This week, the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama told the Associated Press it had struck deals to air campaign ads in 18 Xbox 360 games, including such popular titles as “Burnout Paradise” “NBA 09” and “Skate.” The ads, which some gamers reported seeing late last week, will start off airing in 10 states but could expand to California later in the campaign.
By themselves, the ads are unlikely to persuade anyone to vote for the Democrat. They’re almost bereft of information, simply featuring Obama’s face, a reminder that early voting has already begun and a link to a pro-Obama website. Nonetheless, this could be an attempt to send a message to gamers that Obama “gets it.” If young adult gamers (always a coveted demographic) are impressed with this rare attempt to woo them, it could translate into increased interest in the senator.
But will the ads work? In-game pitches are a divisive subject among gamers. While the best ones can make the already ad-saturated world of sports seem more realistic in, say, “Madden,” nobody wants to see the Obama equivalent of the Burger King logo on the shield of a medieval warrior.
Gamers are no strangers to politics; in fact, we often find our hobby used as a scapegoat for shocking acts of violence, or as shorthand for apathy and disengagement. The fact that a politician running for a major national office takes us seriously enough to target us with “get out the vote”-style advertising can only be a step in the right direction. Maybe one day a candidate will use such ads to let us know what he or she thinks about issues directly related to our hobby, such as Net neutrality, laws restricting the sales or content of video games, or the increasing use of digital-rights management software by game companies.