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Digital Games as Persuasion Spaces for Political Marketing: Joe Biden’s Campaign in Fortnite

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Abstract:  The aim of this study is to explore how digital entertainment games are used as spaces for political persuasion in electoral campaigns, by examining Joe Biden’s use of Fortnite during the campaign for the 2020 US presidential election as a case study. To date, the study of persuasive communication related to games has been mostly focused on persuasive games. This article approaches the use of entertainment games as spaces for persuasive communication answering the research question: How is political marketing—and electoral propaganda specifically—embedded into digital entertainment games? To answer this question, we have analyzed the persuasive dimensions of the Biden–Harris campaign in Fortnite using a qualitative mixed-methods approach that combined the identification and analysis of the persuasive strategies used in the game with a textual analysis of 19 articles discussing the campaign. The results of the analysis of the Biden–Harris campaign in Fortnite show that the persuasive efforts embedded in the game mostly made use of textual persuasion and procedural persuasion, relying largely on goal rules. The results of the textual analysis of the articles show that, although there is an appreciation of how the campaign links political persuasive goals with the challenges presented to the player, the lack of understanding of the persuasive potential of the game results in a gaming experience that in some cases does not meet the expectations of Fortnite’s experienced and demanding players.

Keywords:  analytical play; Biden–Harris campaign; Fortnite; in-game persuasion; in-game propaganda; persuasive gaming; politainment; political communication; political games; political marketing

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v11i2.6476


© Jenniffer Soto de la Cruz, Teresa de la Hera, Sara Cortés Gómez, Pilar Lacasa. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.