Last week we noted unconfirmed sightings of an “Obama for President” billboard in the Xbox 360 racing game Burnout Paradise. Today we’re able to report that it is, in fact, an official advertisement placed by the senator’s campaign team.
“I can confirm that the Obama campaign has paid for in-game advertising in Burnout,” Holly Rockwood, director of corporate communications at Electronic Arts, the game’s publisher, told me via email, noting that EA regularly allows ad placements in their online games. “Like most television, radio and print outlets, we accept advertising from credible political candidates,” she continued. “Like political spots on the television networks, these ads do not reflect the political policies of EA or the opinions of its development teams.”To my knowledge, this Burnout ad is far and away the most prominent use of a major online game to promote a presidential candidate’s campaign. There have been near-misses, of course: In 2006, for example, when he was seriously considering a run for the Democratic nomination, ex-Virginia Gov. Mark Warner made an avatar-based appearance at a press conference in Second Life.
Of course, detractors could accuse Sen. Obama of sending out mixed messages; earlier this year he was telling audiences that parents need to “turn off the television set, and put the video games away.” Then again, since the Burnout billboard specifically advises gamers to vote early, maybe it’s his subtle way of trying to get them off the couch.