Gamer Takes Issue with Video Game Voters Network over Obama Ads

Over at the The AT Wire, gamer/blogger Alex Taldren picks a bone with the Video Game Voters Network.

It seems that the VGVN (which is operated by game publishers lobbying group ESA) took those now-famous Obama XBL ads as a hopeful sign:

Sen. Obama’s advertising leaves no doubts about the political significance of gamers. This outreach to the gamer community sends a clear signal to gamers that their voices are being heard and that the work of the Video Game Voters Network is having an impact.

Taldren doesn’t quite see it that way, however:

Some politician uses some of his campaign money to place advertisements in video games and suddenly he is our savior?  Does anyone really think that Obama is going to remove video game bans and take our side just because he has a .JPEG on a billboard in Burnout?


…Does anyone really believe that Obama’s focus on video games can becomes anything more than problem?  The more attention politicians give us and the industry, the worse it’s going to get…


And, what I thought was once a network of gamers who wanted to keep politicians out of video games, has become nothing more than a Obama lap dog–a perpetuator of the problem.  I’m removing my Video Game Voter Network ad banner…

GP: Although the VGVN wildly overstates its contribution, we’ll have to agree that the Obama ads are, on balance, a very positive development.

What do you think, GP readers?

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  1. Seiena_Cyrus says:

    I agree if they can keep their heads on straight thats the only place we’d really see ads like that is where we expect them to be. I’d be more then a little peturbed if I turned around on WoW one day and there was a giant banner screaming "Obama 08!" Or "McCain 08!" because it’d ruin the astetics.

  2. Doctor Panda says:

    Meh, politicians are best known for pandering to random interest groups and appearing to be interested in ‘key demographics’. It’s pretty clear that the man himself doesn’t know jack about games and the same seems to be true of plenty of his party. BUT it means that there is at least someone in his campaign who goes ‘hey, there’s a demographic which has enough people in it to spend money on’. I don’t think we’re going to see much change at this election at all, but it’s nice that at least one person has picked up on it. Maybe next election a few more will. Maybe the one after that there will be enough campaign advisors to go up to whoever is in charge and say ‘Hey, all that shit you say about videogames? It’s not actually likely to work for you these days, you’re losing a demographic there’. As long as there are a lot of people in a group who are over 18 and likely to vote, SOMEBODY will attempt to half-heartedly pander to them REGARDLESS of what their own moral stance is. And we are a growing group.

    I’m going to call this baby steps. Baby steps towards people who don’t understand us giving us what we want anyway (i don’t even remember what that is) so we give them what they want (the vote). And that’s Politics!


  3. Agrojagg says:

    Honestly I agree with Taldren. Just because someone in the Obama Campaign decided to throw some money at the game companies to put adds in game doesn’t mean Obama actually cares, or had an epiphany one day and decided that he’d go for the "Gamer Vote". The guy has a legion of people working for him to handle advertising, he doesn’t actually do this himself.

    Don’t fool yourselves into thinking that just because there is an ad for Obama in a game that he suddenly considers games to be a "Respectable Media" Chances are, he isn’t even aware that they exist. They are in the last stretch of the campaign and trying to generate votes that’s all nothing more, nothing less.

    Also this is the guy who equates video games to people being lazy, and did so not very long after these advertisements showed up to begin with. Why would he bother?

  4. Aliasalpha says:

    In a real world contemporary game, non-intrusive ads for real products/services/politicians are fine by me as long as I don’t have to download the new ads each week.

    If in a few months I were in a firefight in Alpha Protocol or Rainbow 6 Vegas 3 SUPER MECHA COMBAT XTREME!!! (or however ubi are going to rape the R6 name next time) and took cover behind a coke billboard, I’d be fine with it. The same situation happening in gears of war 2 would be a rather jarring moment, like an ad man coming to your house and slapping his cock in your face but without the upside of being able to punch him in the bollocks after he was done.

    Hell even if a contemporary company wanted an ad in a futurisitic game, make up a product and just advertise your brand name. A game set in 2035 could feature an ad by AMD for their "Ultra-Power 5995736Q" CPU and have its tagline "Almost as fast as a 3Ghz Core2 Duo now, honest!" and not really piss me off but an ad for a 3GHz Core2 Duo in the same game would be a serious blow to my hopes of a faster processor in the future.


    Context is everything.

  5. Thomas McKenna says:

    The real question should be if Obama is of the same opinion as Hillary Clinton.  Since Obama has voted Democrat 97% of the time, I would assume he would.

  6. JohnMidnight says:

    As long as the ads themselves don’t blow up… ya know. I see it this way.

