Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Political gaming?

Turns out that a possible presidential candidate made an appearance in an online multi-player game. New World Notes (linky) reports that former Governor of Virginia Mark Warner in held a conference in the popular open-source online game Second Life. And while he hasn't announced any plans to run, the gossip is that he's been sending out feelers along those lines.

So what does it mean when a political candidate shows up in an MMO game? Is it just a gimmick, or is it for real? And what are the implications if it is for real?

For one, it means that at least one person on Capitol Hill has come around to the idea of a new form of media, and is reaching out to a demographic that is largely ignored in the political arena. Most often, the only politics these folks get involved in have to do with DRM fights against large corporations. Now, we have what appears to be a good-faith effort on behalf of the politicos to bring them into the fold. But will it be enough to turn these folks to change parties, or even to become merely interested in the process? Or will gamers view it with the cynicism they seem to be born with?

Beyond that, what does this say about a candidate who would use it? Is he outside the 'clique' of politicians? Too modern and new-fangled? Will he be able to maintain the support and respect of the veterans of his field, or will they view it as a simple gimmick as well? Will he be taken seriously by his peers?

One thing I feel is that it is a long-overdue shift. Perhaps the first step will be stumbling, but as a younger generation moves into office, their hobbies and interests will necessarily be reflected in the way they do business. If nothing else, this is a sign that a changing of the guard is in progress, even if it is a slow, step-by-baby-step process. And perhaps, if I put my own cynicism aside for a minute, it can be an effective way to get in touch with a whole demographic that has been raised on-line. Rather than watching TV or listening to the radio for our information, we now get a large percentage from the internet. And if a politician can take advantage of that, he will be well positioned to move forward with the growing young-adult population.

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