The 2004 election cycle saw the birth and quick rise of the official political video game… It was easy to get public attention around such work, and indeed one of the benefits of campaign games revolved around their press-worthiness. By the final weeks of the last election cycle, all signals suggested that campaign games were here to stay.
But, as Bogost notes, only the McCain campaign’s dreary Pork Invaders emerged in the 2008 presidential election season. There were, however, a plethora of unofficial games, as tracked by GamePolitics. Bogost, who has designed political games himself, does not regard them highly:
Unofficial political games also made few innovations this year. The largest crop of them are game-like gags about Sarah Palin, from the almost-topical Polar Palin to the toy-like Palin as President to the wildlife sendup Hunting with Palin to a series of Palin chatterbots to the inevitable whack-a-mole clone Puck Palin.
We’ll have to take issue with Bogost’s head count of commercial games with political themes. While he does mention The Political Machine 2008 and the very forgettable Hail to the Chimp, he seems to miss Democracy and President Forever.
If politically themed games are indeed dwindling, why is that happening? Bogost suggests that campaigns are turning to other online resources:
There are reasons games have grown slowly compared to other technologies for political outreach. The most important one is also the most obvious: since 2004, online video and social networks have become the big thing, as blogs were four years ago…
Online video became the political totem of 2008, from James Kotecki’s dorm room interviews to CNN’s YouTube debates. At the same time, the massive growth in social network subscriptions made social connectivity a secondary focus for campaign innovation, especially since Facebook opened its pages beyond the campus in 2006.