    First theirs one ad for president.

    Then theirs so many, you can’t stand playing the game.

  7. Dark Sovereign says:

    Whenever the government gets invovled with anything domestic it turns to shit. Be it healthcare, immigration, banks, loans, houses…

  8. Verbinator says:

    I don’t think Senator Obama has much to do with an advertisement in a game. Probably some staffer’s idea.

    Up til now, the actual comments that Senator Obama has made about video/computer games have been mostly neutral with a potentially negative slant. If memory serves, he has indicated that he’d like to see kids playing less video games so they could do better elsewhere in their lives (be active or study, etc.).  Should he become president, he will have far greater concerns than regulating games. For the next two years, games will essentially be ignored by everyone but he who is not to be named. HOWEVER. In two years, I believe the Democratic supermajority that may be in Congress will face a very hard, strong challenge from social conservatives … essentially a backlash much like the one in 1994 that took control of Congress away from the Democrats for the first time in 40 years.  In order to look more socially conservative without alienating their extreme left constituents, Democratic Congressional people will cast about for a pseudo-social conservative scapegoat issue again.

    That scapegoat will be games. 


  9. Danath says:

    Its bad, Obama has recently equated video games with mind numbing wastes of time, he doesnt "understand" video games, were just another potential demographic of younger voters, how do you get younger voters who play videogames? advertise to them, doesnt mean he represents video game company or players interests at all.

  10. TBoneTony says:

    I feel that it is both the Republicans AND the Democrats that have had a long history of bashing videogames.


    but then there are always those few younger politicians who support Videogames.


    Just because Hillary Clinton bashed Videogames does not mean that the entire Democratic party is responsibile for the Moral Panic against Violent Videogames.



  11. TBoneTony says:

    I would wait and see what Obama does AFTER the election and see what changes.


    I don’t see him as a pro-gamer or an anti-gamer politician, but I more see him as a neutral.


    His last game may be Pong, and I do think that sometimes he uses the words "Videogames" and "Kids" a bit too much in connection with eachother without using the word "Adult Gamers" to recognise us.


    Although, it seems that his political ads in Videogames are a good thing that he is trying to reach out to us as an legitimate voting audience.


    I see this as a positive but still we won’t know much more about Obama until after the election,


  12. MechaTama31 says:

    So the VGVN makes a statement to the effect that seeing a political ad in a game is a positive sign that gamers are being taken seriously politically.

    And this guy launches into a tirade against what he imagines is the VGVN’s support of Obama.

    Right…  :/

  13. Pixelantes Anonymous says:

    I’d be very surprised if Obama new his ads are in video games at all.

    He’s most likely buying online ads with ad networks in bulk, e.g. "give me 20,00,000 impressions on 18-30 year-old male demographics in states A, B, C and D". The ad network then decides where the ads actually get shown based on their information.

  14. shady8x says:

    Unless ads for both parties appear there and they are made to believe that those ads really help them then this is a bad idea…

    think about it, if only democrat ads appear in games(they are the ones who fight games most of the time) then the republicans will see games as an enemy of the republican party and begin to attack them as much as democrats or more…

    Also if the ads are an after thought and not really needed by the politicians then this will change nothing…


  15. Neo_DrKefka says:

    How dare they speak ill of our savior the One you know Gamepolitics is completely in the bag for Obama!

  16. Shadow Darkman Anti-Thesis of Jack Thompson says:

    "What do you think, GP readers?"

    I think the ads should be omnipartisan.



  17. Ebonheart says:

    Obama? Who has time and time again used video games and TV as symbol for under achievement? I’m going to agree with Taldren. The only thing I’m seeing in this, he’s using a new form of advertisement. That’s honestly all I’m seeing. Let’s say the person who was in those ads was Hiliray, would VGVN really be screaming "SAVIOR!" if this was said case? I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts, no.



    Let me put that on my to-don’t list.

  18. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    That last bit is about as spot on as something can get.



    -Remember kids, personal responsibility is for losers! Jack Thompson is still a dick…

  19. Andrew Eisen says:

    At the very least, a politician putting "vote for me" ads in video games proves that a significant percentage of gamers are adults.  You can’t vote until you’re eighteen so Obama clearly is not targeting minors with those ads.  This means that there is no way Obama or his administration can ever say or imply that games are solely for kids without being a complete hypocrite.

    So while I don’t completely agree with the VGVN’s statement in this case, I do believe that these ads show that politicians (even those who haven’t played video games since Pong) are starting to realize that most gamers are adults.  And not man-children either (or women-children for that matter) but socially and civically responsible adults who are interested in more than just saving princesses, collecting Pokemon, or grinding for exp.


