Democracy 3

Short game description

Democracy 3 is an economic/political simulation game in which a country has to be led. The focus is less on action, animated graphics and appealing sound than on the reflected management of complex cause-and-effect relationships.

The game itself is quite easy and fast to learn, although it requires some expertise to succeed at higher levels of difficulty. The subjective evaluation of the game fun and the long-term fun of playing or replaying the game is medium to high.

Due to the greater degree of abstraction and complexity, the game is likely to be suitable for younger children only to a limited extent, but it should be suitable for use from the higher levels of secondary education and is also of interest to adults. Democracy 3 is also available in a German language version.

The game is available for PC and Mac. It costs 23€ (reduced 5,80 €) with Steam in the normal price. There is also an iPad version for about 3€, but no modifications are available. Furthermore, various additional content (DLCs) and add-ons are offered. The hardware requirements are low, so Democracy 3 should be playable on almost all school computers.

Democracy 3 is a single player game that can be played without an internet connection.


Areas of competence


A) Decision and rationality


B) Relationship and interaction


C) Order and system








Efficiency/cost-benefit thinking












Oppurtunity costs






Coordination/economic order


Conflict of aims


Reference to other domains

Political education


+ little    ++ medium    +++ much

General Learning objectives

Ability to analyse, abstraction, systemic thinking


Very many macroeconomic and economic policy issues such as GDP, productivity, energy efficiency, wage levels, unemployment, poverty, working hours, different types of taxes, education, health, infrastructure or internal security (each +)

d3-beschreibung-anleitung (PDF, 2,68 MB)
Learning potential

Democracy 3 is thematically very comprehensive, which is why it is able to address numerous economically shaped life situations, relevant areas of competence and fields of content.

Life situations

Many of the political decisions that can be influenced have an impact on consumers, workers and citizens, as the following incomplete list shows by way of example:

  • Consumers: consumer rights, rent control, consumer-related taxes (VAT, luxury tax, capital gains tax, tax on plastic bags, fuel tax etc.), subsidies (e.g. tax breaks for mortgages or biofuels) or toll roads
  • Employed person: labour protection laws, working hours, income tax, support for adult education and libraries, unemployment or wage level
  • (Economic) citizen: This role is most strongly promoted in the game, as (economic) policy decisions have to be taken almost consistently. Their impact on the satisfaction of different population groups must also be taken into account.

A - Decision and rationality
The players have to make permanent decisions on (economic) policy measures, analysing the underlying problem or the desired goal and taking into account cause-effect networks including time delays. Since there are almost always several ways to reach the goal with different advantages and disadvantages, they must be compared with each other so that the best possible measure can be chosen. In this respect, Democracy 3 is able to considerably improve the decision-making competence of the players.
B - Relationship and interaction
This area of competence is supported to a much lesser extent by Democracy 3. After all, it is reflected in the fact that different constellations of interests must be taken into account in the game. For example, wealthy citizens are much more critical of an increase in inheritance tax than is the case with poorer sections of the population.
C - Order and system
Recording economic and political measures and laws as part of a networked, complex, interdependent system and assessing (economic) policy measures on the basis of an appropriate understanding of their short and long-term consequences for achieving economic, ecological, social and political goals is a central element of the game. In this respect, the examination of Democracy 3 can sustainably improve competences in this area.

