The 2004 election cycle saw the birth and quick rise of the official political video game. While election strategy game have been around since 1981’s President Elect, that title and its followers were games about the political process, not games used as a part of that process.
2004 marked a turning point. It was the year candidates and campaign organizations got into games, using the medium for publicity, fundraising, platform communication, and more.
That year, I worked on games commissioned by candidates for president, for state legislature, by a political party, and for a Hill committee. And that was just me — other endorsed political games abounded, from the Republican Party to the campaign for President of Uruguay.
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.
Drunk on such video game election elation, I remember making a prediction in a press interview that year: in 2008, I foolishly divined, every major candidate would have their own PlayStation 3 game.
MSNBC writer Tom Loftus made a similar, albeit wisely milder prediction in late October 2004: “Already tired of hearing politicians say ‘visit my Web site’ every five minutes? Wait until 2008, when that stump speech staple may be replaced with a new candidates’ call: ‘Play my game.'”
We couldn’t have been more wrong.