Sean HoNur Nadyatul Syima
Undi Power is an online interactive news game that helps users to understand the issue of malapportionment in the Malaysian electoral system. Undi is the Malay word for vote.Malaysian elections practices the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, also known as winner-takes-all. The huge difference in constituency size has led to voters in certain constituencies being much more influential than voters in other constituencies. For example, the number of voters in Kapar, the largest parliamentary constituency, is nearly 9 times the voters of Putrajaya, the nation\'s administrative capital, but both constituencies elect one member of Parliament (MP) respectively.This violation of the “one person, one vote” principle has dramatically distorted election outcomes and benefited the ruling coalition. In the last general elections in 2013, the ruling coalition controlled 60% of the parliamentary seats with only 47% of the popular votes while the opposition coalition won the rest of the seats with 51% of the popular votes. The next general elections are expected to be called in April 2018 but this topic is not well understood by most Malaysians especially the young generation. We believe the presentation of \'hard\' issues such as malapportionment requires more creative, interactive and visual approach in order to reach young audience. Hence we produced UndiPower, the first news game in Malaysia to explain the issue of malapportionment and analyze its impacts on election outcomes for first-time voters and young Malaysians with low or no interest in politics.The news game has two parts - game and explainer. The first part is a fighting game that requires the user to his/her voting constituency and his/her opponent. The opponents are MPs representing constituencies of different sizes. The user\'s avatar will then have a fight with the opponent. The outcome - win, lose or draw - is based on the size of the user\'s and the opponent\'s constituencies. The smaller the number of voters in a constituency, the more powerful the votes in that constituency. The result page that appears after the fighting scene compares both constituencies and explain how the outcome was reached. The user can share his/her individual result (opponent and fighting outcome) on Twitter and Facebook.The user can replay the game with a different constituency or opponent, or they can proceed to the second part of the news game which is an explainer page. It uses infographics and scroll-to-view animated charts to further elaborate on the issue of malapportionment. The charts show the number of voters in all 222 parliamentary constituencies contested in the 2013 general elections. The animation visualizes how malapportionment affected the final election outcome in a clear and interactive way. We also publish the election data used to create Undi Power at the bottom of the explainer page.
What makes this project innovative?
We combined two innovative storytelling elements in Undi Power - gaming and data visualization. Data visualization is gaining momentum in Southeast Asia but news game is still rare among newsrooms here. Undi Power is the first news game in Malaysia. The topic of malapportionment is not new. It is an important issue but also a boring one as it involves a lot of numbers and lacks of human-interest elements. Many news reports have been published on this topic but all of them were told through traditional techniques - text and simple static charts. We wanted to produce something that can engage our targeted audience - first-time voters and young Malaysians with low or no knowledge on the electoral system.We designed a fighting game that simulates the influence of voters in different constituencies because video gaming is a popular activity among young Malaysians. As over 80% of our audience access our content on mobile, we used a mobile-first approach and conducted significant usability testing during the production. The scroll-to-view animated charts in the second part of the news game are also a mobile-first design. It presents significant amount of data (election data of 222 parliamentary constituencies) and reveals key insights (the difference of voter numbers between ruling and opposition constituencies, between urban and rural constituencies) in a clear, engaging and visual way.We understand our targeted audience are active on social media especially Facebook. Hence the sharing feature in Undi Power allows users to share their individual results. What appear in their Facebook News Feed when they share the news game after battling an opponent is an image of their fighting animation. It shows the opponent they have selected and the battle outcome (win, lose or draw). Both the image and title on Facebook post vary based on the opponent and outcome. The same goes to Twitter. When users share their result via Twitter, the Tweet contains both customized text and image.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The news game has received overwhelming response. It picked up more than 100,000 pageviews in its first 2.5 month (Dec 27, 2017 to Mar 12, 2018) which is more than 100 times higher compared to an average story on Malaysiakini. We believe the visual and interactive approach used in this project is highly effective as shown by the high user engagement data. The average time spent on the explainer page is 3min 44s, almost 40% higher than the average (2min 42s). It was shared by many prominent individuals including the Opposition Leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. We also embed the news game as an iframe in other election-related news stories and it continues to pull in new users.
Source and methodology
Besides from election results, the Malaysian election commission doesn\'t publish electoral data online. The media has no access to the data too. It is sold in a data package at an exorbitant price. Our news game requires only a part of the electoral data - the number of voters in each parliamentary constituency. Hence we obtained that dataset pro bono from a researcher who doesn\'t want to be credited or identified. The dataset is a part of the official data package sold by the election commission. Although the data, released mid-2016, is not the latest, it is sufficient and appropriate to be used to explain the issue of malapportionment as changes to voter numbers are small and gradually. We made the data public in the news game by putting it in a table at the bottom of the explainer page.