    Andrew Eisen

  20. Inimical says:

    I think it’s a good sign, but agree that it’s not necessarily going to change the way politicians or the general public view video games.

    If you look at the types of games these ads are being placed in they are sports and racing games. Both of which are games that receive very little negative press. No matter how you slice it, the media loves to blame violent games for violent teenagers (and violent people for that matter). The general public jumps all over it and politicians use it to get votes.

    Obama having a few ads in some sports games isn’t going to do much for legislation or the desire to censore violent games. If he had put advertisements in GTA IV or Manhunt and spoke out against pro-censorship activists on these types of games, then I would say it could have a huge effect.

    Of course, that would make him lose votes.

  21. clownluv247 says:

    i can kind of see both sides of the arugement. i for one dont want to see ads for any politician whilst i am running through WoW final fantasy or dead space.but i dont really see the problem with ad space in some racers or football games( especially since they are already abundant in both) as long as it is done in the right context, i dont think it should be a big deal

  22. Mike Papadopoulos says:

    I was just about to say something to this extent. Obama doesn’t play games. He’s made that perfectly clear. He more than likely isn’t the one heading up his marketing and advertising, either. It’s some marketing dude who saw an untapped medium of political advertising and went with it. I wouldn’t consider it a political advertising milestone and Obama is (more than likely) not the savior of gamer’s rights and ender of ill-placed finger pointing at the gaming community, but it’s an interesting change (no pun intended) and utilization of the technology we currently possess as a medium for political advertisement, which serves as a step in the right direction for gaming and gamers being taken seriously (or at least more serious than before).

    That being said, let’s not ask for miracles as far as no ads are concerned, regardless of whether or not it’s a paid subscription. They’re squeezing every dollar they possible can out of games and content, and honestly, I don’t blame them. Where things stand now, I don’t think the level of advertising I see in games warrants any significant price reduction. Why? Because I honestly don’t find the ads nearly as intrusive as people make them out to be. The guy who snapped the first pic of the Burnout ad happened to crash in front of it (NOTE: not as a result of it) and said, "Oh wow. An Obama ad." I saw an ad for 5 Chewing Gum in Guitar Hero III a few hours ago. It just sat in the background. Nothing more. It’s not like Tom Morello stopped in the middle of his boss battle and said "By the way, before I rip into this bitchin’ solo, I wanna take a minute and say that 5 Gum is the shit. Chew it or I’ll write a song about what a loser you are."

    I said the same thing back during the Cooper Lawrence bullshit: let’s pick our battles a little better. It’s going to be really hard for the rest of the world to take the gaming community seriously if all we do is vehemently bitch about shit that really doesn’t matter.

    -Mike Papadopoulos

  23. Weatherlight says:

    I take offense to anybody claiming that this was anything more than an advertisement. We are not being heard, we are just another group that they are starting to target for their ads. I understand this guys point of view, I have encountered one person after another who act like Oboma is a savior because of something he said/did, when really he said/did nothing of the sort. He is just another politition trying to get your vote and people are being caught looking for a deeper meaning when really there isnt any. Please people use your heads.

    On a side note, I am against in game ad’s because I am paying for a game/service, which cost quite a bit more then a $8 movie ticket or a $20 DVD. This is the reason I don’t have cable TV, magazine subscriptions and why I use adblock religiously when browsing the internet. If I am paying for a service, I do not want to see ads for everything under the sun. Now if you want to give it to me for free, then I will watch your ad’s but I will not pay for you to waste my time.


  24. MaxVivian says:

    I’ve got two main problems will all the attention on this:

    1) Did Obama really turn to someone on his staff and say "We need to advertise in video games by golly!"  I doubt it.  Someone fairly high up who was in charge of advertising dollars probably handled it all.  And even if it was Obama, I don’t it’s that big of a deal anyway, but it is nice for someone to acknowledge that games aren’t just being played by kids.

    2) Xbox LIVE is a subscription service (which I don’t CURRENTLY subscribe to but, you know); If I’m going to pay a monthly fee for something that’s free on every other console, I’d like to not see ads at all.

  25. Austin_Lewis says:

    I think anyone who believes that the ads mean Obama will be pro-videogames needs to have their head examined.  The man is anti-2nd amendment, and the first is powerfully tied to the 2nd.

