Cover art for the Apple II edition.
|Designer(s)||Nelson G. Hernandez Sr.|
|Platform(s)||Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS|
|Release||1981: Apple II|
1987: 1988 Edition
President Elect gives the player the ability to play as various real historical, potential historical, or completely fictional presidential candidates during the Presidential campaigns from 1960 to 1984 (most versions also included the 1988 campaign). Players were given the option of playing a "Historical" or "Ahistorical" scenario for each of the given years. Under the "Historical" option, the candidates, as well as economic and foreign policy conditions, and the status of the incumbent, were fixed. During an "Ahistorical" session, all those variables could be determined by the player (for example, the player could choose a 1984 race between an incumbent Republican President Ronald Reagan, versus a Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy, in the midst of an unpopular war and an economic boom). Alternatively, players could select the option of creating a fictional presidential candidate (or a real candidate from outside of the game's timeframe), through the selection of various political, personal, and geographic attributes (somewhat in the manner of creating an RPG player character). In addition, there was the option of selecting an "Ahistorical" set of candidates within the otherwise "Historical" conditions of the selected year. The game came preset with not only all the major candidates of the elections covered by the span of the game, but also a number of hypothetical candidates from across the time frame, such as Jerry Brown, George Romney, Gary Hart, and Howard Baker.
The game could be played with either two or three candidates (for example, the "Historical" scenarios for 1968 and 1980 included third party candidates George C. Wallace and John Anderson, respectively, and "Ahistorical" scenarios for any year could include the addition of a third party candidate), and the computer could control any or all of the candidates (thus allowing for the possibility of a non-player, straight simulation of an electoral scenario), meaning the game could be played by one, two, or three players.
Gameplay centered on the activity of dispersing PAPs ("Political Action Points"), which were approximately equivalent to campaign funds, in terms of their relationship to real life presidential campaigning, as well as scheduling personal, campaign visits to various states. Additionally, at the end of each of the nine, week-long, post-Labor Day game turns, there was a potential debate phase.
The role of the vice-presidential running mate was extremely limited, in that the running mate's identity was never given, but rather was simply represented by his or her being from a particular state, thus giving the ticket an electoral advantage in that particular state, and to a lesser extent in the other states within the region of the running mate's home state (for purposes of the game, the country was broken up into seven different regions, corresponding to: New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the South, the Industrial Midwest, the Great Plains, the Mountain States, and the Pacific Coastal States), although the vice presidential candidate's role in any state or region other than his own is nonexistent. But, he can tour foreign countries which if favourable gives an advantage in the elections. Foreign tour can also be performed by presidential candidate. But it shortens the election campaign that can be taken up by him for that particular week depending on the number of days the tour is taken up. Foreign tour costs PAPs depending on the number of days. A failed foreign tour can negatively impact polls, while a successful tour can cause a given candidate to see a polling surge.
President Elect: 1988 Edition was released in 1987 for the Apple II and Commodore 64, as well as for the Atari ST and MS-DOS computers. The 1988 Edition did not change gameplay at all, but simply added the historical Reagan vs. Mondale 1984 election, with a new 1988 scenario with no historical candidates. The game also added new playable candidates, such as Bill Clinton, Bruce Babbitt, Michael Dukakis, Richard Gephardt, Geraldine Ferraro, Jack Kemp, and Oliver North.
Computer Gaming World found in 1981 that incumbency was the most important factor in winning elections in the original version of President Elect. The review began with the results of a simulated election in which Ronald Reagan won reelection in 1984 with 525 electoral votes from 49 states and 55% of the popular vote, versus Walter Mondale's 13 electoral votes (from Washington DC and Minnesota) and 44%. The results of the real 1984 election were very similar, with the same candidates receiving the same electoral votes from the same states, and a 59%/41% popular vote. President Elect author Nelson Hernandez—calling himself "the best predictor of presidential elections in the country"—claimed that, with the 1988 edition of the game, in July 1988 he predicted the electoral and popular votes of the election that year within 1% each of the actual results.
Orson Scott Card favorably reviewed the 1988 edition of President Elect for Compute!. While he criticized aspects of the game's design, he noted that the game accurately simulated how "the strongest forces", like the economy, "are completely out of the players' control ... that's the way it works in the real world".
In 1996, Computer Gaming World declared President Elect the 131st-best computer game ever released.
- The V.I.P. of Gaming Magazine #2 (Feb./March, 1986)
- The Political Machine series
- "President Elect 1988 Edition". Atari Mania.
- Bobo, Ervin (October 1987). "President Elect: 1988 Edition". COMPUTE! (89): 32.
- Sipe, Russell (Nov–Dec 1981). "The Political Apple". Computer Gaming World. p. 23. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- Sipe, Russell (January 1985). "You Read It Here First!". Computer Gaming World. p. 13. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- Aycock, Heidi E. H. (November 1989). "Get Real". Compute!. p. 92. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- Card, Orson Scott (May 1988). "Do You Want to Change the World? Two Games Let You Try". Compute!. p. 9. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "150 Best Games of All Time". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. pp. 64–80. Retrieved 25 March 2016.