Politics, GTFO

by Steve Bowler on October 14, 2008 · 13 comments

in uncategorized

I’m not normally one to discuss politics, especially my personal politics, amongst polite company.  Politics in general have become so partisan, polar, and fueled with pointless hateful rhetoric that I wonder if I’m not actually watching some kind of sporting event between bitter long term rivals, rather than people who feel like they should be leaders of our country.  It shouldn’t be about painting the other guy as evil, or more incompetent than you, it should be about your strengths and your merits, and what you bring to the table.

I’m fairly disgusted with the entirety of our political system at this point.  There’s been ads on TV for both candidates for the past 13 months on television.  I’m sick.  To.  Death.  The election can’t come fast enough.  At least I’ll get a year’s worth of political respite before the next set of campaigning starts for the gubernatorial election cycles.

I play games for the express reason to get away from this shit.  I like my virtual escapes, be they racing, rocking, or fragging.  They can allude to political situations, certainly.  Teach me slightly obscure lessons about the world stage.  Have at it.  But I don’t want to see overt statements about current politics.  It should come as no surprise that when I boot up a game, I don’t want to see a political ad.  I don’t want to hear any garbage about “oh, but it was just a billboard encouraging people to get out and vote now that early voting has started!”  Bullshit.  It had the individual’s website/slogan on it, did it not?  Did it not have their face on it?  It’s a political ad.  End of story.  It has no business being in my games.  I don’t even like the stupid Live Game the Vote thing or whatever b.s. they’re calling it on Xbox Live.  Accepting a politician’s logo as your Live Avatar is not synonymous with voting.  It barely even qualifies for taking part in a poll.  A horribly unscientific, skewed, and biased poll.

Look, these people, all of them, don’t know fuck all about our hobby/passtime/passion.  They’ll give some lip service about it, and then turn around and bite us in the ass just as soon as it fits their needs to do so.  Both sides have claimed that videogames are either killing or ruining our children at some point, so why the hell would we invite them into our house and let them pretend to be our friends when they take every opportunity to shit on our rug and tell us it’s our fault?

I don’t even care if politicians eventually embrace video-games as the world’s greatest entertainment and educational medium that they are.  The bottom line here is this:

Do you really want them campaigning in your hobby?

I don’t.

Note:  Don’t even think about playing a fanboy card for your candidate of choice in the comments.  Any flamebaiting or one-sided cheerleading is going to get baleeted as soon as I see it.  Feel free to discuss the issue at hand.


Muscadine October 15, 2008 at 12:16 am

Personally I don’t like the idea of ads in video games at all, but I don’t find political ads any more objectionable than other kinds of ads.

Sax October 15, 2008 at 1:25 am

I place blame here solely on EA for allowing any type of ad to be in their games. I think that if you are paying good money for a game, it is shit-tastic for a company to them make more money off you by subjecting you to advertising while playing the game. As you said, this is a hobby, and escape. I don’t buy the, “Oh well you would see billboards in the real world while driving around”. Fuck that noise. Video games are not reality. The same way I can’t get out of my car and shoot the fucktard who just cut me off like I can in GTA.

On a side note: I am wondering how long it will take for someone to say, “Obama endorses wreckless driving!” for having a campaign ad in Burnout. When that moment comes, and it will, because it will be on par for the behavior of EVERYONE in this election season, I will smashing my head in with a hammer. November 4th can’t come fast enough…

Armyofnone October 15, 2008 at 1:32 am


Paul Mison October 15, 2008 at 4:14 am

Sax: “I place blame here solely on EA for allowing any type of ad to be in their games. I think that if you are paying good money for a game, it is shit-tastic for a company to them make more money off you by subjecting you to advertising while playing the game.”

Well, on the other hand, look at the amount of downloadable content there’s been for Burnout Paradise (like the recent Bike Pack), all of it available free: no $2 Rock Band track nonsense here. Sure, advertising is a Faustian pact, but at least in this case, the gamer does seem to be getting something for it.

On the larger point, once you allow ads in games (and that happened a decade ago- doesn’t anyone else remember Red Bull plastered all over Wipeout 2097?) then you shouldn’t really be surprised that any sort of advertising that’s allowed shows up.

(Locational point: I live in the UK, where both politicians and prescription pharmaceuticals cannot be advertised. This probably means I’m a bit more sanguine about what adverts I see than Americans are.)

Skye October 15, 2008 at 8:26 am

And that rug really tied the room together!

To kick a dead horse a bit more until the maggots come out.

