Telephone Canvassing and Videogames

Two years ago, during the height of the British General Election, I helped with phone canvassing  for the Labour party campaign. Phone canvassing, for those who don’t know, is  when political parties engage with likely voters over the phone. Asking whom they’re voting for, whether they usually vote etc. During my time canvassing, I got to use Labours “virtual phone bank” and it struck me how much like a videogame the interface was. Phone Canvassing goes off a script, with the caller asking questions and looking for the voters response to tell him what to say next according to the script. Labours interface only has the current question that you’re asking and various buttons (green for more likely, red for likely but undesirable and grey for unlikely) to enter the response. The conversation can quickly branch into what would be a deep conversation down a script without the caller having to search for anything.

Fast forward to now, the 2012 US Presidential elections and I got to take a look at the system that the Barack Obama campaign uses for their telephone canvassing (I didn’t make any calls, too expensive) and it’s shocking how different and less intuitive it is. Callers literally just have the script of all possible conversations infront of them and must do their best to pick the right path through it.

So this got me thinking about the interactivity of Labours system, and how just one small step towards videogame made the system so much more intuitive and easy to use. And while I have no doubt that its designers were not at all thinking about making it fun when they designed it, aiming instead for ease of use and not letting the callers die of boredom it goes a long way to show how interactivity can make an activity so much more engaging.

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