Obama Repeats Video Game Mantra in Debate; McCain Misses Chance

GamePolitics speculated yesterday as to whether Barack Obama’s highly-publicized video game ads might come up in last night’s Presidential debate at Hofstra University in New York. They didn’t, but that’s only because Republican John McCain missed a perfect opportunity to get some mileage out of Obama’s Xbox Live ads.

Toward the end of the debate the topic of education came up. At that point Obama delivered, word-for-word, a theme he has repeatedly mentioned in his campaign speeches:

Parents are going to have to show more responsibility. They’ve got to turn off the TV set, put away the video games, and, finally, start instilling that thirst for knowledge that our students need.

Not that Obama is necessarily wrong in this view, but his citing of games as a metaphor for underachievement offered McCain an opportunity to score some debate points by turning the issue around on Obama. If McCain had pressed the Illinois senator as to why, given his earlier comments, the Democrat was in turn buying ad time in video games, Obama might have been faced with a sticky situation.

Since my beloved Phillies advanced to the World Series last night, I’ll couch this in baseball terminology: McCain failed to swing at a hanging curve ball. Was he not aware of the video game ad issue? That would be hard to fathom, since the story – broken here on GamePolitics – has been all over the mainstream media in the last few days.

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  1. Thad says:

    "If McCain had pressed the Illinois senator as to why, given his earlier comments, the Democrat was in turn buying ad time in video games, Obama might have been faced with a sticky situation."

    Er, not really.  The people he’s targeting with in-game advertising aren’t the same ones he’s saying should be studying instead of gaming.  Have you noticed how grade schoolers can’t vote?

    I think we all can agree that gaming’s a great hobby but studying should come first.

  2. Karsten Aaen says:

    Unless you’re playing games from http://www.seriousgames.dk/ many games will interfere with your study of school subject (yeah, shameless promotion of a Danish game company, but since I’m (a) Danish, I’ll help my country’s gaming industry as much as I can 😉 )

    As I hear it, Obama is saying that people should study the subjects and make their homework for school before playing videogames. I might add that this goes for reading to many books and for doing to much sports as well. And, of course, this goes for watching too much tv as well.

    I’m all for internet, tv, audio-tapes etc. being used to teach kids what they need to know and learn in the schools.
    I still think there has to be a balnce between the kids cramming their books for schools and their leisure activities.
    And, of course, the thrist for knowledge can also be instilled by playing a videogame…

    In a recent thread over the Bioware forums, I have learned something about medieval weapons which I wouldn’t learned elsewhere…





  3. ssoltero says:

    Ya, if McCain had brought that up right then, Obama could have easily turned it back around and mentioned that those ads were obviously not aimed at children because you need to be 18+ to vote. Those ads were aimed at the 18-30 year old demographic of gamers. So McCain was wise not to mention it.

  4. Icehawk says:

    @ Firebird

    Just remember if you do not have something or someone to vote For you probably have something (someone) to vote against.  Use you vote wisely.  Find out how someone else is voting and vote the exact opposite, that helps maintain the balance and leaves your vote acutally counting for something. 

  5. Firebird says:


    At this point, I think of going Libertarian…

    I know they won’t win (but I don’t trust politicians, as much as Cheney is less capable of not shooting one)

    Call it randomly misplacing my vote, or wishful thinking. 😉

    But kidding aside, lets not turn this into a debate, but Obama does seem to contradict his statement (as far as GP puts it)

  6. Monte says:

     Presidential candidates have as much say in how their campaigns are run as they want to. They could leave it all in the hands of the manager, but if the manager does a bad job then it’s still the candidate’s fault the campaign washed out. He selected the guy to do the job and should have picked someone who would do the job well, and if he thought they were doing something wrong they should have taken the reigns and did some work themselves, or atleast fired the guy and hire someone better.

