It’s Game Over for 2008, a year full of fun, excitement and more than a bit of controversy for the video game community.
A couple of weeks back we looked at the Top 15 Stories of 2008. Today GamePolitics presents the most politically fascinating people of the year:
15. Politicians Who Play – The mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma is a gamer. So is the mayor of the Anzin Saint-Aubin in France. Both were elected in 2008, a year which saw more gamers hold political office than ever before. Hard to believe? Check out our coverage of gamer-politicos.
14. Sarah Palin – While she’s not a politican who plays video games, game designers can’t seem to resist the controversial Governor of Alaska. During her failed vice-presidential bid Palin was the subject of so many online games that we actually lost count. Big-time game publishers cashed in on Palin-mania as well. A Palin character was featured (along with Barack Obama) as DLC for Mercenaries 2. Maxis created a Palin creature for Spore and featured the world’s best-known hockey mom dancing in a bikini in a trailer for The Sims 3. And, even with the election in the rear-view mirror, Palin’s hunting habit was lampooned this week by PETA. Personally, I even got into bit of a tiff with David Jaffe over Palin. In retrospect, I think I was too rough on the God of War designer.
13. Brad Wardell – While the big-time publishers continue to alienate their loyal PC customers with intrusive DRM schemes, delayed release dates and silly threats to abandon the platform altogether, Brad Wardell, CEO of boutique publisher Stardock (Sins of a Solar Empire) is one guy who is actually thinking about ways to provide PC gamers with a better experience. The Gamer’s Bill of Rights that he and Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor released at PAX 08 was a bold, if preliminary, step in the right direction. We also love what Randy Stude and the members of the PC Gaming Alliance are doing to keep computer gaming alive.
12. Wafaa Bilal – In an effort to show his belief that American foreign policy actually encourages terrorist recruitment, Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal’s controversial Virtual Jihadi game puts the player in control of a reluctant suicide bomber who must target President Bush. The game was at the center of a free speech controversy when Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in upstate New York invited him to display Virtual Jihadi but abruptly un-invited him when campus Republicans protested. Bilal (left), a naturalized American citizen, then set up shop in a small, off-campus art gallery, but Republican city officials closed the place down, dubiously citing building code violations. The New York Civil Liberties Union is suing the city.
11. Hal Halpin – Yes, some will criticize Hal’s selection since the Entertainment Consumers Association, which he heads, is the parent company of GamePolitics. But the ECA represents the first organized movement to protect and nurture the interests of the gaming public, so it’s impossible to ignore. What Hal started in late 2006 really gained momentum in 2008. This year the ECA lobbied on behalf of game consumers and took positions on important issues like Net Neutrality, EULAs, Universal Broadband and game censorship.
10. Cooper Lawrence – The author of fluffy books about dating and celebrities clearly had no idea what she was stepping into when she smeared RPG hit Mass Effect during a Fox News-orchestrated video game beatdown in January. Thankfully, Spike TV’s Geoff Keighley was on hand to provide some rational counterpoint. Lawrence’s ridiculous comments about the best-selling Xbox 360 title were widely reported in the gaming press. Outraged gamers took guerilla revenge by flocking to Amazon.com where they trashed listings for Lawrence’s books with one-star reviews. In the end it turned out that Lawrence was completely unacquainted with Mass Effect and relied instead on a lurid Fox News briefing, a fact which she later admitted to the New York Times. Whether or not one approves of the tactics employed against Lawrence, the episode provided an object lesson for the mainstream media: Gamers will not sit idly by while they and their hobby are slandered. (more after the jump)