Tropical Politics

tropico 4

All hail El Presidente.

Usually Esteban stays away from political points of view since they seem to inspire projectile vitriol to all within earshot, however since it’s an election year I feel compelled to rant on a different angle to some serious silliness. So, without further ado, my thesis statement:

You can learn economic and political management strategies and better educate yourself on what goes into running a country by becoming a dictator in Tropico 4.

Tropico 4 is a PC/console based strategy video game, satirically mirroring the reality of being the dictator of a fictional tropical island chain in the Caribbean.  A supporter of the Civilization and Sim City franchises, this game is right up my alley.  Little did I know that concepts embedded in its gameplay can be spectacularly educational for the common man as an alternative to the partisan talking points littering your televisions this time of year.

The goal of the game is to build your city, accomplishing random goals along the way.  You start off with your palace, some dudes operating a garage and transportation services, a dock, some housing, two corn farms, and $20,000.  You can build many types of farms, ranches, housing, mines, government/civic buildings, tourist attractions, landmarks, etc. and can develop these to a large degree to produce a large sprawling metropolitan area.  However, it’s not as simple as just throwing money into an oil field from the get go.  You must slowly build wealth into a solid economic base all while juggling numerous political factions like Environmentalists, Loyalists, and Intellectuals and their demands.  It’s quite fascinating to watch your city grow into a beast, most likely totally different from what you imagined.

How can a game like this help humanity? By wrapping complicated concepts of nation management into a fun, digestible format.  Here are some examples

Cash does not grow on trees.  Money accumulates either by massive tourism, exports, or a generous gift from the Middle East.  You have to grow your economy with raw resource development, meaning agriculture (bananas and shit) and precious metals.  Other nations buy your goods, and some items are more expensive than others, prompting you to develop industry.  Industry also requires raw goods.  You either produce the goods yourself, or import them, which costs money.

Disaster can strike at any time. Volcanoes, drought, tornadoes, and hurricanes can devastate all your hard work in an instant.  The good news for is that you get some nice foreign aid to help rebuild; the bad news for America is that no other nation is giving us aid. (yet how much aid does America dole out to the world…)

Not everyone is on your side.  In addition to the previously stated political factions, Capitalists, Communists, Militarists, Nationalists, and the Religious join forces with foreign nations to make your life a living hell of complaints, demands, and requests for money.  Increase logging and industry to please the Capitalists, Environmentalists go up in arms and shut down your salt mine. You can’t please everybody at once, but you CAN please those who are most powerful.

Even a few hours playing this build simulation, or indeed any other examples (SimCity 2000 being a fine example) can help broaden your knowledge base of city/nation management; real life concepts of taxes, economy, crisis management, and nation building have been used as the basis of gameplay.  While there’s no way at the present time to introduce the complexity of the real world into an enjoyable simulation, some simplified concepts in games such as this can go a long way towards adding to the knowledge pool.

About: Esteban

Esteban is the Editor in Chief of Check out his page on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @RantingEsteban, or send him an email.

Leave a Reply