Politics has become a game for a group of California college students who have launched an online video game, "Fantasy Congress," in the lead-up to next month's U.S. congressional elections.
The game, officially launched on Monday, is a new spin on the popular online fantasy sports games where players choose a team of real-life players and tally points based on their statistical performance.
In "Fantasy Congress," found at http://www.fantasycongress.us/fc/, a player drafts a team of actual U.S. lawmakers and then competes against other teams.
Andrew Lee, a senior at Claremont McKenna College in the greater Los Angeles area and one of the game's creators, said lawmakers were ranked based on the progress of their proposed legislation, picking up points on its journey to possibly getting passed into law.
Lee said he hoped the game would inspire people to pay as much attention to politics as they do to sports.
"If people cared about politics as much as they care about sports, we'd have a better democracy," said Lee, who described himself as "obsessed with politics."
"Congress needs to know that young people are watching them, just as they watch sports teams and athletes."
In the countdown to the Nov. 7 elections, "Fantasy Congress" has started to pick up momentum, attracting about 6,000 participants from a number of U.S. states as well as overseas.
The current Congress is in recess until after the elections, with the 110th U.S. congressional session to run for two years starting in January, so players are now replaying the month of September.
The creators said they are funding the game with $5,000 in prize money from winning a school-sponsored Web-based entrepreneur of the year award and volunteer labor.
A recent study found that fantasy football costs employers as much as $1.1 billion a week in lost productivity during the National Football League regular season, when nearly 37 million people spent an average of 50 minutes per week at work managing their fantasy teams.
While Lee did not expect "Fantasy Congress" to immediately have quite the same impact, he does hope that the game will inspire more young people to become lawmakers.
"It would be better if we had more kids who wanted to be members of Congress. It's just not exciting. We're hoping to make it more exciting for them," Lee told Reuters.