It’s just another day
for you and me and hope and change in
Burnout Paradise—but who invited Obama into that fantasy?

By Randy Harward


Perhaps by now you’ve seen GigaOm.com’s report that the Barack
Obama campaign purchased in-game advertising on the Xbox 360 racing game Burnout Paradise (Electronic Arts). The
billboard says, “Early Voting Has Begun” which, as GigaOm points out, is possibly “his subtle way of trying to get
[gamers] off the couch.”


Hey, with Somebody’s efforts to disenfranchise voters and
flat-out steal elections, and the Rovian motivation of fearful bigoted
evangelical voters, it’s worth a shot. Gamers are an increasingly substantial
portion of the population. And to speak generally—and risk sounding like Bill
O’Reilly when he called The Daily Show
with Jon Stewart
’s viewers “stoned slackers”—many of them probably prefer
their banana chair or beanbag time to more significant pursuits and concerns,
like presidential elections.



Gamers aren’t all single-minded burnouts. Many have jobs and
families, to say nothing of minds and opinions. It’s possible, though, that
their leisure activities leave little time for, or passively take priority
over, researching candidates and issues. Gamers probably don’t debate their
opponents while during a marathon online World
of Warcraft
session, or engage the drummer in political tête-à-tête while
Guided by Joyces holds forth on the Rock
virtual stage. And chances are very few of them tune into CNN or MSNBC
after powering down their systems. So why not reach out to them in their world?


That is, if we/they can stomach more product placement and
ubiquitous-verging-on-ridiculous advertising. It’s bad enough to have in-show
advertisements on The Office or in
films. Like moviegoers and boob-tubers, gamers probably bristle at real-world
advertisements in the fantasy worlds that function as an escape from their
day-to-day. Especially when those ads
don’t necessarily reflect their views or tastes—hell, even when they do.


I support Obama, but I’d nonetheless be taken aback by a
campaign ad in a game I for which I shelled out forty to sixty bucks. Sorry, Mr.
Almost Maybe President—I just don’t want to be pitched when I’m pretending to
be a street racer instead of keyboard monkey. I want to see fire, explosions,
gore and girls—and some far-out recreations of exotic locales both extant and
extraterrestrial. I want, for the hour or two I can devote to my hobby, to be
unmolested by advertising, whether it’s from you, McCain or McDonald’s. And I
for damn sure don’t want to see my fictional band on the cover of Paste when I pass a level on Guitar Hero III. Talkin’ to you, Neversoft. That rag wouldn’t know a
rippin’ solo if Hendrix pissed one down on them from the Coca-Cola skybox in
Jet Blue Heaven.



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