    Not to mention i find Palin to being one of McCain’s biggest mistakes (her popularity amognst the republicans means nothing when independants and undecideds don’t share the sentiment… the boost he gave him was based purely on her popular personality and thus only lasted until people started understanding who she was)… this is the kind of stuff that happens when you don’t properly vet a VP. I think he would have been better off with either, Lieberman (though we all personally not like the guy; he would have stolen the concept of "change" through the concept of a bipartisan ticket, and would have truly revitalized McCain’s "maverick" status), or with a COMPETANT female republican (there’s like a dozen other women who would have easily been a better pick than Palin)… he picked someone who he thought would steal Hillary’s voters and revitalize his base when he should have been focusing on someone who could help him grab the indepedants and undecideds

    And well, all the democratic nominees had a college degree and a beating heart, but in the end, none of them stood a chance agaisnt the clintons. Fact is, despite the facts about her, Hillary had a very high level appeal amognst liberals, woman, and older voters. It takes A LOT to beat out that kind of appeal without sharing a similar kind of appeal. There’s a reason why everyone orginally guessed that Hillary was gonna be the 2008 nominee; maybe not a good reason, but a reason none-the-less. 

  7. Austin_Lewis says:

    I don’t know if you realize, Presidents don’t really run their campaign; campaign managers do.  I know, I know, you’d think they had the time to spend on it, but with all the time they spend talking to the ‘common man’ and kissing babies and other stupid shit no one cares about, its hard to run a campaign on your own.

    As for ‘special interests’, I suggest you look at Obama’s history of special interest pandering.  Especially where he gave 3 million more to religious groups out of government money, groups like AA that do nothing but force religion on people who are already having problems.

    As for defeating the Clintons, I honestly believe that anyone with a beating heart and a college degree should be able to beat Hillary; much like Obama, shes’ all talk and no substance.

  8. King of Fiji says:

    Video game were a distraction for me as a little kid so I take no offense to what he says.

    All he said was that parents should get their kids to turn off the tv and the video games and start get kracken with the book learning and what not.

  9. Volomon says:

    I think people are looking to deep into the issue of Obama bringing up the subject of games as it relates to "underachievement".  Frankly when he buys those ads he is targetting people who can vote, not kids.  When he talks about video games in his speechs he’s telling the PARENTS to put away the games and to teach their children.  Frankly he is right to much TV and games is bad for children and they should have more time for excerise or learning, not gaming.  Thats the way I plan to raise my child anyway.

    Personally I believe it speaks to his character and his speech point that he cares and understands education is the way to turn the economy around.  He personally as he states many times was woken up by a single parent to have his lessons early in the mourning.  When most kids could only dream of coming home as soon as possible from school.  Education and achievement is something that can’t be accomplished by school alone, it takes heavy involvement from parents. Encouragement to learn.

  10. Icehawk says:

    Little confused here.  Thought this thread was about the debate, not a platform on who to vote for.  

    Yes McCain muffed that point in the debate.  Why?  Possibly because he knows less about video games than Obama knows about… oh say Bowling.      A smart politican (or salemen as they are often cut of the same cloth) puts himself or his product where it will get attention and like it or not games do garner attention. 

    Oh and trying to accuse Dennis of being for McCain is not wise.  Right or wrong it is really of no business but his.  Being the voice for Games and Politics does not mean he has to hang on the fence and remain ever neutral. 

  11. Bennett Beeny says:

    And I suppose you think McCain isn’t lying?

    These are politicians we’re talking about, and politicians trying to become President.  Of course they lie.  But the point of the exercise is to get someone in power who can appoint reasonably smart guys to key offices.  It’s not about what they can promise – whatever they promise depends on congress – if congress isn’t behind the President not much will get done.  Personally, I think McCain, if he’s elected will run the presidency much like he ran his campaign – incompetently.  It will be like George W. Bush’s presidency, only even MORE incompetent and even more bound to special interests.  The only good thing about a McCain presidency will be that he will be a little less prone to rolling over to the religious right and the ultra right.  But that’s hardly a stirring recommendation, now is it?  At least with Obama, we can be pretty sure that his administration will be run like his campaign – competently and carefully.  I mean this is a guy who defeated the Clintons – you have to give the guy credit for that.

