Abraham Lincoln: The Video Game

June 19, 2009 -

Having finished Team of Rivals, a study of Abraham Lincoln's politicial genius, blogger Nate Janewit of Tech Industry Guerilla notes with despair that a Spielberg/Peter Jackson film adaptation may be in the works.

Expecting that the movie won't do justice to historian Doris Kearns Goodwin's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Janewit, a program manager in Microsoft's Bing team, goes on to speculate about what a subsequent video game version of Team of Rivals might be like:

[CUE DEEP-VOICED ANNOUNCER AND IMAGES OF EXPLOSIONS]

ANNOUNCER: From the studios that brought you The Sims and Madden 2009 comes…LINCOLN!

[IMAGE OF LINCOLN SITTING IN A CHAIR THINKING]

ANNOUNCER: Balance the conservative and radical elements of your party…

[IMAGE OF LINCOLN WITH HAND IN THE AIR SURROUNDED BY CROWDS]

ANNOUNCER: Placate the masses with your oratorical skill…

[IMAGE OF SALMON CHASE, PLOTTING AGAINST YOU AS SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY]

ANNOUNCER: Navigate the dangerous waters of political intrigue within your own Cabinet!

I can already picture the crowds of enthusiastic gamers lining up or preordering weeks in advance. For some reason, real history just isn’t as interesting as video games.

8 comments

In Lebanon, First Use of Games As an Election Campaign Tool

June 15, 2009 -

Here at GamePolitics we lay no claim to understanding the complexities of Lebanese politics.

But we do note that Lebanon-based WixelStudios has launched what it says is the first use of games for a political campaign in the troubled nation. From the company's website:

For the first time in Lebanon, games are used as an election propaganda! ...

Wixel Studios produced an interactive animated documentary for the Liberty Front... in addition to the documentaries you will find four games accompanying to the stories.

The four browser-based mini-games, which are nicely varied in presentation, involve themes in which the player does battle with Syrian forces. Based on its Wikipedia entry, Lebanon's dealings with Syria is a prime concern of the Liberty Front.

Check out the games here.

1 comment

XBL Indie Game Turns Obama Into Side-Scrolling Scrapper

June 15, 2009 -

A recently-released Xbox Live Community Game (MS recently announced that these will soon be called Indie Games) features President Obama as a side-scrolling, 2-D brawler.

Angry Barry is available for 400 points on Xbox Live. We didn't spring for the game although we did check out the free demo.

Hillary Clinton makes an appearance in the game and the screen shot at left appears to feature Sarah Palin. From the game's XBL page:

Angry Barry is a sidescrolling, political parody, 1-2 player 2D beat 'em up in the tradition of many classic arcade games. Take control of Barry as he tries to take over the Presidency of the United States!

Former Detainee Is Consultant on Upcoming Guantanamo Game

May 26, 2009 -

A British Muslim who spent three years in the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility is serving as a consultant on the upcoming Xbox 360 and PC game Rendition: Guantanamo, according to Deadline Scotland.

As GamePolitics reported in March, Rendition: Guantanamo centers around a near-future version of the controversial prison in which mercenaries are in control and scientists conduct experiments on detainees.

Moazzam Begg (left), who was picked up as a suspected Al Qaeda member by Coalition forces in Pakistan, is assisting Glasgow-based game developer T-Enterprise. Begg claims to have been tortured during his stay at Guantanamo. T-Enterprise exec Zarrar Chishti commented on Begg's participation in the project:

We approached Moazzam because it’s very hard for us to know how to design the layout of the prison and he helped. He came up two weeks ago to give his input on what we were working on...

Due to the controversial subject matter, T-Enterprise appears eager not to step on any official toes. Deadline Scotlan reports that the developer had sought advice and permissions from law enforcement and political officials. Chisti explained:

There are certain rules we can’t break after meeting politicians so we are not making the game too extreme. We have had a lot of hate mail about this, mainly from America...

 

But no US or British soldiers get killed in [the game]. The only ones being killed are mercenaries. We have set it in January 2010 because that’s when we think the camp will be closed. We are making a statement. We did not want Guantanamo to be forgotten.

Begg, who wrote a book about his time at Guantanamo, has a financial stake in the project. He spoke of his time detention:

I was put in solitary confinement with no access to the outside world and no explanation as to why I was being detained. My wife gave birth to my son six months after I was arrested and I saw him for the first time when he was three years old. It would be wrong to say I’m not angry but I’m willing to forgive 1000 times over...

The only thing I am concerned about it making sure the game does not misrepresent the prisoners. This will not demean the reality of Guantanamo but it could bring those issues to people who would not usually think about it.

