During the last three presidential election seasons, Comedy Central brought viewers its "Indecision" special programming. In 1992, Comedy Central entered the political ring as Al Franken presented humourous live coverage of the first Bush's State of the Union Address. But it was The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that launched the 2000 Bush-Gore election's coverage known as "Indecision 2000." Their spoof coverage even earned them a Peabody Award.
Considerable discussion has been had around how seriously the Daily Show takes its politics, Comedy Central's attitude toward the increasing role of The Daily Show and now The Colbert Report as news sources, and what effect these shows actually have on the election. If we, for the sake of argument, accept that the Indecision brand and the channel's nightly news shows have even a modicum of effect, then we can recognize that Comedy Central is in a unique position when it comes to producing material around the election. This is true of the political games Comedy Central produced for Indecision 2008. Ranging from satirical to sardonic, clever to mundane, and good to just plain bad, the Indecision 2008 games are in a special position of political commentary.
Because the "news games" produced by Comedy Central are made under the Indecision banner, we are able to read them similarly to the The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and other Comedy Central political material. They can be judged with differently than serious news games because they don't need to meet serious journalistic standards. But yet they still should be held to certain "Indecision" standards--both of quality of game and political commentary. I will be examining the individual Indecision games in an upcoming post, but looking at them as a group is a bit disappointing. There are some real gems like "Money: The Name of the Game" and "Don't Get Hurt," whose play are tied to satirical rhetorical strategies. There are some like "AirMILF" who play well and whose sense of humor are the kind of over-the-top editorial often highlighted on The Daily Show or Colbert Report. But there are also some bad games which, in addition to being frustrating or even unplayable, seem like half-hearted attempts at relevant humor.
As far as percentages of meriting games are concerned, three out of ten quality games is fairly high. But what exactly are the standards that I'm judging these games by? I still believe that first and foremost a game has to be playable and at least moderately engaging. If it fails at this, the chances that it will get across its point are relatively low. But even a competent game can be misguided. Like many of the games we have looked at in the News Games project, most of the Indecision games are editorial. But a game like "Joe the Plumber: Layin' Pipe" game is just a Pipe Dream clone and has no editorial commentary on Joe the Plumber and what it means for the election.
Even though it's not a particularly clever piece of commentary, at least "AirMILF" (the game where you, as Sarah Pailn shoot wolves from a helicopter) seeks to highlight and exaggerate news that came out of the election. I must admit that my position toward "AirMILF" is actually a bit hypocritical. If the game had not been tied to the Indecision 2008 name, I would have called it vapid and thoughtless. But yet once it is set in the right context, the game takes on a different meaning--it suddenly is okay for it to be a surface glance at Sarah Palin. Of course, that is just my personal take on it, but it illuminates the unique position the Indecision 2008 games were in. Look forward to further discussion of the individual games coming soon!