Thinking patterns/categories

  • Need: The different population groups are characterised by different interests and values or needs. In order to be re-elected - or not to fall victim to an assassination attempt by a radicalised group - measures must be taken in such a way that the needs of a sufficiently large number or groups are adequately met. This also makes it clear that not only different people have various, often conflicting needs, but that this can also be the case within one person. An example of this would be the environmentally conscious motorist already mentioned, who would like to have both cheap fuel and a low environmental impact.
  • Externality: Due to the focus on networking, external effects are very well reflected in the game. For example, it is easy to see that car use increases CO2 emissions or generally pollutes the environment, which in turn has a negative impact on the health of the population. It quickly becomes clear that the behaviour of individuals often has negative consequences for uninvolved third parties.
  • Institutions: By internalising external effects and setting incentives for action in such a way that individual interests are in harmony with collective interests, institutions or laws can defuse social dilemmas. Democracy 3 includes such measures, for example, with controls against social fraud or increases in vehicle taxes.
  • Interdependence/circulation/networking: This is the most important category in Democracy 3, since the focus and challenge of the game is to consider the causal and causal-effect relationships of political measures. It is clear that these can never be considered in isolation, but are always influenced by other factors or have an impact on other areas. Although complex, multi-layered networks of effects dominate in the game, in some areas they also contain less complex, more easily understandable circular relationships, for example unemployment --> wage level --> productivity --> unemployment.
  • Scarcity and opportunity costs: Besides money, the shortage of which can be compensated to a certain extent by borrowing, political capital is scarce. In this respect, both must be used efficiently, i.e. in such a way that the effect or benefit is maximized. This corresponds to the category of opportunity costs, since spent political capital and, in my opinion, money cannot be used for other actions.
  • Cost-benefit thinking: This results directly from the scarcity of money and political capital. These funds should be used in such a way that they generate the greatest possible benefit in terms of the objectives pursued. To this end, it is also advisable to analyse the budget structure, which makes it clear which measures are how expensive.
  • Risk: The category of risk is comparatively poorly represented in the game, as it is based on relatively few random events and the consequences of most decisions can be predicted by careful analysis. Nevertheless, there are isolated events that can hardly be anticipated, such as global economic developments or a terrorist attack on the player.
  • Justice/ Inequality: Inequality is represented by different population groups (especially poor and rich people) that are affected differently by a measure (e.g. income vs. sales tax). There is also a separate indicator for equality. At lower values, equality leads not only to dissatisfaction of poorer sections of the population, but also to critical situations such as unrest.
  • Growth: The development of the GDP (or GDP for Gross Domestic Product) is a central element of the game, as it has an influence on tax revenues, satisfaction and prosperity of the population ,unemployment and ecological parameters, among others. Conversely, Democracy 3 also shows that growth is influenced by numerous other factors such as education, productivity, labor legislation and political stability.
  • Economic order: Shaping the framework conditions for economic activity and thus the economic order is a central element of the game. This makes it clear how certain decisions or structures affect variables such as productivity and gross domestic product.
  • Conflict of goals: Almost all measures in Democracy 3 have both desired and undesired consequences. Managing the associated conflicts of objectives is a fundamental element of the game. Conflicts of objectives occur both between causal effects [1] and between desirable outcomes and political expediency [2].

Democracy 3 focuses on a wide range of macroeconomic and economic policy issues such as GDP, productivity, energy efficiency, wage levels, unemployment, poverty, working hours, different taxes, education, health, infrastructure and internal security. The focus is not so much on the intensive examination of individual topics, but rather on a comparatively brief, abstract discussion of the measures or facts. Rather, the focus is on the question of how individual aspects are interrelated or how they influence each other.

Technical errors
In principle, all cause-effect relationships assumed in the game, including their effectiveness and time delay, can be critically questioned or viewed differently. Nevertheless, most of them are plausible, so that the game is unlikely to encourage misconceptions.
However, the initial data of individual countries are not always completely correct; for example, the debt ratio for Germany is reported as too high.

Relation to other domains
Democracy 3 is capable of advancing not only economic, but also political education, since the game addresses numerous politically significant issues [3] Relevant topics include obtaining a majority, elections, the satisfaction of different population groups or the composition of the cabinet. However, some interrelationships are rather simplified with regard to the acquisition of a majority and the political decision-making process. For example, regardless of the country chosen, a two-party system is always assumed, so that coalitions and coalition negotiations, for example, are not reflected in the game.

General learning effects
The comparatively high degree of abstraction of Democracy 3 calls for abstract thinking and thus promotes the corresponding ability. The same applies to the ability to analyse, since, among other things, the causes of problems and consequences of possible measures must be analysed. Systemic thinking [4] is particularly supported, since the players have to consider networking and feedback loops as well as different effects of decisions in the short and long term.

[1] Thus, a reduction of environmental standards leads to higher growth at least in the medium term, but of course at the expense of the goal of an intact environment and a healthy population.
[2] An example of this is the ban on weapons, which has a positive effect on violent crime, but is viewed critically by large sections of the population.
[3] For reasons of space and the focus on economic issues, the political aspects were largely omitted from the game description.
[4] More detailed information on the importance of systemic thinking can be found in: Arndt, Holger (2016): Systemic Thinking in Economics Education, Erlangen. Also available as free e-book at

Teaching assignment

General considerations
Despite its comparatively high complexity, Democracy 3 is well suited for use within subject lessons, as it contains little non-subject matter compared to most other commercial games, so that much of the game's exploration is directly related to subject learning. Furthermore, synergy effects can be used if the game is used together with the policy teacher in cross-curricular teaching.
Due to the breadth of its content and the focus on systemic effects, the game is generally suitable for use at the beginning of a longer series of lessons. In this way the students gain an overview of the essential structures and interrelationships in the sense of an Advance Organizer. The deepening of individual topics in the following "normal" subject lessons should benefit considerably from the previous knowledge acquired in this way. It is also conceivable here to take only very superficially raised questions as a starting point for in-depth learning. The motivation generated by the game can be used to have the learners examine various aspects in small groups working on specific topics.
However, the use of Democracy 3 is also possible at the end of a comprehensive learning sequence, so that the students can apply and deepen their acquired knowledge to solve problems (raised in the game).
In the following section, these considerations are concretised by means of a possible teaching sequence.