19 comments

Politically-Charged Xbox Live Community Game Dinged Over Gameplay

May 15, 2009 -

As GamePolitics mentioned earlier this week, the politically-tinged indy game Clover was released as an XBL Community title.

While the game is essentially an allegory about the twisted path that led the United States to invade Iraq in 2003, Fidgit's Tom Chick finds Clover wanting in the fun department:

Entertainment has a long and storied history of commenting on politics. Unfortunately, Clover seems to lost sight of the entertainment part of the equation. Or maybe I'm to blame for not having the patience to play through a crudely drawn and even more crudely built adventure game based on inventory management.

I can eventually get past the look of the game, which might be described as South Park run through a Braid Photoshop filter...  The problem with "message" games is that unless the message is delivered with some sort of nuance or power... the gameplay is going to have to take up the slack...

4 comments

Politically-influenced Clover Launches on XBL

May 11, 2009 -

Clover, an Xbox Live Community Game being developed by Binary Tweed has now launched. As GamePolitics reported recently, the story which unfolds in Clover was heavily influenced by the run-up to the Iraq War.

In fact, Binary Tweed calls the game a "watercolour political platform puzzler," and those are four words you don't hear strung together very often.

From the Clover press release:

Already in the hands of some early-bird gamers, the true nature of Clover's political plot is becoming clear. “It's been great to read emails from gamers who have picked up on the historical and political references - if Clover has one objective, it's to make people think.” commented Binary Tweed's Deejay. Heavily inspired by the events preceding the 2003 Iraq war, the game invites players to draw their own conclusions from unfurling events.

11 comments

Ian Bogost Critiques Bailout Bonanza for the iPhone

April 22, 2009 -

Over at Water Cooler Games, Georgia Tech prof and noted game designer Ian Bogost offers some thoughts on Bailout Bonanza, an iPhone game released in late March.

Bailout Bonanza is essentially a clone of the classic Activision game Kaboom! -- the player moves or tilts the iPhone to maneuver a bucket at the bottom of the screen, which catches money bags dropped by a Wall Street banker out of a neoclassical financial building...

 

The problem is, this game doesn't really satirize or comment upon the bailout. If anything, the Kaboom! gameplay feels backwards... The game also points to the issue of timeliness in editorial games. Creating an iPhone game like this one is relatively easy, but it still takes more time than making the equivalent Flash game... the bailout of the financial sector is, in a way, old news.

Bogost notes that Bailout Bonanza is just one of several bailout-themed games available on the AppStore.

1 comment

September 11th Among Influences for Beyond Good & Evil Franchise

April 3, 2009 -

Game designer Michel Ancel has revealed the geo-political influences behind his well-regarded action-adventure Beyond Good & Evil as well as the in-development sequel.

As reported by Eurogamer, Ancel said:

It was a mix of a lot of experiences.It was a phantasm to create an adventure game, a universe too. It was the game I wanted to create for a long time.


There were a lot of inspirations: the Miyazaki universe, my own inspirations, politics and the media; the theme of September 11 - the CNN show with army messages and the fear climate. And it was a mix from other universes.

It's different from Zelda and other titles like that; very good games but they are out of time. [BG&E] was issued of the actuality.

Ancel offered no news as to a release date or system availability for the sequel.

20 comments

Online Game: Bailout Bonus Beatdown

March 24, 2009 -

Sure, those AIG bonuses were maddening, but punching out execs isn't the solution that most rational people have in mind.

Still, Kewlbox has posted Bailout Bonus Beatdown, an online game in which players have 15 seconds to throw punches (read: click their mouse) at a greedy yet defenseless exec from the "P.I.G. Insurance Company."

GP: We'd like to think that the state of games as political commentary has advanced beyond the tired whack-a-mole, punchout and first-person shooter genres. But, apparently not...

6 comments

Online Game Challenges Players to Balance Philadelphia's Budget

March 24, 2009 -

Like chief executives in other big cities, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has been forced to make some tough financial choices of late.

Perhaps His Honor should spend some time playing Philadelphia Budget Challenge, a new online game offered by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia.

Alan Tu of Philly's public radio station WHYY has a review of the game:

This budget game asks 15 questions, giving you a choice to raise taxes or cut services in each case. My secret for solving the city’s budget crisis over the lunch hour is as follows.

The first thing to do is raise everybody’s taxes. That makes the game more fun. Who wants to be the mayor remembered for closing libraries?... The rest was a breeze. I ordered a 10 percent across-the-board cut to to all departments that were considered “administrative,” sold off 400 city cars, and then refinanced a loan the city has for paying into the pension fund...

