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President Obama decided to appeal to nostalgic gamers over Facebook today. A new ad published out by his office today promotes healthcare by using the classic game Oregon Trail.
In case you don't get the joke, allow me to explain. In Oregon Trail, players are 19th century settlers traveling across the United States. Along the way, players can be stricken by all sorts of maladies including measles, snake bites and dysentery. Dysentery seems to be the one remembered by most Oregon Trail players, though - perhaps because it involves poop, nature's funniest byproduct.
Regardless of whether or not you're an Obama fan, I think we can agree the image is pretty funny. It's effective in its mission, too. The image takes a subject that's really dry (healthcare) and makes it eye-catching for youngish Facebook users. They're much more likely to click on a joking reference to a video game than some earnest plea by the president.
According to the website included in the Oregon Trail picture, January 29th is National Youth Enrollment Day. I'm pretty sure they just made that up but okay.
"Nearly 1 in 5 young adults don’t have health insurance. That’s not okay with us. And we bet it’s not okay with you," says the site.
It's been interesting to watch Washington's attitude toward games shift over the years. Traditionally politicians only gave them negative attention, slamming them so they could look moral and responsible to voters. Obama telling us to "put down the controller" back in 2008 seemed almost pleasant by comparison.
However, as more and more gamers reach the voting age, politicians have realized something: "We're not going to get them to quit video games so we may as well get them on our side." Obama actually ran advertisements within video games in the weeks before the 2008 election. John McCain's campaign, meanwhile, released a video game called Pork Invader that promised he would cut spending. In that same election, Ron Paul supporters marched in World of Warcraft.
Are some of these attempts to win over gamers cheesy? Absolutely. I'll take cornball pandering over fear-mongering any day, though.
If you never played Oregon Trail or you simply want to relive those days, you can play it and over 2,000 other classic games for free online now. Alternately, you could pick up the updated version of the game on mobile devices.