  12. Austin_Lewis says:

    A wise man indeed.  Personally, I think anyone whose campaign is run on two concepts, one of which is intangible (hope) and one of which is a constant (change) is a liar and a fraud.  I can tell you I’ll make you a millionaire, but I won’t.  I’ve still given you hope.  As for change, yeah, things will change either way.  However, the type of change that Obama hints at are things he won’t do and knows he won’t do, and he’s simply lying to people.

  13. Thomas McKenna says:

     And if you like Obama and you think he could make everything all sunshine and rainbows, then I’m happy for ya. Personally, I think that for someone that’s supposed to be all about ‘Hope and Change!’ he sure does say a lot of the same old crap I’m used to hearing.


    Wow….you sir, just totally made my day.  And this is after 3 hours of sleep and a nearly late lab report which already had my day off to a bad start.  But that….just….thank you.

  14. Master_E says:

    Obama’s no different from any other politician. Whether or not this statement is laced with anti-videogame undertones or not, he likely doesn’t think much about games on a whole. The mere fact that he has repeatedly used them as an example to cite a situation (kids not doing well in school) that is further detrimental to society is not, indeed, a good thing. Does it mean he’ll try to go after videogames with bogus legislation? Probably not. For the most part, this really is a non-issue. But I think some of you people aren’t seeing where GP is coming with this… the articles are like this when *anyone* says something ‘negative’ involving videogames. Whether it’s a politician or some crazy soccor mom with too much time on their hands, GP is always ‘in opposition’ to that negative stance. It’d more biased if he was praising Obama for such statements, really.

    And if you like Obama and you think he could make everything all sunshine and rainbows, then I’m happy for ya. Personally, I think that for someone that’s supposed to be all about ‘Hope and Change!’ he sure does say a lot of the same old crap I’m used to hearing.


  15. Overcast says:

    But the major thing – one history has proven time and again.

    It doesn’t matter what they say to get elected – because what they say to get elected and what they really do are two entirely seperate things.

  16. DeepThorn says:

    I was happy to see Obama mention education as much as he did, and I still dont remember once instance that McCain said anything about education really, other than he supports voutures.

    I am VERY happy he commented on how parents need to parent their kids too….

  17. strathmeyer says:

    Broken here on GamePolitics? Perhaps you guys are unaware that McCain is proud of the fact that he does not know hot to use a computer?

  18. Krono says:

    Personally I’ve found Unions to be a mixed bag. In some cases they’re needed to get the employer to do right by their employees. In others they serve no purpose other than to protect lazy or ineffectual workers. Pretty much any industry that has unions has both conditions in various places/times. So I find calls of "Break the Unions! That’ll fix the problem!" to be unconvincing at best.


  19. Austin_Lewis says:

    Actually, its not.  You see, the Teachers’ Unions are what make it impossible to demand any sort of reformation or change in the requirements for a teacher.  They also demand tons of money, a good bit of it in ridiculous shit that does no teacher any good but that helps the Union make a good amount of money.  Of course, when I was younger, I worked at UPS, and the teamster’s union threatened me repeatedly, so at least the teachers’ union isn’t that bad.

  20. Mnementh2230 says:

    I agree that blindly throwing money at a problem is not a solution – putting lots of money into a system that is bad because it has been designed by the lowest bidder (sort of) is a terrible idea.


    What we need is a re-vamped national cirriculum, with a higher education budget and better pay for the teachers.

  21. Bennett Beeny says:

    Yes, blindly throwing money at education won’t make it better, but taking money away from programs that work will make things so much worse.  The point is to fund education in ways that work, and no one is doing that right now because the goddamn Republicans don’t believe in education and they’ve convinced most Americans that our kids don’t need it.

  22. Thomas McKenna says:

     And we tried over budgeting them, and there are no improvement of results, so if there is no improvement, why shovel the money?

    I live in California, and here we spend a lot on education despite being ranked second lowest in the nation.  One of the richest school districts is the downtown Los Angeles area, and they have among the worst performance record in the state, far below districts that get funded a fraction of what they do.

    In this state, the teachers’ union is far to rich and far to powerful.  All I ever hear them say is that they need more money to do their jobs properly.  Then I see teachers that actually care about their students future move their students to excellence with nothing more than more class time and, well, actually teaching.  Then I see school districts occasionally fire these teachers because they don’t play ball with the union and are making everyone else look bad.  