It’s kind of fun, because it’s feels a little like playing Sim City. No big budgets to read. Never have to hear the citizens complain (although in the game they move away), and if you don’t like the results, you can play it over... the game is simplistic, but it is a wonderful way to generate debate in your office...

11 comments

Online Game Recreates Environmentalist's Sliming of British Official

March 13, 2009 -

by Dennis McCauley

Editor

Last week, an environmentalist protesting the expansion of Heathrow Airport threw a cup of green custard at British Business Secretary Lord Mandelson outside the Royal Society in London.

The protester, Leila Dean, 29, has been arrested by Scotland Yard over the incident.

T-Enterprise has now posted an online game lampooning the Mandelson sliming. Players toss custard at Lord Mandelson to score points. Hitting former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, however, may earn the player a punch in the nose. Prescott once slugged a protester who threw an egg at him.

10 comments

Cast Your (Very Limited) Vote For Best Political Game of 2008

March 13, 2009 -

At Water Cooler Games, Prof. Ian Bogost writes that the Politics Online Conference is accepting votes for 2008's best online political game.

Unfortunately, only two choices are offered: Bush Move In Day and Dress Like Palin. Both were publications of the California Nurses Association.

Bogost comments:

Neither of them are games; they're both little drag and drop toys that give more detailed information about what could have been done with Palin's clothing budget, or about the residue of Bush policy after his departure from office. It's disappointing to see that this is the cream of the crop among online political games this year.

GP: It's unclear why only two games from the same non-profit are on the ballot. Perhaps organizations needed to nominate themselves but didn't get the word. GamePolitics, however, reported on dozens of political games in 2008. These included commercial and amateur offerings distributed both online as well as on DVD.


One We Missed: Steal This Election Game

November 14, 2008 -

Although GamePolitics tracked numerous election-themed games during the presidential campaign, we just stumbled across one of more unique and interesting ones.

Steal This Election is slick look at how to use dirty tricks to win the White House. The game has more attitude and atmosphere than most of the other offerings we've seen, which are generally variations on martial arts, FPS or whack-a-mole.

Our only gripe is that the online game is broken. GP's candidate (a Sarah Palin knockoff) won with 182% of the vote. Also, there doesn't seem to be much replayability. No matter which candidate you choose, the dirty tricks are the same. It made sense in the game for my Palinesque character to paint Obama as a terrorist, since that was, unfortunately, an actual theme in the election. It made less sense to have the same tactic available for the Obama-like character to use against the game's faux McCain.

Despite these rather significant flaws, Steal This Election is worth a look if political games float your boat. Let's hope that they fix the game mechanics by the time November, 2012 rolls around.

GP: Okay, that's it. No more election games. Probably...

8 comments

Ian Bogost Talks Games and Politics at Harvard

November 14, 2008 -

Gene Koo of Valuable Games live-blogs an appearance by serious games guru Ian Bogost (left) at a Harvard study group led by Nicco Mele:

Video games [serve] as a centrifying values issue, making it very cheap [for politicians] to decry video games. Ian mentions the ECA (Entertainment Consumers Association), and the idea of a union of video game players, or a common identity among gamers, “weirds” him out.

Gamer demographics — if there are political games, whom will they reach?: There’s a lot of bad data, but… see the Entertainment Software Association. The better question is to break them down by style/type. Ian’s own games — TSA game since 2006 has approached 50M plays. (< $10K to build).

An Obama game could really sell. Who wouldn’t buy an Obama game? Well...

So what about an abortion game that attempts to help each side understand the perspective of the other side of the debate? ...

Nicco mentions that the [Howard] Dean [2004] campaign’s game did inspire people to donate, get involved. Ian wonders if this idea will “peak” (novelty factor).

The problem is that the vast majority of these [political] games are meaningless tripe. See Ian’s discussion of Pork Invaders, in the Gamasutra article, and also the contrast with Tax Invaders as a rhetorical device.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

Last Call for Election 2008 Flash Games includes Joe the Plumber: Layin' Pipe

November 8, 2008 -

GamePolitics covered so many election-themed Flash games during the run-up to November 4th that we actually lost count.

Surprisingly, however, a roundup on Amazon.com's Game Room Blog turns up a few that we missed. For the sake of completeness, here they are, along with Amazon's description:

  • Joe The Plumber: Layin' Pipe  ...use your brainteasing abilities to beat the flush in this escalating series of puzzles that are reminiscent of the hacking mini-games of BioShock.
  • Below The Beltway  ...this boxing game [featuring the red and blue tickets]... pulls no punches.
  • Campaign: General Election Edition ...A turn-based strategy game where players choose their candidate and support staff members--each with different strengths, weaknesses and special moves... Singleplayer and multiplayer...
  • AirMILF ...Thanks for the memories Governor [Palin]
     
5 comments

Super Obama World: Play the Game, Buy the Shirt

November 6, 2008 -

If the Obama honeymoon isn't over for you yet, check out Super Obama World.

