(lifted from a goon on Something Awful)
If you think about it, Congress is like “World of Warcraft.”
Congress is a big huge game full of the spergiest people who have ever lived, only with access to both power and money. There are two main factions, the Horde and the Alliance, and the only way that they can actually do battle is through legislation. Some people are on P2P servers, but that’s mainly during election years, unless the player is really into griefing (Michele Bachmann, for example, is one of the more successful and hilarious congressional griefers). As such, while one might imagine that the two groups mostly spend their time engaging in massive, semi-scripted battles over big issues, they really spend most of their time grinding by spatting over bullshit for the sole purpose of gaining XP and leveling up.
Because legislation is the means of battle, this results in a lot of idiotic and repetitive legislation. Strategically, fighting in a way that forces your opponents to spend resources is equally as good as voting for something that actually benefits you. For example, a member of the Horde from Cooperstown, New York wants to look good, so he fires out a little proposal about commemorating his local baseball museum. Nobody but him really gives a shit about this, but half of the people don’t want to appear like they hate baseball. The Alliance folks decide that they can’t let this guy and the Horde have that tiny prize for free, so they pretend to be against it and force the Horde to invest a lot of political GP in a small battle that they don’t really care about.
A good deal of taunting is involved throughout the process. In the battle itself, you usually have some high level players on both sides casting buffs on the newbies and drawing on large mana pools of public support to do so. Obama is a sorcerer, for example. This is similar to a mage or a wizard, but the sorcerer class permits a larger variety of races and skills, which is why President Obama does quite well as a bard Dunmer halfgiant sorcerer. There are also Tanks, like Bill Clinton, who can take a lot of damage but don’t perform many attacks. Tanks generally serve to purposely annoy the enemy and draw aggro so that the rest of the team can secretly get away with a lot of bullshit. Usually, there are DPS characters standing right near the tanks. The DPS group serves to dish out political damage to the opposition as rapidly as possible. They are typically classes that can use AP/mana-based skills to sustain their rate of damage. Class types are not exclusive; Strom Thurmond was one of the most amazing combination Tank/DPS rogue characters ever to play the game. He could take 50 critical hits in a row, 10 being accidentally self-inflicted, and he would not ever die. This is because he had a surplus of buffers and a nearly-infinite mana pool. There was no way that Strom Thurmond would ever lose a reelection and leave the game. Eventually he just got bored and left, handing the mantle to Lindsey Graham, who plays one of the newer ninja DPS classes and favors using short-blade chain combos while being buffed by wealthy shamans.
Hunters, in my opinion, are assholes who take potshots and cheerlead from afar while never actually ever doing much of anything. They’re also sometimes known as “pundits”. Each team has a few hunters who focus on keeping their own team members in line. These guys are armed with giant whips.
In the game, there are guilds which are also known as “subcommittees” or “caucuses”. Guilds, oddly enough, often contain characters of both factions. Sometimes a guild member who doesn’t play very much has a sudden realization that he’s about to get booted, so he quickly gets involved with a bunch of bullshit minor resolutions. That way, he can say that he took part in some raids. It’s busywork, but you can also do this kind of raiding to earn political GP. Pro-Panamanian donors, to take an example from your post, will give valuable rare drops toward your guild’s coffers if you take part in a Panama trade raid. This is why some players will do the same raid again and again, in slightly different ways, despite not giving a crap about Panama.
In public chat channels there’s a lot of griefing, posturing, name-calling, and generally behaving like assholes. The game is designed to make players feel like they’re important. Everybody perceives themselves to be a good guy on a team of good guys, just like in America’s Army. You are always on the side of America. Nobody wants to play a game if they’re not a big damn hero, so players take on these sorts of asshole personas and call other people names while simultaneously pretending to be greatly offended. Typically, they argue about ideas that neither side has any actual knowledge of. They are professional arguers, you see, not debaters, if you can understand the distinction. It’s the difference between a town crier and a print journalist. The actual subject of the argument, be it tax reform or the Border Tunnel Prevention Act, doesn’t matter because it’s all just a battle on fucking Hamburger Hill. There are a few GMs, however, but they are mainly for show. In theory, GMs like the Senate Pro Tem have a lot of power over the game, but the reality is that they can’t actually use the power in unpopular ways or else they’ll get accused of nerfing.
Every 2 or 4 years, there’s a server reset that often accompanies an expansion, which adds new quest lines, events, and raids. A new race was added in 2008. The 2012 expansion was all about fixing the buggy trade system. Big expansions might include server-wide events such as hurricanes or entire wars with previously unheard-of nations, started for dubious reasons. The 2001 game expansion featured the fictional in-game nation of Afghanistan, and both the Horde and the Alliance had to temporarily join forces in fighting this new foe. It had fantastic sales (practically everyone bought it!) and was initially a critical success. It seemed well written at the time, but in retrospect, most people now think that this game expansion and the later Iraq sequel were idiotic. However, these areas of the game are still available as ongoing platforms for the occasional legislative quest or raid.
If you’re new to the game but plan on sticking to it for a while, then a worthy goal is to get yourself an epic mount. This is when you get to co-sponsor a big, important bill and harp on a single issue for the rest of your career, even if it means riding it right into the ground every chance that you get. Generally, you’ll see only high-level or wealthy players with epic mounts. A notable exception is Paul Ryan, who is low-level but rides a flying epic pro-budget cuts pig. By contrast, Joe Biden has no mount, but instead chooses to summon them depending on the situation. He’s been riding a Gun Control Panda lately, but usually he summons a Flying Fuck, but only so he can not overtly give it to someone. Last week, it was a dead horse. You do need a mount, though, or you won’t get anywhere very fast–Even if it’s a level 4 Pesticide-Registration Mule, which you asked about. Everyone knows that this is a worthless mule that, as you pointed out, shouldn’t even be in the game. But someone is riding it because they just need some sort of mount.
One final note: The legislation is both the means of execution and primary ammunition in this never ending war. However, the idea that the legislation actually affects non-player lives in meaningful ways does not matter or even occur to the majority of congressional players. They do not give a shit about us, the NPCs. If this idea matters, it does so only temporarily and in election years when they are busy questing. When questing, we NPCs can start to seem like we’re real, live humans. Then they go right back to the game and we’re all just cannon fodder–technically part of the game, but held as worthless.
Therefore, it’s a common misconception that these players are acting unselfishly and in our best interests. Sometimes, you’ll hear about a player poopsocking and hogging the battlefield waiting for something like a rare drop. This is known as a “filibuster.” You might think that someone filibustering is nobly standing up for his beliefs. In reality, he’s probably just poopsocking while ganking someone on the other team.