Presidential Candidates' Attitudes Towards Digital Games

So we have seen that digital games would be an ideal vehicle to convey political messages and explain policies. But what do the presidential candidates think about a medium that is already shaping the imagination of a generation? A lame start with Barack Obama: As much as he’s campaigning in all the of virtual spaces that the intertubeweb has to offer, gamewise he’s stuck in the early 90s.

Obama’s Austin appearance was part of a campaign swing across the country to raise money for his two-week old candidacy and build his reputation nationally…

Obama told the Austin crowd that they should try to recruit their friends to support his campaign. “I want you to tell them, ‘It’s time for you to turn off the TV and stop playing GameBoy,’” Obama said. “We’ve got work to do.”

Not even the slightest hint of moral panic? C’mon, Obama. We all know that you can do better than that! In fact we don’t have to look further than Obama’s closest contestant Hillary Clinton. Her basic message: Digital games are as dangerous as cigarettes, that’s why they must taxed accordingly – while the ESRB is not to be trusted. Instead she introduced her own Family Entertainment Protection Act, which would impose fines of $1000 dollars or 100 hours of community service for a first time offense of selling a "Mature" or "Adult-Only" rated video game to a minor, and $5000 or 500 hours for each subsequent offense. A stand she’s not particularly shy about (quite frankly: coming from a country whose record on the freedom of speech is somewhat… so so and which is trying hard to tie in with old times by planing to completely ban violent games I have to say: things could be worse America! Cold comfort, I know). While it’s all quite on the McCain and Guiliani front the antipathy towards the new media folk devils makes some Republican backbencher candidates even overcome political camps. Take Sam Brownback for example, who, with Clinton and others, is co-sponsor of the Children & Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA). Brownback also supports the Truth in Video Game Rating Act, which would require the ESRB to review all playable content before doling out those M, T or E ratings. Fair enough you might say, maybe after playing the game for 50 hours+ all of a sudden all avatars are naked. But how would you be able to rate games which basically don’t have an end – like MMORPGs? Do have the people responsible for the ratings have to reach level 60 before they can give a verdict? And what about the inappropriate language and obscene gestures of other players? Let’s have the republican contender Mitt Romney the last word on the issue. Addressing a conservative Christian audience at Regent University in Virginia Romney said:

Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games. The Virginia Tech shooter, like the Columbine shooters before him, had drunk from this cesspool.

Ah, finally: ungrounded, hysterical moral panic at its best!