It's become something of a cliche to talk about Indonesia's love affair with social media. Internet users still only make up about 15% of the population (according to World Bank estimates from 2013), but that's still a good 38 million people tweeting, shopping and posting pictures of their cats. It's also a prime chunk of the voting population ahead of the presidential election scheduled for 9 July.
The open campaign period is not set to begin until 4 June, though banners printed by groups supporting the two candidates, Prabowo Subianto and Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, are already appearing on the streets of Jakarta. On social media, campaigning is in full swing. This means YouTube clips, Facebook pages, Twitter hashtags and a whole lot of election-related apps.
Jokowi is a newcomer to national politics but no stranger to social media campaigning, which he used to great effect in his campaign for Jakarta governor. There are plenty of apps available under his name, most of which appear to be made on a budget by his supporters. One is called 'Flap Jokowi Man' — presumably a mash-up of 'Flappy Bird', Jokowi and Superman — by Shayort Games, which has the presidential frontrunner dressed in a green and purple superhero outfit. As in 'Flappy Bird', the aim of the game is to keep the character flying through a series of obstacles at the top and bottom of the screen, which in Jokowi Man's case come in the form of fistfuls of cash. And as in 'Flappy Bird', it's really difficult to avoid falling flat.
Another more polished game from Keeponmotion Studio, 'Jokowi Aku Rapopo', has the presidential candidate in his trademark red-and-blue checked shirt, intended as a symbol of his youthful and down-to-earth appeal, riding a bicycle in an endless circle past landmark Indonesian buildings. There are roadblocks in the way for 'Jokowi' to jump over, but when he hits them he laughs it off with a catchphrase that is also the name of the game: 'aku rapopo' or 'I'm fine'.
With its pop-gamelan soundtrack and flocks of doves passing across the screen, 'Jokowi Aku Rapopo' could not be more different to a game dedicated to Jokowi's rival, titled 'Prabowo The Asian Tiger' by Sumarson. It's hard to tell whether this game is for Prabowo's presidential campaign or against it. The blurb says, in broken English: 'Try this Endless Runner game And Enjoy prabowo Figting and Runnnig. If you are framed, what will you do? Here's come the latest running game.'
The gameplay has Prabowo dressed in his Kopassus (special forces) uniform, running past a burning city that could be seen to represent Jakarta during the 1998 riots, shooting at everything in sight. (Prabowo and his vice presidential running mate, Hatta Rajasa, on Monday reported several cases of alleged slander against the pair to the Election Supervisory Board. Many of these 'black campaigns' involved allegations of Prabowo's involvement in coordinating abductions and inciting riots in Jakarta in May, 1998, a lawyer for the pair said.)
A more peaceful Prabowo-themed app is called '6 Aksi Kita' , or 'Our 6 Actions'. It contains a separate game for each policy platform put forward by Prabowo's party, the Greater Indonesia Movement (Gerindra), namely 'Advancing National Industry', 'Electricity for the People', 'Food Self-Sufficiency', 'Educating the Nation', 'Building Infrastructure' and 'Eradicating Corruption'. Players can build motorcycles, plant rice or bust corrupt 'fat rats' on the street. Each mini game starts with a voter asking Prabowo a question, such as, 'Why are all the private vehicles made overseas? Isn't the government pro national industry?'
We still have six weeks to go before election day. Let the games begin.