The role of play

These games aren’t much fun to play, even if you are a Bush supporter. Nevertheless, it’s significant that a major political party now sees games as a useful campaigning tool. Presumably, the RNC thinks Tax Invaders will get Bush’s economic policy across to “the kids”. But it’s hard to say for certain because, so far, the RNC has not talked about the games to the press and they didn’t respond to a request for an interview.

However, others are talking about this new campaign strategy – in particular, Ian Bogost and Gonzalo Frasca, two game designers/ researchers who contribute to Water Cooler Games, a blog set up in October to track the development of “video games with an agenda”. “I believe in this medium as a more efficient means of communicating social and political messages,” says Bogost. “So I’m encouraged when anybody tries it, whatever their political persuasion.”

Unfortunately, the games aren’t that good, says Frasca. “They look like they were programmed by Bush himself.” In particular, Tax Invaders, with its South Park image of bullets flying out of George Bush’s head, seems ill conceived. “Knowing his trigger-happy approach to international politics,” says Frasca, “this is something that may well backfire.” —Jim McClellanThe role of play  (Guardian Unlimited)