For now you can play an Alaska level or head to the Republican National Convention. But more levels are promised, including Illinois, Arizona and Washington, D.C.

If you like the very 8-bit looking online platformer, they've got merch you can buy as well.

Via: Kotaku

16 comments

Bogost: Campaign-sponsored Games are Down from 2004 Election

October 30, 2008 -

In his Gamasutra column, Georgia Tech prof Ian Bogost writes of the decline of the officially-sponsored campaign video game:

The 2004 election cycle saw the birth and quick rise of the official political video game... It was easy to get public attention around such work, and indeed one of the benefits of campaign games revolved around their press-worthiness. By the final weeks of the last election cycle, all signals suggested that campaign games were here to stay.

But, as Bogost notes, only the McCain campaign's dreary Pork Invaders emerged in the 2008 presidential election season. There were, however, a plethora of unofficial games, as tracked by GamePolitics. Bogost, who has designed political games himself, does not regard them highly:

Unofficial political games also made few innovations this year. The largest crop of them are game-like gags about Sarah Palin, from the almost-topical Polar Palin to the toy-like Palin as President to the wildlife sendup Hunting with Palin to a series of Palin chatterbots to the inevitable whack-a-mole clone Puck Palin.

We'll have to take issue with Bogost's head count of commercial games with political themes. While he does mention The Political Machine 2008 and the very forgettable Hail to the Chimp, he seems to miss Democracy and President Forever.

If politically themed games are indeed dwindling, why is that happening? Bogost suggests that campaigns are turning to other online resources:

There are reasons games have grown slowly compared to other technologies for political outreach. The most important one is also the most obvious: since 2004, online video and social networks have become the big thing, as blogs were four years ago...

 

Online video became the political totem of 2008, from James Kotecki's dorm room interviews to CNN's YouTube debates. At the same time, the massive growth in social network subscriptions made social connectivity a secondary focus for campaign innovation, especially since Facebook opened its pages beyond the campus in 2006.

1 comment

Online Game Inspired by Immigrant's Death in Federal Custody

October 6, 2008 -

GamePolitics readers may recall ICED!, an immigration-themed game released earlier this year by human rights organization Breakthrough. ICED! generated a good bit of controversy, including attacks by the Minutemen anti-immigration group.

While the goal of ICED! was to avoid being picked up by the authorities, Breakthrough has launched a new game which explores issues surrounding federal detention of suspected illegal immigrants.

Homeland Guantanamos is an interactive, online adventure which casts the player in the role of an investigative reporter looking into conditions inside federal immigrant detention facilities. As the game begins, players are assigned to follow up on the death of Guinean tailor Boubacar Bah, a real person who died under mysterious circumstances while being held at a facility in New Jersey. 86 other suspected illegal immigrants have also died in U.S. custody since 2003.

The New York Times, which originally broke the story of Bah's death, looks at the Homeland Guantanamos:

The fictional framework plays fast and loose with traditional rules of journalism — the reporter takes an undercover job as a detention guard and writes a first-person appeal for change rather than an article — but the content encountered along the way is backed by links to real newspaper articles, court documents and other factual material...

 

Mixing fact and fantasy is familiar territory for Breakthrough, which seeks to galvanize young people by using the new tools of popular culture to put them in the shoes of legal and illegal immigrants.

Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security offered harsh criticism of the game:

[It is] a work of fiction that dehumanizes the individuals depicted and grossly distorts conditions in detention facilities. I believe that most informed people know that they leave reality at the door when they enter the world of video games.

Breakthrough executive director Mallika Dutt, who hopes the game will help generate support for legislation aimed at bringing additional due process to immigration proceedings, told the NYT:

The Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement measures have become increasingly draconian and are leading to severe consequences, including death, for many.

16 comments

Game Lampoons UK Prime Minister Over His Food Wasting Concerns

July 20, 2008 -

Earlier this month British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spotlighted the topic of food waste in the U.K., which he said costs the average household about £8 ($16). Brown's comments, which included criticisms of "buy one, get one free" promotions run by supermarkets, sparked some derision in the UK.

Via the Wasted Food blog, we've learned of an online parody game, Gordon Brown and the Kingdom of the Wasters:

You get to control the British Prime Minister as he tries to recover good food like bananas and cupcakes while avoiding rotten items like fish bones.

