Election 2008


Obama Targets Xbox Gamers

October 16, 2008 05:22 PM
by Denis Cummings
Ads for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign are appearing in Xbox Live games, one of the many ways that Obama is targeting young voters.

Obama Billboards in Xbox Games

Eighteen video games for the Xbox 360 console now feature virtual billboards for Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s campaign. The billboards inform the gamers that early voting has begun, and include a picture of Obama and a link to his Vote for Change Web site.

The ads can been seen when Xbox 360 users play the online Xbox 360 versions of the games. The games, all produced by Electronic Arts, Inc., include “Burnout Paradise,” “Guitar Hero,” “Madden 09” and many other sports games. They are typically played by young males, who historically have very low voter turnout rates.

“We’re in close contact with a well-defined demographic—young people (mostly males) aged 15 to 35,” EA spokesperson Jeff Brown told Salon’s Cyrus Farivar. “And where television and radio use interstitials that interrupt the consumer experience for an advertisement, in-game advertising puts the promotion directly into the content. We stream the ads onto billboards that players see in cityscapes, a stadium, etc. They don’t have to stop the action, to see the ad.”

Republican candidate John McCain was offered the chance to buy ad space in EA video games, but his campaign declined the offer, according to EA spokeswoman Mariam Sughayer. McCain has lagged behind Obama in utilizing technology during the campaign, even admitting that he is a computer “Neanderthal.”

Background: Obama’s use of technology

Obama has used the Internet to raise money and awareness of his campaign far better than his competitors. His campaign tapped into popular sites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube to appeal to young voters, making it easy for them to donate money or volunteer for his campaign.

He allowed people to sign up to receive a text message when he chose his vice presidential running mate, showing that he can identify with young people and their popular technology. It also gave his campaign the ability to collect phone numbers of supporters, allowing it to collect information on them and better organize its get-out-the-vote efforts.

Obama has mobilized the youth vote better than any candidate in recent memory. A recent USA Today/MTV/Gallup poll found that nearly 75% of young Americans are registered and plan to vote; of those potential voters, Obama is favored two to one. Efforts such as ads in video games will help Obama ensure that these young people.

“Younger voters are leaning heavily toward Obama,” says Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. “The issue is getting them to the polls.”

Related Topic: Benefits of video games

A study released last month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that many video games encourage civic and political activity. These games usually included social, moral or ethical issues, or included examples of politics in action. None of the 18 games featuring Obama billboards are thought to encourage political activity, however.

Ironically, Obama had criticized the prevalence of video games during his primary race. “We’re going to have to parent better, and turn off the television set, and put the video games away, and instill a sense of excellence in our children, and that’s going to take some time,” he said in speech after the Wisconsin primary.

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