was a younger generation, our generation from 18 to 34. We respond a little bit differently. We grew up with the Internet. We have certain expectations of how information is presented. I don’t want to say we don’t read – we do – but you have to make more of an effort to keep people’s attention.”

One section of Gimme Props! explains how felony conviction would be counted under Prop 36, which aims to amend the three strikes law

The students started Gimme Props! in mid-September and had to work intensely to code the project, figure out its art and structure, and learn about the various elements of the state propostions. The students are spreading the work through social media like Facebook and Twitter and various websites.

Visit Gimme Props!

Visit Berkeleyside’s Voter’s Edge Berkeley for complete coverage and tracking of the city’s 10 ballot measures. Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to Nov. 6. And check out our map of all of Berkeley’s polling locations.

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  • emraguso

    Hey…. now I’m kinda glad I haven’t filled out my ballot yet. Cool idea. 

  • nan

    Wish I had seen this before I voted!