Indie developer Cliff Harris, who recently released Democracy 3, wanted to advertise his new game. So he approached an agency that handles ads for a "major US games site", only to be told the ad was "inappropriate".

Writing on his studio blog, Harris says the agency replied to his request with "I'm sorry, but your ad banner is inappropriate". Follow-up questions were answered with "I apologize, but we can not promote any politics as this is a sensitive topic."

Here's the thing. The ad is not political. It's got a picture of a dude on it, the game's logo, some platform information and in the background there's a shot of the game's systems. OK, so the guy has a star on his hat, implying some sort of socialist leaning, but so have the stars of games like Company of Heroes.

Democracy 3 is a game about the simulation of a democratic government. You can't topple it and institute some kind of fascist regime. You just...make policies and appeal to voters. It's political only in the truest sense of the word, in that it is a game about politics itself, not the conflict and partisanship which this agency obviously believes it to be (without doing five seconds' research on the matter beforehand).


I've asked Harris if he can name the agency/site in question, and will update if I hear back. That said, Indie Statik noticed that the image on his site is labelled "gamespot_rect1.jpg", though of course that's far from confirmation. It's also important to note that most sites - Kotaku included - don't handle their own ads. External ad teams do that, so this wouldn't have been an editorial decision made by a site. Just a screw-up from an ad agency.

Still, as Harris points out, even if his game were more "political", would it matter? Game sites are only too happy to advertise death and destruction. Why is political discourse seen as somehow more objectionable than wholesale murder?

UPDATE - Harris has confirmed it was an agency dealing with ads for Gamespot.

The games industry has weird taboos… [Positech, via Indie Statik]