Bogost: Fewer Political Games Than Expected

February 10, 2008 -
Professor, author and game designer Ian Bogost has expressed surprise over the paucity of politically-themed games in this presidential election year.

Blogging at Water Cooler Games, Bogost writes:
During the height of the 2004 election... I remember making a prediction in a press interview. In 2008, I divined, every major candidate will have their own PlayStation 3 game.

I was very wrong about that.

But this year seems to boast less interest in election games... This year we have the rehashed White House Joust 2008 and a game about Chimps beating each other up.

In Bogost's view, online social networks and YouTube have surpassed game tech as a means to connect candidates and supporters.

Comments

@Ian Bogost
Four years ago I still doubt it. Political landscapes shift so drastically that I seriously doubt any developer would ever put in the months and months of time and money for a candidate that may or may not actually be running at the time the game is to be released. Then and now, a (worth playing/marketing) game would just be a too big of a long-term investment. Flash games are more accessible to a wider audience, take less time to make, and cost less to make.
On a side not, I am very impressed that the topic of discussion is actually... well... discussing with us (JT does not count sorry). Props to you Ian.

Nut surprising considering how useful a platform they've been for attacking, the problem was someone tried to turn games into a scapegoat, and the Politicians, for the main part, loved that idea, it allowed them to get on a soapbox and preach without actually having to commit to anything. It also gave them something to point at for some of the problems in their local constituencies, which is a lot easier than actually doing something about things like drugs, parental abuse and a host of other real-life problems that have been around long before the advent of Video Games.

@GoodRobotUs
Good point. Candidates are all distancing themselves from videogames for the past couple of years since the industry has become the latest political scapegoat.

As for the major consoles, I didn't expect ANY candidate games to be made. Political games are best left to little flash games and the like.

see i just dont get it...

It just shows how out of touch he is.. i mean really... every candidate having a game on ps3... wtf? (why ps3 particularly anyway, doesnt he mean general video game release? probably doesnt understand)

do you REALLY expect a political game to reach number one in the sales charts? in fact do you really expect a political game to sell enough copies to warrant a publisher putting funds behind it? :s just my two cents, i mean im sure there are some people who would enjoy it, but i REALLY dont expect it to be a huge majority of the Gaming demographic.

Oh and how can we have been on one hand predicted to lap up political games (showing gamers as intelligent politcally aware somewhat responsible, probably more adult individuals) yet, when the ratings argument pops up we are all adolescent males under the age of 15? *sigh* . I mean what is it, we are either all violent kids, or we arent, not just depending on what day of the week it is. GRR this really annoys me.


"In Bogost’s view, online social networks and YouTube have surpassed game tech as a means to connect candidates and supporters. "

No sh*t sherlock. you think perhaps a free video hosing site, available to anyone with internet is better than putting your message in a piece of software that needs to take (approx) 18 months development to stand any chance of competing with other games, that only users of that system can see, and that they have to shell out £40 for....? Gee free video .. or a £40 per sale game available to less people with a huge cost to develop... hmmm

Its like saying oh free online social networks and YouTube have surpassed George Foreman grills as a means to connect candidates and supporters.

really.. dya think...?

The entire idea is not really ready for mainstream consumers yet methinks.

With that said let me give a shameless plug for what I consider the best political game on the market. The name is:

The Political Machine and it is developed and published by StarDock inc.
The basic overview is here:

http://www.stardock.com/newsitem.asp?id=1022

"divined, every major candidate will have their own PlayStation 3 game."

What?! They don't even have their own movies, in fact there are a lot of former presidents who don't have their own movies (unless you count documentaries).

@ NovaBlack, Father Time:

It's not so inconceivable that politicians would attempt to cash in on the gamer demographic by releasing games on the major consoles. Car companies have done it to some success. Four years ago when he made the prediction it seemed more plausible and I still wouldn't count out the idea of "official" games in future elections but I agree that they probably won't be on major consoles.

The real question Bogost should be asking isn't "where are the political games?" it's "why are all the political games just re-skinned fighting or shooting games and why do they usually suck?" Maybe if political games actually presented a message or had any real political meaning they would be a more prominent part of the political process. As it is, though, they're just a way for people to watch an animated version of their least liked politician get beaten up by a marginally less disliked politician.

@Skyler, NovaBlack
The point of my self-citation was precisely to underscore how absurd it sounds for major candidates to have console games, but four years ago that was a reasonable hope, albeit perhaps not a prediction.

@Spartan
The Political Machine is an interesting game about electioneering. There have been a lot of these games, games about the mechanics of the electoral college. But it's not about *policy*, which is a point Tom also makes. I've argued before that these election games just reinforce the idea that all politics is politicking.

@Tom
I agree with you about skinning and discussed that matter at some considerable length in my book _Persuasive Games_. Sorry to point you to that, but the blog is just a small point really, there's a more substantial argument in the book.

Good to see you here, Ian.

@ Skyler

I understand what you're saying about the time investment in making games but as technology advances the lead-in time to build the basic backbone of a game is being reduced substantially. The development of art assets could be time consuming but with the active support of the political candidates involved I imagine it could be reduced substantially. The real challenge would be in developing gameplay elements that actually incorporate political and policy ideas in a meaningful way.

With some creative people working at a steady pace and given the support of the candidate I imagine that a high-quality political game could be produced quickly enough to be a valid aspect of a campaign. Consider how long Hillary's been campaigning for President and assume that she was probably gearing up for that run privately before she announced her exploratory committee - if a game had been in development from day 1 then it could have been ready for release before primary season commenced.

@Skyler
Well, I didn't have just developers in mind, but (as Tom points out above) the campaigns themselves. Furthermore, four years ago, the possibility of a higher-grade, endorsed political game was indeed plausible four years hence -- it's just that things didn't play out that way.

@Skyler, @Monkeythumbs
Always a pleasure to chat with you folks here. I need to do it more often.

I do hope 'Hail to The Chimp' turns out to be a good game. I'm not especially endeared towards Gamecock, however I have a HUGE amount of respect for Wideload Games - Alexander Seropian, for me, has been one of the most influential industry figures and Matt Soell is probably the finest Community Liaisons to have ever lived (he invented the role, IMHO). Seropian's games always been imbued with a subversive sense of humour and level of intellectualism - I ju hope that trend continues.

I also hope they do a bloody Marathon sequel ;)

Wait, does Wii Boxing count?
(just kidding)

I agree with the part about it being a useful scapegoat so they don't want to seem too friendly to it. In about 20 years I would predict that the candidates will be putting their platform into whatever is the choice of interactive media of the day. At that point you will have people who were born of gamers with the ability to vote. Right now their are still parents that aren't from the gaming generation that have kids that are. They are the ones that the politicians are trying to reach.

Ian-

I agree completely. Who's to say that game design students can't pick up the reigns? Why does it have to be a major gaming company? Sure they have money but game design students have assets available to them to use, and the best way to get into the industry is to work on something. Not to mention that the youth vote has gone up drastically so the young are listening.

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