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When Politics, Technology, and Virtual Worlds collide

2 September 2008

It's hard to imagine life without high speed Internet, text messaging, or gaming consoles — technology is everywhere. Except a few places. Take politics, for example.

Most of us think of politicians as old, gray-haired men in dark suits — the last people you'd expect to see embracing technology, and it's true for the most part. But remember the John Edwards billboard in Second Life? That was an exception. He spent big bucks to advertise to our generation. And it was probably one of his interns' ideas. Whether they knew it or not, this changed politics. A new standard was being set for political campaigns. But it wasn't enough to get most politicians on board... yet. That's about to change.

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Picture ads in Grand Theft Auto informing you about a political candidate. Imagine driving a special edition car decked out with Barack Obama decals while speeding past billboards promoting John McCain. Visualize politicians holding political rallies on the PlayStation Network where you can offer real-time feedback. This push would involve and educate our generation of voters.

Envision traveling the virtual worlds of Second Life or PlayStation Home, and stumbling across candidates like Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John McCain, and Sarah Palin –- with avatars fully pimped out in campaign memorabilia –- hosting virtual debates and rallies. Who knows, maybe they’ll even make an appearance on World of Warcraft’s Fields of Honor, engaging in gladiatorial battles for glory, prestige, and power. Okay, that last one isn't too likely, but it would be pretty awesome to watch.

Rick Perry, current Texas governor, encourages gaming companies to make the Lone Star state their home. He’s calling gaming "a medium ready to be tapped." He even backed it up during his recent keynote address at the E3 2008 conference. Perry announced that he’s trying to pass incentive packages to lure companies to the state. But technology entrepreneurship is already alive and well in Texas.

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Michael Williams, Texas Railroad Commissioner, knows the potential of video games, thus he formed the summer camp Be the Game. The summer clinic teaches kids about math and science through playing and programming video games — and they love it.

For Austin, TX start-up companies like Piryx, the future looks a bit like this: candidates talk to you, hear what you have to say, and implement your feedback appropriately. You have an influence. Whether it's messages on your Facebook page, or candidates running around in PlayStation Home, you'll be in the loop. Imagine if candidates used solely their Internet connections to tell you about the issues — no longer faces on the TV, but rather people you can take a stroll with through Home Square. And maybe, just maybe, you can convince them to help you rid the United States of the Chimeran scourge in Resistance 2.

Contributing writers: Eric Blattberg, Adam Hook


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