Yes, MTV has the popular MTV Movie Awards with celebrities like Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, but this summer the music television channel is also showing some impressive efforts to encourage their audience to care about more important things than award shows and programs such as "the 100 Sexiest Music Videos of All Time" and Pimp "My Ride."
As "important" as those shows might be to some, MTV has decided to develop powerof12.org or "Fantasy Election '12" to get more Millennials engaged and interested in politics.
The game is just like fantasy baseball or football. Players can "draft" politicians and candidates for president, the House and the Senate and have a virtual team that will rack up points for you every week. Participants gain additional points from registering to vote, watching debates, and staying informed. Players will also gain points from leaving insightful commentary and using social media.
MTV is also promoting students to draft better, more honest politicians by having a integrity measurement attached to each candidate that affects the total points a player will earn. The longer a candidate is ahead in the poll will affect the point total, although since the site is not yet live it is hard to know how much each one of these factors will contribute to weekly earnings.
The ultimate goal of the game is not to produce a winner, a participant who stayed up calculating everything and watched the news and the polls on six different screens at once, but to get those who play to also vote! MTV does not want all these players who become virtual political pundits, they want them to see the value in becoming engaged in politics so the participants can do so in real life. (Information about the game is from a related CNN article and a MTV's "act blog" article).
The fantasy elections site comes months after a similar decision by MTV to help high schools have a one-stop-shop Facebook app for college scholarships and financial aid information: My College Dollars. This increased investment in their audience is a making the company shed an unfortunate, all-too-common image that businesses don't give back, they just exist to make money.
Now we can save the arguments for this business stereotype in comments because the important is that MTV is trying to teach kids not just continue to entertain them with shows like Punk'd or America's Best Dance Crew or shock them with more questioning documentary/reality shows like 16 and Pregnant.
And while the fantasy elections will probably not surpass any other fantasy league game, as it seems more people will always prefer to watch sports over politics, the effort put forth in its existence is still appreciated. The game as a "get-out-and-vote" campaign is a unique and unprecedented way to encourage higher participation on Election Day. MTV is putting forth a unique way to encourage involvement, making politics more of a fun game rather than a begrudging civic duty/obligation.
With the right promotion and publicity, this fantasy game could have a significant impact for younger voters, but that is a big qualification the power of 12 has to meet. Gallup's most recent poll in their "Presidential Job Approval Center" found that 47% of Millennials approve of President Obama 46% disapprove (they update this daily so today might be slightly different than when I wrote the article).
And while Millennial disenchantment for politics is even harder to measure, MTV's intentions to engage more Millennials via powerof12.org will teach more to my generation how to be truly informed about politics and that is truly invaluable. Informed players will make informed voting decisions and that will cause politicians to have to work harder to gain votes, forcing them to rely on more honest forthright election platforms. This could even clean up some of the tactics politicians use every election cycle than dirty their opponents. But those are just long-term effects if the game does go viral.
If the game crashes and burns, it will have engaged its smaller number of participants and that is something to be proud of because those players will still look at elections differently from then on. And luckily, the game developers and PR employees at MTV have constant timeline for the next election cycle to try again. There is always a silver lining. My verdict is that the game will have some success, at least because it will capture the hearts of political science majors everywhere.