Ian Bogost has a timely piece up on the issue of political-themed games, and their use — or lack thereof. Bogost draws a clear demarcation between politicking (which he feels most of these games do) versus politics — games have the potential to really speak towards politics, but wind up being more or less meaningless tools for politicking:
Politics, if we take the word seriously, refers to the actual executive and legislative effort that our elected officials partake in to alter and update the rules of our society. In an ideal representative democracy, the one leads to the other, but in contemporary society the two are orthogonal. Ironically, this is exactly where video games would find their most natural connection to political speech. When we make video games, we construct simulated worlds in which different rules apply. To play games involves taking on roles in those worlds, making decisions within the constraints they impose, and then forming judgments about living in them. Video games can synthesize the raw materials of civic life and help us pose the fundamental political question, What should be the rules by which we live?
It's a nice roundup of the spectrum of election- and politics-related games, and Bogost has some interesting thoughts on where the 'serious games' industry could perhaps head next. Persuasive Games: The Birth and Death of the Election Game [Gamasutra]