It’s all about the money and most of the big time development/ producer houses don’t really care what they are advertising, as long as it brings in another revenue stream. The company realizes that while some customers will grumble, a bulk of their target audience will still purchase the game if it is quality. In their mind an ad is an ad and it really doesn’t matter who is paying the bill. So you get Obama advertisements this time, just wait until the next election. I guarantee it will be worse.

Politicians are always keen to get their message out to new audiences and venues and the rise of video gaming provides a relatively untouched campaigning platform. I don’t agree with ads in games in the first place, but it is capitalism at its finest and I have to give props for a political team to have the smarts to get into a new venue to reach more of the electorate.

Now for the other side of the coin. Is it hypocritical? Probably, but I think that is mainly because there is a lack of political understanding of the burgeoning gaming industry. Video games need their own lobbying arm, a pure one dedicated to the video game industry alone. Gaming is big business now and deserves to be represented in that fashion. (That big business thing is a whole other can of worms) Until the people in the dome understand the complex nature of the industry it will continue to be villified by political opportunists.

Politicians pander to fear and the unknown, and video games to most Federal elected officials are still an unknown to them. It is an easy bogeyman to play to the masses. Fortunately right now is a golden opportunity for the gaming industry to develop an effective lobbying arm. There are too many other big issues, mainly the crumbling economy, that politicians have no time to chase after ridiculous video game conspiracies.

My apologies for getting of tangent and preaching on a soapbox. I blame it on the fact that I live inside the Beltway.

Jake October 15, 2008 at 8:36 am

Um, who doesn’t support wreckless driving?

Dastardly Josh October 15, 2008 at 12:47 pm

I’m torn on the issue a bit. On one hand I don’t like adverts in games. Full stop. I’ve always been averse to big name adverts in games. Especially if it doesn’t relate to the game. I felt Red Bull was forgivable in Wipeout mainly because Red Bull wasn’t as big as it is now, plus Energy Drinks suit the racing genre.
Seeing a Political ad in a game where you run other cars of the road…. unless it’s for a fiction politician that’s part of the game universe I don’t see a reason for it. If the game was set in reality, I’d be all for adverts for everything, but I definitely agree that games are an escapism for me and I’d rather not have the pending political Armageddon besmirch my car crashing.

Jamo October 17, 2008 at 10:48 pm

I hate all adverts in games, especially political ones, because i FUCKING HATE POLITICS DAMMIT.

Hiedi October 18, 2008 at 1:49 pm

I don’t have a huge issue with most advertising, such as the cingular stuff in NFS: Carbon I think it was. If a few ads like that keep DLC free then it doesn’t bother me all that much, as long as its not knee jerkingly in your face about it.

On the other hand, political ads, no thanks.

Duncan October 19, 2008 at 11:04 am

I feel sorry for you americans having such a long and protracted lead up to an election, we get maybe 3 weeks of the bs here (Australia) then its all over.
Seems like its been on forever over there.
I personally can’t stand advertising of any sort.

Jason Lee October 20, 2008 at 11:37 pm

You probably don’t like Ian Bogost I’m guessing?


Yes. The Howard Dean for Iowa game.

Oh, and there was also this really political game too:


I agree that these overt political ads are annoying, distracting, condescending, and tacked on. If anything, it just reveals a level of hypocrisy in Obama (although I do still think he’s necessary for this country right now) in that he’s selling himself and his campaign like a product; that’s not change that’s more of the same. That’s essentially the problem with American Politics right now, that presidents are treated as this weird movie-star/commodity that are purchased with “votes”, that their image gets disconnected from the actual issues at hand. The random video game billboard ad is such a commercial thing to do (trying to stick advertisements everywhere in every experience, from walking down the street to browsing the web), and it’s something I’d expect from an economically driven industry.


Jimmy! November 2, 2008 at 9:11 am

There’s some deeper points in this post.

First, you wrote “It has no business being in my games.”

My question is, why not? Just because you don’t want to see it? Ads are ads; somebody pays somebody else to put an image on a billboard in the game. Are you now arguing against all advertising in video-games? That’s a completely different argument; one worthy of its own post, discussing whether or not we actually own these games once they’re purchased and, if ads are inevitable, whether or not we should have some say about what is advertised.

Second, Obama’s comment is not implying that video games are underachievement, pure and simple. His point was that some parents use video games to do their parenting for them. He’s not saying that “videogames are ruining our children;” he’s saying “bad/lax parenting is ruining our children, no matter how good the education system is or isn’t.” As far as I know he’s never said anything about “violence in video games,” or what-have-you. Furthermore, there’s nothing in his platform about video games at all.

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