    Basically, what I’m getting at is blindly throwing money at a problem doesn’t help to resolve it, and usually it just makes things worse.  

  23. kagirinai says:

    It’s terrifying that you seem to think McCain’s voting record is a good thing. (And the implication that you think Palin is a better VP candidatae than Biden.)

    If you haven’t been following the news, Pro-Corporation voting is the kind of shit that gets you in to the Financial mess the US is in right now. And I’ve heard no evidence that McCain is pro-self reliance in any method other than lipservice. The man is publicly VERY pro war, which is another position that’s contributed to the current economic state of the US. You think that if he’s elected he’ll somehow HELP the failing economy? Is he even aware that it’s collapsing?

    And you’re supposedly seeing inconsistency in Obama’s voting record? presumably in a negative way, and not just changing stance based on new information, right? (I know that can be hard to prove, but it’s something we can *try* to confirm)

    Even if he were inconsistant, I’d prefer that over someone who is consistantly INSANE, with an even crazier second in command.

  24. Alex says:

    That’s nothing compared to what will happen if McCain gets elected and dies or has to step down, and Sarah "Hockey Mom" Palin takes over.

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  25. kagirinai says:

    The exact same could be said (with greater effect) of McCain. And when you’ve really only got to candidates you can expect to vote in, Obama is the far saner choice.

  26. Austin_Lewis says:

    Simple answer is Biden.  The more drawn out answer is look at his voting record and consider who his votes would benefit.

  27. Krono says:

    Feh, I’m sure he’ll change plenty. Whether it’ll be changes for the better, or changes for the worse is what remains to be seen.


  28. sortableturnip says:

    Just remember, if either one of them gets into office and screws things up…I voted for Cobra Commander

  29. Krono says:

    Whatever they say, it’ll be an entertaining read. Particularly as it’ll be in the same chapter(s) as the current economic mess.


  30. kagirinai says:

    I don’t think he’s being pro McCain, I get the impression he’s trying to be fair by finding relevant things to make commentary on from the site’s angle on both candidates. One just gives more ammo than the other.

  31. CK20XX says:

    One possible explanation is that this election is just that stressful for everyone.  I can’t even begin to imagine what the history books will say.


    "They were retarded hairless pink bunnies, all of them. Except Shigeru Myamoto and… well, the good ones were just too /rare/ to be worth bothering about." – Mason Hornblower on the extinction of the human race

  32. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Wait. How ca nhe be for McCain when he’s for Obama? I am getting confused. In every article dising McCain, he gets accused of being an Obama Supporter. In every article dissing Obama, he gets accused of being a McCain supporter.

    Someone please make some sense.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
    MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
    Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  33. Bennett Beeny says:

    GP’s political bias is showing again.  I wish he’d just come out and say he’s for McCain.

  34. Jack says:

    I took it in a different way. If Obama wants kids (and I’m sure some adults) off the couch then in game ads are not a contridcition and McCain would have eaten shit for bringing it up. The ads are in the games to get you off your ass and to his campain site so that you could be more involvled with this election.


  35. MartyB says:

    I can think of 2 possibilities, McAin either doesn’t think its a big deal and doesn’t care about it.

    but in Obama’s defence, Obama was most likely refferring to young kids below 18, and parent’s should take a more active control over they’re kids gaming habits. But as stated mutilple times, alot of gamers nowdays are over 18 and are usually less targetted audience for campaings ads. and this was his way of reaching out to the ever growing  gaming community

  36. Monte says:

     "Similarly, if you’re in the cinema or playing sport, you’re not doing schoolwork either- why are they not mentioned?"