Rough outline of a series of lessons

This section outlines a series of lessons designed to provide ideas for using Democracy 3. Since the framework conditions (e.g. curriculum requirements, available time, previous knowledge of the learners) are likely to be very different, concretizations and adaptations and the teacher are necessary in any case.

1. First orientation in Democracy 3
First, students should familiarize themselves with the basic game mechanics of Democracy 3. This can easily be done by means of a screencast or a teaching lecture based on the game description (see above). In any case, the students should have the opportunity to follow the explanations parallel on their own computer or tablet.

Now a more independent, but nevertheless purposeful introduction to the game can take place by means of analysis assignments and comprehension questions, for which the social form of small group work is suitable. Here are some suggestions:

  • What are the three largest items of expenditure in your household?
  • What do you spend the most on?
  • How can the debt be reduced?
  • Explain the consequences of an increase in income tax.
  • What factors influence the satisfaction of commuters?
  • What (new) measures can be taken to increase the gross domestic product?
  • Due to which mechanisms of action does better education contribute to a higher gross domestic product?

2. more intensive examination of democracy 3
Since the students are now basically proficient in Democracy 3, they can focus on the game and its economic content. This can be done on the basis of a work order, such as

How can unemployment be reduced? Put your thoughts into the game and see,
       - whether, when and to what extent they have the desired effect.
       - what other, possibly undesired effects your measures have.
Make notes of your considerations, decisions and their effects for later discussion.

Instead of the target figure 'unemployment', you can of course also specify another target at this point, depending on the content of the discussion, e.g. reduction of the budget deficit, increase in gross domestic product, improvement of the environment or health. In order to use time as efficiently as possible, several questions can be examined in parallel in small group work on different topics. In group composition, care should be taken to ensure that at least one student with experience in playing is involved in each group so that he or she can support their fellow players. Otherwise, it is conceivable that the students assign themselves to the groups as independently as possible, taking into account their interests in terms of content.
Alternatively to the proposal above, the groups can also play comparatively freely. The goal here could be to get as many votes as possible in the next election. This variant may be somewhat more time-consuming, but has the advantage that the discussion of Democracy 3 has a higher game character and is therefore more motivating. Furthermore, free play tends to lead to experimentation and possibly surprising new insights. However, it is also important here that the learners proceed in a reflected manner and perceive the consequences of their decisions. In order to support this as well as to provide a basis for subsequent reflection, it is advisable to have the students take notes.

3. After the playing phase a reflection should take place. It is advisable to have the respective groups present their work assignment and the corresponding results, which is then discussed in the plenary session. Alternatively, the reflection can be made more activating by means of a group puzzle, which is only useful if the previous group work has been differentiated by topic and the students have thus acquired specific expertise in different areas.

4. Professional specialisation
Since the individual content areas in Democracy 3 are presented in a comparatively superficial manner, it is advisable to deepen your knowledge after the game. This should be based directly on the experiences of the game. Here, too, a student-activating examination of the content is possible in that the original expert groups examine their topic in more detail, for which the teacher should provide appropriate materials. Analogous to the illustration above, the knowledge acquired in this way can be presented by the pupils or by group puzzles. However, if the subject matter is too challenging or there is not enough time for independent study, a more teacher-centred approach could be used to deepen the subject matter.

5. Further possibilities
After the technical consolidation, the game can be repeated if there is sufficient time available. In this way, the students have the opportunity to immediately apply their acquired knowledge. They are also better able to critically question the model assumptions of the game. Possible work assignments in this phase are

- Compare your game decisions and their consequences with those of the first game run. Have you achieved better results? Why or why not?
- Which of the correlations depicted in the game seem unrealistic to you? What suggestions for improvement do you have?

Furthermore, special scenarios can be played, which were created by other players and made available online. An interesting scenario is Greece's debt crisis (free download).
You can also create your own scenarios. However, this requires a little training and sufficient expertise, so that such scenarios are not suitable for all learning groups. It is conceivable, however, to have interested students create a scenario, for example as a presentation, which can then be played by the other students.

d3-arbeitsblatt (PDF, 38,00 KB)

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