Be World Leader Pretend in Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution.
It's been several weeks of feeling both powerful and powerless in Wisconsin, as protesters have come together in ways this state hasn't seen in a century - only to see their efforts thwarted by a Republican majority uninterested in compromise. There's obvious frustration in the air, and frustration needs an outlet.
So here, for your consideration, are some interesting/entertaining games to power up and vent your political jones. Remember, flexing a political muscle in a virtual world is enough to remind you that you can also flex in the real world as well.
Not every game with "revolution" in the title is worth exploring - steer far clear of Konami's horrible Rock Revolution if you value your ears and your musical sensibilities -- but games with the words "Sid Meier" are. As any gaming vet will tell you, Meier's long-running Civilization series is among the best ways to play World Leader Pretend, while at the same time learning the nuances of diplomacy and an agrarian-based economy.
Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution (all major console platforms, rated Everyone 10+) is a far easier pick-up-and-play version of the Civ experience for those who'd like to beat back the barbarian hordes in a few hours or less. Best of all, it's possible (and even encouraged) to outpace rival civilizations and political enemies through peaceful and diplomatic means, like building Wonders of the World in your civic backyard. If only it were as easy in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin's governor seems to share more than a little bit in common with Andrew Ryan, the megalomanic industrialist who sets in motion the events that lead to Bioshock and Bioshock 2 (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, rated Mature), two of the most essential video games of the last five years.
Sick of governmental regulations that inconveniently stand in the way of dreams and aspirations of the world's economic and artistic "elite" -- I'm guessing collective bargaining rights and Medicaid were high on the list -- Ryan sweeps up the talent pool and ships it to Rapture, his rules-free city under the sea. Everything's kosher until the beautiful people greedily OD on a substance that purports to make them even more beautiful and powerful, and you come in to sift through and (hopefully) survive the wreckage. FitzWalkerStan doesn't have the stylish 1940s art-deco feel of Rapture, but its long-term prognosis is probably just as bleak.
If you're still harboring a computer that runs Windows 95 in your basement study (or don't mind finding a technical workaround or two to get it to work on Windows 7), track down a copy of Republic, Eidos's ambitious-but-flawed 2003 role-playing game. Set in a post-Soviet-Union Russia in which a ruthless politician wins a democratic election and quickly moves to consolidate power and crush his political opponents -- sounding familiar yet? -- Republic finds you doing a lot of the things protesters in Wisconsin have been doing of late. Unlike other games that ask you to foment political change with an arsenal of big-ass weapons in your mitts -- think Just Cause 2 and the Red Faction series -- Republic's all about organizing, leafleting, influencing key operatives and keeping one eye trained on political opponents.
Finally, for a dose of pure, unadulterated adrenaline power, try firing up the first couple of missions of 2008's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, rated Teen). The politics at play here are a little more murky -- you're cast as Darth Vader's rogue apprentice -- but there's no denying that it's a major rush to wave your hand and use the Force to send a several-ton warship flying across the docking bay. When you casually fling Imperial Stormtroopers 100 yards into the air, feel free to imagine that they're actually members of the political party of your choice.