    For the cinema, that’s not mentioned because most kids don’t go to the movies all that often; the cinema is like a once a week kind of activity, and no one expects you to NEVER indulge in entertainment… it’s hardly worth mentioning in the same breath as TV and video games. TV and Video games are different and mentioned in that they can take A LOT of a free time; kids could easily spend like 8 hours a day on those things if they really wanted to. It easily gets in the way of school work if parents don’t tell them to turn off the games and TV once in a while. Indulging in TV and video games is fine, but only so long as it doesn’t get in the way of school work.

    as for sports… We live in the fattest nation in the world, kids NEED exercise. If they don’t get exercise when they are young, then it easily carries over into adulthood. Exercise is almost as important as good education as it promotes good health. Telling kids that they should hold off on exercise is like saying that they should hold off on eating healthy foods. Exercise is something that should ALWAYS be promoted

  37. Alex says:

    "he wouldn’t keep bringing up games specifically if he wasn’t under the impression that they are a problem of their own"

    Why doesn’t anyone seem to notice he brings up TV too every single time? I don’t see anyone raising a fuss over that.

    I’m not under the affluence of incohol as some thinkle peep I am. I’m not half as thunk as you might drink. I fool so feelish I don’t know who is me, and the drunker I stand here, the longer I get.

  38. kagirinai says:

    "he wouldn’t keep bringing up games specifically if he wasn’t under the impression that they are a problem of their own"

    Unless he’s using a broad statement to talk to people about putting entertainment first and education second. Generalizations when speaking on a larger issue is a common tactic of simplification. If he were to stop and specifically exclude educational games, he’d be stumbling about in the narrows of a topic that most people aren’t informed on anyway, and it would make him look stupid.

    Moreover, how many people do you think put over an hour a day in to educational games? And I mean ones that are relevant to a school cirriculum. Because I’m willing to bet that as a portion of games played, truly education games are an irrelevant proportion of the population. You can’t get away with playing Portal and saying it’s a lesson in geometry (or worse, physics).

  39. beemoh says:

     The problem is that that wording implies that playing games/watching TV and achievement are mutually exclusive, that learning and knowledge inherently cannot come from TV or games- or at least there is no immediate route between the two.

    We know this to be wrong, simply due to the existance of TV documentaries and the scores of research we’ve seen posted here about how games can be used in education.

    Similarly, if you’re in the cinema or playing sport, you’re not doing schoolwork either- why are they not mentioned? Alternatively, why not just say something more generic about getting kids interested in education again, and leave games and TV out of it?

    While I don’t believe by any stretch of the imagination that we can file Obama under "Anti-game politician" (yet), he wouldn’t keep bringing up games specifically if he wasn’t under the impression that they are a problem of their own, be this through a Thompson-like personal bias or simply due to an innocent lack of understanding of the medium, and this is an obstacle that any stakeholder in the form- from EA exec just trying to do their job to academic trying to promote games for learning- will have to overcome should Obama get elected.


  40. thefremen says:

     Damn I knew this site had a bias towards the Phillies.


    I was truely disappointed that the Dodgers followed the example set by the Lakers earlier this year and choked.

  41. kagirinai says:

    Joining the flock here; This article, like the first, is horrible nitpicking. Reading what he says as anti-game rhetoric shows incredibly thin skin on behalf of the interpreter. Game are entertainment — that is not a questionable fact. We do not need them to survive. Education, however, IS vital in the modern world, and americans are slipping there. Obama is just being upfront and telling people that priorities have got to change.

  42. mogbert says:

    See, I came in here to say this, but I guess I’ll have to settle for replying to it.

    Parents DO have to take control and tell children when they can and can’t play games. When the kid gets home from school and plugs right in, there may be something wrong, where is the homework? Homework before gaming. It isn’t a metaphore for underachievement, it is a passtime that CAN go overboard, especially in children.

    Also, I don’t think that the ads tie into this statement, as one if for children, and the other is for voters of legal age.

    I like this website, but they keep blowing that statement out of proportion.

  43. Quarantine says:

    Exactly. I thought GP would of learned the first time when there were comments about this in the first article about Obama’s view of video games being an "Underachievement". Maybe GP is doing this because some people who post here believe that the site is being biased.


