Will the political game enter the mainstream...Home?

By Jens "the German" Schroder  The recently introduced Home for Playstation 3 Sony pretty much crams every successful Web 2.0/ social networking/ user generated content/ digital parallel universe trend into piece of – free – software (though allegedly they had all these ideas first). Users can customise their avatars and rich virtual spaces, show off in-game achievements and exhibit photos, videos and music. Classy!

Considering how many corporations, politicians and cocks currently strive for a presence in Second Life made me wonder: How could this environment be used for campaigning?

There is of course the possibility to create a virtual space with pictures of you and your family, your potential voters and important community members hanging on the walls, while your latest speech/ YouTube address streams on a screen in the lobby and all that jazz.

However, Home furthermore offers the opportunity to play games in a "game" by letting users put up arcade cabinets in their virtual world (think GTA San Andreas). The question is: Will this chance be used to get the message across? Due to their ability to showcase complicated dynamics in a user-friendly way "it would not be surprising if politicians tried to explain their plans on tax or health reform through video games" writes Gonzalo Frasca whose website newsgaming.com gives a taste of the possible things to come.

Not only offers home these ideas an interesting platform it is also less manipulable than Second Life, i.e. less hassle trough less anarchy, vandalism and flying penises. Furthermore taking the ever growing console market into account Home potentially offers a gigantic user base (to clarify that potential: the Playstation 2 sold about 115 million times while there are currently about eight million Second Life subscribers) – that is of course if Sony manages to turn the tide of negativity and starts selling consoles while keeping Home attractive enough for the next seven years or so.

With the ever expanding reach of consoles into the living room also gamer demographics changed. In fact most gamers are eligible to vote and don't consist of male nerds: According to the IEAA the average age of Australian gamers is 28 while women are the fastest growing audience for interactive entertainment.

Some questions remain though: How many users are allowed in a space at one time? Will it in the long run be possible to prevent vandalism? What about the negative bias towards digital games in politics or candidates who simply have no idea what they are talking about? Will they be seen as hypocrites who are just using a platform for their own ends? And in this connection: Imagine candidates greeting (early adaptor) guests with something like "Welcome to my Nintendo world!".