There has been much said on game-centric sites about an “Obama for President” billboard advertisement placed in the Xbox 360 racing game Burnout Paradise; it is a paid official campaign advertisement. GamePolitics(.com) posts are representative early discussion on this topic. Frankly, however, I am wondering what the fuss is about.
It is hard not to imagine the attraction of political advertising in game worlds. When a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that "97% of American teens ages 12-17 play some kind of video game" and that "99% of boys say they are gamers and 94% of girls report that they play games", one view is therefore, that the hand-writing is on the wall. Yet, I can imagine a number of risks here for gamer-to-be-associated candidates, e.g. inadvertently becoming associated with a game with unexpected (off-message) content.
The other pitfall, I think, is simply figuring out the audience of a game. This will likely become more important as the "gamer" umbrella fragments into narrower constituencies. Illustrating some of the complexity involved, the same study reports "(a) typical teen plays at least five different categories of games and 40% of them play eight or more different game types." Missteps by other U.S. presidential candidates earlier in the year in targeting one game constituency or another is also indicative - it is hard to figure out who plays/sympathizes with what (until it is too late).
If this is the future, is there more to this story than one of an ongoing transition into a complicated new media market; or is there some sort of "game-changer" quality to this story that I am missing?