    "Because this town is under the stranglehold of a few tight eyed Tree Huggers who would rather play Hacky Sack than lock up the homeless" — Birch Barlow

  44. Trevor McGee says:

    Seriously, I love getting my news to from this site, but you’ve got to stop trying to turn his comment into an anti-video game one. He’s just speaking the truth, studies before leisurely activities. Are you telling me that playing too many video games too much doesn’t get in the way of their school work? It happens, just like watching too much TV does as well. Hell, the same thing could be said about reading too many books that have nothing to do with their work, he just knows that the average kid nowadays spend more time watching TV or playing video games than reading, so that’s why it’s not mentioned. Too much of anything can interfere with other more important aspects of their lives. Doesn’t necessarily mean he’s demonizing something by telling people they should be doing less of one thing so they can do more of another that’ll help better themselves.

    Don’t start doing the Republican thing and turning his words into something they were never meant to be. This is starting to remind me of the "pig in lipstick" comment where everyone on the Republican side tried to say he was calling Sarah Palin a pig. You lose a lot of respect that way.

    By the way, you more than just about anyone else should know that a majority of gamers are 18 and older these days, the ads are aimed at the people who can actually vote obviously. It has nothing to do with the demographic he’s talking about, which are young adults still in school and relying on their parents to take care of them and help them improve their lives.

  45. SpiralGray says:

    Why assume that people are talking in absolutes? The phrase, "They’ve got to turn off the TV set, put away the video games…" does not equate to, "Children should never watch TV or play video games…" Everything in moderation is how I interpret what he is saying. Given that, what is there to attack?

  46. Vake Xeacons says:

    Here we go again. All I’m going to say is Obama is repeating himself. He’s said no more, no less in previous press.

    McCain, on the other hand, probably knows less about games than Obama does. I sincerely doubt he’s been playing Burnout to see the adds. He himself hasn’t been buying adds in games. Nor has he stated his stance on games. Does he even know games exist?

  47. Mnementh2230 says:

    And yet we still have the incredible shrinking education budget.


    I’d love to see a larger education budget – kids are our FUTURE, and we need to invest way more in them than we currently are.  The American public education system is crap compared to many systems overseas.

  48. TBoneTony says:

    At first I was a little bit conserned with Obama’s use of Videogames as a metaphor of underachivement.

    But since he is only refering to parents who need to pay a bit more attention to their kids Videogame time and see if they are still keeping up with their school work it aint half bad.

    But yeah, IF I was an american gamer I would be leaning towards Obama for saying that parents do have the responsibility in looking after their kids.

    I would have liked it more if he asked parents to help their kids when they have trouble doing homework as that would really would have made me smile.

    But then again, I feel that sometimes the American Politicians are making kids that are too smart that their parents can’t help them at all in their homework.

    Like when I was 10 I asked my dad about times tables, like 1×2 is 2, 2×2 is 4. Things like that and sadly my dad had trouble trying to help me sometimes in math.

    So yeah, in that regard, I would like to say that if parents paid more attention in what their kids were studying that would be of a good help when they run into trouble while doing homework.

    Also I feel that when a kid or teenager has done all their homework, what better way to use your spare time before going to bed than play some videogames for a few hours?

  49. Austin_Lewis says:

    Don’t kid yourself, Obama’s not going to change a damn thing.  But he will fuck our economy up even further and probably lose us 2 or 4 wars while we’re at it (he’ll send us to darfur).

  50. Tarosan says:

    I think Obama’s got this in the books now… he’s going to make history.

    When Life gives you lemons, you find a new god.

  51. Waffles says:

    He’s still got my vote.

    Even when he actually DOES talk about video games, he pretty much shares the same idea and views that I’m sure 99.9% of everyone using GamePolitics does.

    Parents taking an active role in their child’s life/Get your kids motivated about education/Don’t spend every single minute of every single day on entertainment.

    Actually, there should be an article on GP where he actually shares the same reasonable thoughts on GTAIV…

  52. Quarantine says:

    I seriously thought Mccain was gonnna jump outta his chair and deck Obama at one point. That mofo looked like he was gonna explode!


    "Because this town is under the stranglehold of a few tight eyed Tree Huggers who would rather play Hacky Sack than lock up the homeless" — Birch Barlow

  53. sqlrob says:

    I agree with Trevor. I see it more as just a "get the kids off the couch" than anything direct at video games.

    Was I imagining things, or did McCain look like he really had to force himself to shake hands with Obama?


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