Title:MP For A Week: An Immersive Game De-mystifying the UK Parliament
Authors:Peter Stidwill, Joshua Rice, Emma-Jane Watchorn
Publication:MW2011: Museums and the Web 2011

The UK Parliament is based in the world-famous Palace of Westminster in London. However, a historic building filled with art and politicians creates a perception of politics amongst many school-aged students that is a total turn-off. So how do you overcome these barriers to engage young people in the work of Parliament and arm them with the skills and knowledge to become active citizens? Parliament's Education Service turned to online gaming for the solution.

MP For A Week is an award-winning, multi-level online game that places the player directly in the shoes of a Member of Parliament, experiencing first-hand the personal and professional dilemmas of a week in politics, taking responsibility for their decisions, and then seeing the implications on their careers. The drama is presented in an ever-changing environment, offering a diverse blend of strategy and experimentation, together with a high level of personalisation. A positive overall rating is the ultimate purpose of the game - just like in real life.

One of our key aims was to present a uniquely credible and intriguing view of the political process, whilst taking on the challenges of making the subject matter interesting and accessible. Finding the right 'hooks' to engage the target audience was critical, as well as understanding the relationship between young people's perceptions of the impressive building and the challenge of engaging them in the work that goes on inside. The grandeur of the Palace, its history and its collections create a sense of awe amongst young people that can form a barrier to their engagement with its modern-day functions. We wanted to break these barriers and capitalise on the building to increase engagement. One way we achieved this was to inject a real sense of drama in the game with exclusive photography coupled with 3D illustrations placing the player directly in the 'corridors of power' whilst having to carry out the day-to-day work of an elected politician.

MP For A Week was an ambitious undertaking. Behind the scenes lies a powerful game engine, a year's worth of work and a massive collaboration between students, teachers, MPs and games developers. In our demonstration we will show how technology, politics, gaming and learning came together to create the resource, which won the UK E-Learning Award 2010 for 'Best Learning Game'. We will share tips and our own learning in developing engaging and successful educational games within a heritage setting. And we will share our vision for phase two of MP For A Week, and reveal plans for our next major online project: a unique society-building adventure.