  26. Seiena_Cyrus says:

    Because the VGVN is supposed to be Voters protecting gameing and stuff. To me, They shouldn’t be praising Obama for an obvious tactical move. The next big leap for political campaigning is Video games, why? Because tons of people play video games, it’s nothing brilliant or amazing that says the candidate cares it’s just intellegent advertising.

  27. tallimar says:

    um… why is this guy getting so worked up over VGVN when they had nothing to do with these XBL ads in the first place?

  28. Seiena_Cyrus says:

    Yer arguements to me actually help the case of no ads in video games or make them like in moves where they’re at the beginning and 99.9% of the time skipable (the ones that aren’t tick me off I don’t need to see 30 minutes of trailors for movies 4 years old), And TV uses commercials to pay for the television shows we watch. Thats different from using games as an ad media while also making us pay for them and live services which those will easily fund other projects. Advertisements at the front of movies are to generate income for those movies coming out, but also don’t get in the way of viewing the movie, seriously would you watch a movie you paid 25 bucks for if every 10 minutes they interupted it with commericials that were 30 minutes long and you couldn’t fast forward through? No you wouldn’t and I’ve seen a lot of talk lately about putting ads in video games…commercials are another form of ad…trust me if they can make more money they will…It won’t fly well with us, but if they get cocky enough, which they’re starting to walk that route now, they’ll at least try and do it….never underestimate anything…usually goes bad.

  29. Flamespeak says:

    Because people are paying for product that is getting the ads in them.

    It is like buying a CD by your favorite band, but having jingles forcibly placed on the disc.

    It is like buying a piece of art from a gallery and then having them put a an ‘Elect Obama’ sticker right on the middle of it.

    Game makers make a mad profit from selling their titles to consumers, don’t let them convince you otherwise (what with them beating out the film industry for gain last year and all) and to have advertisments in a medium that you are paying for… is not right.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying a little bill board is something that is going to destroy the fabric of gaming, to be honest it is easily overlooked, and a character passively drinking a coke is fine and adds to the realism of the character as it is a product we can relate too. However, I will be the first to say that corporations tend to get greedy and don’t know when to stop and it is a slippery slope that this is starting upon. I don’t want to be forced to watch a commercial everytime I load up a game or every time I save my status or (god forbid) every 15 minutes of an RPG. It is a possible that future that I want to avoid if possible.

  30. SeanB says:

    I’m seing these things from an entirely different perspective i think. For years we have begged for Video Games to be seen as a legitimate form of entertainment, like movies, sporting events, etc. People need to understand that gaming is not something people only do in dimly lit basements, drinking pop and eating cheetoes, while we skip school and destroy our future.

    Obamas ads are doing just that. If Obama’s ads were seen on the side boards of a real NBA game, or on a bilboard or commercial of a real Nascar game, you wouldn’t have a thing to say about it. Movies have had product placement advertising for years, and TV wouldn’t be possible without commercials. Why cant gaming make use of that same stream of revenue.

    For years we’ve asked to be treated the same as other entertainment consumers. Now that we are, your STILL complaining.

  31. Vake Xeacons says:

    He does have a point though: We shouldn’t be falling in love with Obama, or have any assumptions about his motives, just because he’s advertising in a game.

  32. Brokenscope says:

    I thought the VGVN was just plain useless in the first place?

    This guy went a little overboard though.

  33. Flamespeak says:

    Oh, Taldren over-reacted.

    Dennis was just asking our opinion on the subject and I gave him mine.

    I do see your point, don’t think that I do not. Me and you just differ on where in-game ads might end up in the future is all.

    I really, really hope I am wrong and you are right.

  34. SeanB says:

    I edited my post to remove the recipt comment when i realized the discussion was about the XBL ads, not the PSN ads, but it seems you were already preparing your reply. In the case of XBL I am a little more hesitant to defend them, since it’s a (mostly) paid experience already. In the case of PSN, I think the ads are a good idea, as long as they continue to fade into the background.

    I still dont believe it’s a slippery slope though. When advertisements appear in loading screens, and the loading screens take a tad bit longer for some ads than others, or you have to wait for ad videos to buffer… then i’l start comming out aginst them. For now I just dont see what Taldren is getting all bent out of shape over.

  35. Flamespeak says:

    I can show you my reciept for my XBL account. I can show you my reciept for Burnout Paradise on the PS3 (although that is irrelavent because XBL is the one with the ads).

    I said in another post, it is a slipperly slope that I would rather the gaming industry not get on. Soon they may be relying on the ad revenue and it would become a water-downed experience. This is speculative, but a very real possibility.