 

Apparently, dastardly opposition leader David Cameron is the one throwing away the good food. The goal is to catch Cameron and stop him from giving another press conference. Zelda, it’s not.

 

8 comments

McCain Campaign Launches Facebook Game

June 20, 2008 -

CNN's Political Ticker is reporting that the McCain campaign has launched a new game app on Facebook.

The game is called Pork Invaders. In order to succeed, players must avoid being hit by projectiles (pork-jectiles?) launched by flying pigs. From the CNN piece:

How do you kill the flying pigs? By shooting off vetoes. With each pig killed by a veto, users rack up millions of tax dollars as their score, and progress to the next level — but only after the game lays out campaign talking points like comparing the respective records of Sen. McCain and his rival, Sen. Barack Obama, on earmarks...

  

McCain currently has approximately 150,000 supporters on Facebook while Obama now has roughly 1,020,000 supporters on the site.

 

49 comments

Players Experience Palestinian Conflict Through New Game

October 31, 2006 -

Students in Denmark will soon have an opportunity to explore the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict thanks to a new PC game.

Reuters reports that Global Conflicts: Palestine puts players into the role of a journalist on assignment in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In order to gather their story, players can interview civilians, soldiers and militants. When they've finished collecting information, players write an article on the conflict and receive a grade, determined by the game

Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, one of the game's designers, spoke to Reuters about the project:
 

The goal for them is to recognize there are different perspectives, that the story can be also be told in different perspectives...
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Wonderkarpand other media I suppose11/24/2014 - 8:39pm
WonderkarpI repeat, Its concidered a victory because, if its true, then it shows they are causing change in (Changes) Journalistic Practices in Games Media.11/24/2014 - 8:38pm
Wonderkarpits not the easiest "Ethical Issue" to discuss. Its more trivial. I'm playing devils advocate on this one.11/24/2014 - 8:36pm
black mantaEthics in what? Advertising? All you're doing is needlessly complicating things. There's no "victory" in that.11/24/2014 - 8:35pm
WonderkarpIts just a article's title. Its concidered a victory because, if its true, then it shows they are causing change in ethics. We were discussing those ethics11/24/2014 - 8:33pm
Andrew EisenNot knowing what cards a retailer accepts beforehand can be a headache. Not knowing the site you came from to purchase a good gets a small percentage of the sale? I'm not seeing it.11/24/2014 - 8:32pm
black mantaFurther evidence that shows just how horribly misguided this movement is.11/24/2014 - 8:30pm
black mantaSorry, no. A little blurb stating the obvious is hardly a major "victory."11/24/2014 - 8:29pm
WonderkarpI went to Costco on saturday, new costco, to sign up. and at the very end right before the membership, right as I'm swipping the card, they tol dme they only accept Amex...A little Disclosure helps11/24/2014 - 8:24pm
Wonderkarpand it just feels like having that disclosure somewhere will avoid headaches.11/24/2014 - 8:23pm
Wonderkarpyep. alot of people are very ignorant and look at life as black and white and are naive.11/24/2014 - 8:22pm
Andrew EisenThat's what I'm asking though. Are there a significant number of people that don't realize that's what happens when you buy the product through that link?11/24/2014 - 8:20pm
Wonderkarpits just a disclosure. if there is a tiny paragraph in the legal mumbo jumbo at the bottom of the page, its perfectly ok.11/24/2014 - 8:18pm
Wonderkarplink to buy that game and give you money without knowing it"11/24/2014 - 8:17pm
Wonderkarpyeah but thats just advertisements. those are out there. you know what adverts do. but, say you write a review for super mario, and you link to amazon on that review, anybody can say "Wait, you are giving this game a good review so people will click that11/24/2014 - 8:17pm
Andrew EisenDo you think it's not apparent to most people that that's how ads and "Buy Here!" links work? Are disclosures stating "we get money when you click here" really necessary?11/24/2014 - 8:16pm
Wonderkarplike, I listen to podcasts, and they say "Here's my sponser Amazon, click on the link and do your shopping and we can keep this podcast going"11/24/2014 - 8:15pm
Andrew EisenWhat about ads? Is it unethical to run an ad for a game your site has or will review?11/24/2014 - 8:14pm
Wonderkarpwhile not disclosing it11/24/2014 - 8:14pm
WonderkarpIf they Are making money off of it, yeah. Its like owning stock in a company, and going out and reviewing a product for that company on a major platform and then saying "Here go buy". I mean, if they were just providing a link, sure.11/24/2014 - 8:10pm
 

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