It's that time of year again when websites all over the internet are pumping out depth charts and top 300 lists. Even MTV is joining in on the fantasy action, though their league leaders won't be rushing for 1,000 yards anytime soon.
As part of MTV's "Power of 12" campaign, the television network officially launched the first-of-its-kind "Fantasy Election '12," a desktop and mobile app available on Facebook.
User-owned teams will get to choose a team name and draft political candidates -- instead of athletes -- who are running for Congress or the presidency this fall. Just like fantasy sports games, teams will compete for league dominance by earning and losing points based on how their chosen few behave in the real world. The five key areas will range from constituent engagement, honesty, transparency, civility and public opinion.
Although I did not get to make any trades, it does seem like the game will offer the general tools needed to build and nurture your team. Owners can add and drop candidates throughout the week from a pool left available after the automated draft. For bonus points, owners can also participate in the political process by sharing the game and getting friends involved. Daily multiple choice question-and-answer challenges also aid in stacking up points for team owners. Quite frankly, the bonus points, although a good way to better inform players on political issues, have no place in a fantasy game.
The game does a good job of keeping team owners in the political loop. It was good to see how individual candidates progressed week after week but their performances did not make a lasting impression on me as a voter. I found my team in a hole early on at the near bottom of my league standings so I dropped my underperforming candidates and replaced them with anyone with higher scores.
In fantasy sports, drafted players weigh heavily on the team they are on. In "Fantasy Election '12," it would have been nice to see more of a grouping by state rather just the political party. As a New York voter, I learned nothing about the campaigns or agendas in my area because a team is more successful solely based on a points system. Without that home team mentality, I lost interest quickly. Republican and Democrat is just two divisions or conferences. It would have been nice to have more of a reason to choose candidates from my state rather than just a score to be the better team in a fantasy league.
Breakout candidates could make a lasting impression on team owners. If an unknown candidate's rating sends your team to the top, it's possible that could lead to more votes come November. Think of it in comparison to jersey sales for athletes. I even own an Antonio Brown Pittsburgh Steelers jersey because of how much of an impact he made for my fantasy team last season -- and I am a Dallas Cowboys fan.
One of the reasons why fantasy sports is so successful is because it generates interest about out-of-market teams that many fans would never have been exposed to otherwise. If you were born and raised a New York Giants fan in the tri-state area, it's doubtful you'd care how many yards Ben Roethlisberger threw against the Colts during their Week 2 game. Even the least knowledgeable football fans will be drawn to wanting to know more about their fantasy players' performances on a weekly basis -- sometimes even daily happenings.
The welcome mat laid out by MTV for "Fantasy Election '12" team owners attempts to do the same. It's a fine way to share information about politicians and better prepare them to make an educated decision come Election Day. After all, it is pretty sad that most sports fans know who won the Superbowl last year but do not know who runs our country.
This is the reason why "Fantasy Election '12" just does not work as a long-term fantasy game: It's just not sexy. Though if a small percentage does change their views on a politician, then MTV will have helped in a big way.
"Fantasy Election '12" is a fine effort by MTV to expose younger voters to learn more about the candidates and their weekly whereabouts. The real question is will voters who play the game hold their presidential and congressional candidates accountable in both the game and come November? Unlikely, but at a time when the country needs it the most, an educated voter can lead to a quality vote for a better America.