  36. SeanB says:

    This is my exact point, that it IS easily overlooked. Product Placement in Movies is no different. Take a look at the first goblin attack scene in Spiderman. ADVERTISING IS EVERYWHERE. However it’s done in such a way that blends it into the background. The same is true for the PSN/XBL advertisements. All of your other references are so off topic that i cant even work them into my reply. The Slippery slope argument never wins.

  37. Sporge says:

    More like one would hope but it isn’t true for a lot of people, I’d say that the stereotype of games being for children and teenagers is still there for at least the older half of our population in this country.  These ads show that it is finally being seen by people in the government a little differently, maybe it isn’t Obama, but some of his campaign advisors at least, who are a part of politics. 

    I also want to add that I hate these slippery slope arguments, mostly because most of the time it is completely wrong.  I have no problem with advertising in a game as long as it looks correct in its placement.  Now giving an Obama ad in say starcraft would be ludicrous, but on the side of a sporting event from the 08 season, not so much of a problem. 

  38. Lazier Than Thou says:

    It means nothing of the sort.  All it means is that someone on Obamas advertisement team has heard of or plays on XBL.  Obama is currently depending quite a bit on the young vote and, as such, is trying to milk it for all it’s worth.

    Obama doesn’t care about video games any more than any other politician.

  39. jmcc says:

    I don’t think it has much to do with respect or recognition of games. They saw it as a means to reach a demographic they want. If people 18-35 were spending significant time at cake shops, you’d see Obama sponsering brownies or something. As for whether it’s appropriate or not, you have to ask yourself: would I see this in real life? I don’t think it’s out of line to buy ad space on a billboard or a announcer’s table, so this doesn’t bother me.

  40. KayleL says:

    By putting ads in game, it shows that the Liberals recognized that video games aren’t just a kids toy, and recognize it as a respectable medium

  41. jimbo47 says:

    I would agree w/Sean.   That original story is way out of line.  I’m disappointed that he and other gamers are actually pissed off about this.  The fact that a presidential campaign has placed ads in video games, shows that video games are making significant headway in no longer being seen as child’s play, since are they are tying to target voters – it is a positive sign no matter who you are voting for – if games are being treated like this in campaigns, maybe they’ll at last get the same treatment as music, movies, books, and comic books.

    Regardless, of whether you want ingame ads or not, you can’t disagree that because of this story broke now they are tons of more people who know just got hammered with the message that games aren’t just for kids.

  42. Helpless_writer says:

    Well in order for Video Games to become a secure and innovative industry we have to use politicians. After all they are already giving us tax breaks in some states and hell the movie industry gets it so why shouldn’t we.

    The only problem I see is conservatives trying to get involved like they are in Austrailia and Germany. But as we all known in American Media you can show or allude to damn near anything. Hell they alluded to Dakota Fanning in a movie (not based off any book) getting raped.

  43. Erasmus Darwin says:

    I find it a little absurd just how much stock people are placing in the ads, so it’s refreshing to see someone take a stand against the hype.

    Obama’s running a presidential campaign.  Part of running a campaign involves putting out political advertising.  The best way to do that is to employ the services of people who are already involved in advertising.  And mainstream advertising agencies already know about video games.  It’s no big deal to see a generic Obama ad anywhere that you could already expect to see, say, a Ford ad.

    If you want meaningful, try and find something that shows Obama — Obama personally, not an ad exec working on his campaign — that Obama has any thoughts about video games other than being what kids are playing when they should be doing their homework.  People are really blowing the Obama thing out of proportion.

    Now if you want something really cool, I remember back in 2001 when a Congressman (Rep. Boucher from Virginia) personally answered a number on Slashdot.  Not strictly game-related, but close enough that you can make a connection and infinitely more meaningful.

  44. Haggard says:

    It’s a very innovative step for Obama to have put advertisements into games, but at the same time it doesn’t mean he’s some huge pro-game messiah (last game he played was Pong, remember?).

  45. Flamespeak says:

    I really am not a fan of getting politicians involved within the games like the XBL ads.

    If someone is supporting a candidate here and a candidate there in video games, it becomes another ad mechanism, something I really, really want to avoid in video games. I mean, it works for banners in a racing game way up in the air, but it leaves doors open.

    For example, I could be seeing an election poster in Dead Space or maybe your racing soundtrack will get interuppted for a radio ad.  For a medium that is supposed to remove me from the real world around me, this current trend of in-game ads (political or otherwise) seems to detract from that experience. Plus it kind of pisses me off that MS is charging you for an online service when they are also making money from ads from other people (such as burger king in Fight Night).  If I have to pay for a service, it should be ad free.

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