December 23, 2003

Dean Gaming

by Andrew Stern · , 3:03 pm

This just in — Ian Bogost and Gonzalo Frasca have just released a new political game commissioned by the Howard Dean for America presidential campaign!

In “The Howard Dean for Iowa Game“, you try your best to help Dean win the Iowa Caucus. You run around trying to get as many people as possible to notice your “Howard Dean” sign, and to knock as many doors as you can. I especially enjoyed trying to hand out as many leaflets as I could to harried passers-by. Made me feel for the people who try to do this out in the cold in real life.

Political videogaming has now reached official status. This is an important moment in the world of political games and game rhetoric, since never before has a candidate, let alone a US Presidential candidate, embraced games as a viable communication medium.

It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction this generates among Dean supporters, and in the media…

Great job Ian, Gonzalo and the Persuasive Games team for pulling this feat off in a very short amount of time!

Also be sure to check out Gonzalo’s’s first political game, “Sept 12“, and some of the discussion it generated. And, on a very related note, in case you missed it, check out my recent post about “AI Bush”, which from what I can tell was not commissioned by the Bush for President campaign. :-)

8 Responses to “Dean Gaming”

  1. andrew Says:

    A few paragraphs about the Dean game appear in today’s NYTimes as part of a longer article about Dean.

  2. nick Says:

    For those who, like me, surf with cookies off and don’t read news from sites requiring registration, an interesting sentence from the article is:

    So far, the online reviews of the game have ranged from “awesome” and “addicting” to “good for about 10 minutes” and “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.”

    I actually played through from start to finish. Although it’s well-done and may be an important first, I wouldn’t call THDFIG either “awesome” or “addicting.” I hate to say it, but, again, this one doesn’t seem like rehersal for the revolution. In-game, I might just as easily be telling people about McDonalds as about Dean. Of course, I haven’t been developing any kinds of games recently – games to think with or otherwise – so I suppose I don’t have any grounds to complain.

    It is getting people to think about the role of video games differently, at least.

  3. Gonzalo Frasca Says:

    I usually try not to post about games that I have recently developed, but here I am :) The game was not targetted to everybody, but rather to Dean supporters who may be considering to go to Iowa. The goal of the game was not to convey why people should vote for Dean. Nevertheless, the game itself may metacommunicate that Dean is cool because he uses games as political tools, but that was not the main message.

    As a side note, I am not sure that games should be the preferred medium for carrying a long list of ideas such as the ones that would make somebody vote for this candidate and not for another. The game mechanics would certainly work for McDonalds or any other candidate but in the real world it wouldn’t: only Dean has a hightech propaganda strategy that could afford making a political videogame.

    I guess Nick is concerned because this game, as well as my previous efforts, are not Boalian at least in the sense that I described them on my “Videogames of the Oppressed”. That is totally right. These ain’t Boalian games. We don’t even have Aristotelian political games yet, so I guess we need to start from that and then tear them apart.

    But, of course and as usual, Nick’s comment makes a lot of sense and is certainly one of the main questions that we should be making ourselves when dealing with this new genre of political videogaming.

  4. nick Says:

    All right, I think I was being unfair in the tone of my post. Gonzalo, you did propose this great idea of Boalian games, and so I always want to encourage you to try for the holy grail (or revolutionary equivalent) and develop such games. I particularly hope for this at a time when many people, inside and outside the U.S., are oppressed by the U.S. government.

    But really, you’re certainly allowed to make games that aren’t Boalian along the way. The Dean game is an important contribution, it just isn’t what I had hoped you would come out with next.

    Part of the reason I am so quick to criticize you about not implementing your great ideas is that I’m bitter that I haven’t implemented any IF based on my ideas related to the literary riddle. So I should take the log out of my own eye first, as our president says.

  5. Michael Says:

    Nick, isn’t Winchester’s Nightmare a literary riddle, in that the player experiences a new understanding of events in Winchester’s life through the resolution of confusing or vexing situations? In fact, I thought your riddle formulation was a way to reclaim the puzzle as a literary trope rather than a game trope; thus, IF with any puzzles is an example. So what would it mean to make an IF based explicitly on your literary riddle ideas?

  6. nick Says:

    Michael, I think Winchester’s Nightmare would have been more successful if I had had the idea of the literary riddle in mind back then. In fact, it was a not-very-puzzleful work that was still based around a handful of puzzles, after the introductory sequence was done. A Mind Forever Voyaging was something of an inspiration there, but I don’t think WN worked as well. It certainly wasn’t as widely hailed.

    I don’t particularly want to say that IF isn’t a game or that puzzles aren’t part of games, just that there is a framework (the riddle) for joining puzzles with literary aspects. I beleive the riddle can also inform an understanding of puzzleless IF, however.

    Were I to create an interactive fiction with the idea of the riddle to guide me, I would have the process of solution and resolution as my central concern, and the world would exist to express this. In Winchester’s Nightmare, I had other ideas for what the world might do, based on Mindwheel and, again, on AMFV. Some were nice ideas, but the figure of the riddle draws things together more effectively, I think – or it would, if I’d write some IF.

  7. jill/txt Says:
    game rhetorics
    Last week Steven Johnson wondered why there are no videogames that simulate the 2004 US presidential campaigns. The idea must have been floating around the zeitgeist, because Howard Dean’s campaign has actually commissioned a game, just released today …

  8. game girl advance Says:
    Clicking for Dean
    I clicked and clicked, handing out pamphlets, canvassing door to door, and holding up a Howard Dean sign in public….

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