The other day, screenwriter and video game enthusiast Larry Madill was sifting through the NeoGAF forums. He was reading a discussion thread, itself in response to Denis Dyack’s recent comments about NeoGAF—yes, game industry news is an ouroboros—when Madill spied a peculiar banner ad just beneath the thread’s subject line.
Now, when I visit NeoGAF, all I can see is a Toyota advertisement powered by Doubleclick. But the proof is in the pudding, I suppose, and Mr. Madill captured a screenshot of said pudding:
The banner ad depicts presidential candidate Barack Obama alongside Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. Perhaps the ad contains notes of racial and cultural scaremongering; Madill, an Obama supporter, found it offensive. The ad’s text reads, “Is it OK to unconditionally meet with anti-American foreign leaders?” The text is supplemented by two ‘buttons’, Yes and No, although the banner itself is obviously a flat click-through image.
This detail actually made me giggle. The question of when and how to negotiate is obviously a polarizing one. This is a very serious, somber campaign advertisement, but it posits its little quiz question in true Myspace Banner Ad form (“Who is this party girl? A. Lindsay B. Britney C. Tara”). And if you’re wondering, John McCain’s campaign takes the credit for the ad in its bottom right corner.
Not that any of this really matters. Whether or not the ad itself is tasteless, one fact remains: Larry Madill spotted it on NeoGAF, a game industry discussion forum.
Either the management of NeoGAF is grossly incompetent and doesn’t know whose ads they are running, or [they] have a blatant political point of view that they are content on advocating through advertising. [...]
But exposing simple incompetence isn’t enough for me. For a site that counts members from major game developers and console makers to video game journalists and the average gamer, NeoGAF needs to be held accountable for playing politics instead [of] playing games.
Is this a reasonable assessment? Certainly politics do play a part in many videogame discussions—not that this little banner ad is the same thing, even by a long shot, since I doubt NeoGAF is aware that the site is running the ad at all. Should websites and other media be held accountable for the advertisements they run? And even if this really were deliberate on the part of NeoGAF, are publishers and editors obligated to pretend they are unbiased when discussion turns to something other than games? When a game critic blogs about politics rather than games, for instance, oh, how the complaints pour in.
In his blog post, Madill also wonders what nefarious shadow entities stake a claim in NeoGAF’s ownership. I wondered, too. A little research reveals that the owner is none other than some dude in his mid-twenties.