Thursday, November 1, 2007

Grassroots gaming: College kids playing Halo ’12/7’ for Ron Paul

Gamers say Paul seems like the only candidate who has 'read the Constitution'
It may not end up matching the haul of a thousand-dollar-a-plate dinner, but a new fundraising event on behalf of GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) is a lot easier to dress for: it's three college kids playing a video game.

In one of this campaign season's more creative grassroots efforts, students from an undisclosed southeastern university have committed to playing the massively popular Halo 3 video game for 12 hours a day, seven days a week -- "12/7" they brag -- and are broadcasting their marathon sessions live on the internet. Visitors tuning in to watch the multiplayer carnage, a number now surpassing 35,000 people according to a counter on the players' website, are encouraged to make a donation to Ron Paul's campaign.

One of the Halo-playing crew, a gamer calling himself "J" who insists on anonymity for he and his cohorts, told RAW STORY that Paul was the only presidential contender in the bunch worth backing.

"He just seems like the only candidate who supports the Constitution -- like the only one who has actually read the Constitution," said J, who is balancing his long hours of Halo with a part-time job.

Also sharing the workload during the long, noon-to-midnight span are fellow students Danielle, who also holds down a job as a health technician, and Mike, who "doesn't work," says an envious J. Battling away on a wide-screen TV in an off-campus apartment, the group has attracted a core group of watchers online who critique their play in an accompanying chat room and frequently become challengers themselves.

The game, the third installment of the Halo series, allows a combination of multiple players to link up via an internet connection to fight in a vast, futuristic world of fantastic weaponry and fierce alien invaders.

"It is kind of crazy, three people dedicating 12 hours a day to Halo," J acknowledged. "We try to entertain ourselves with alcohol."

Although his candidacy isn't notching big-time numbers in national polls, the libertarian-leaning Paul has managed to parlay near-fanatical internet support for his campaign into some legitimate fundraising muscle -- $5 million in the third quarter of 2007 alone. That figure puts him just behind Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and ahead of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee in total money raised for the same time period.

"It seems like people voting for the first or second time in their lives are just excited about him," J said, adding that he thought the natural audience for watching a Halo webcast would be full of potential Paul supporters. "We figured teenagers, you know, 20 somethings would be interested."

It's too early to tell if the video game fundraiser will translate into significant real-world dollars for the Paul campaign, but the plan is creating a buzz among fans of a game that boasts 1.2 million players online.

'The negative people have been mainly Hillary supporters'
J says response from visitors to the site, the majority of whom seem to be lured in for pure gaming reasons rather than any real political interest in Paul, has been largely positive.

"Some people have been like, 'what's a Ron Paul?'" he reports. "The negative people have been mainly Hillary supporters."

Although it's clear the students have some other interests at heart in their endeavor beyond supporting a political candidate -- they're also soliciting donations for a high definition TV tuner so viewers can watch a "perfect stream of game play" -- the gang plans to keep making good on its "twelve hour promise" to Paul for at least a few more weeks.

And the current fundraising plan could just be the beginning, according to J, who envisions a day when Congressman Paul himself could fire up an Xbox console and tear around in Halo's sprawling digital universe.

"We could set it up like a charity event: us vs. Ron Paul," he said, adding that possibility had been kicking around in the site's chat room. "People could pledge $10 for every kill Ron Paul makes."

But Paul communications director Jesse Benton politely side-stepped the invitation Tuesday, telling RAW STORY that the candidate would need far too much practice time.

"I'd be surprised if Ron has ever picked up a joystick," Benton said. "So I'm not sure there would really be any kind of match there. And it sounds like these guys are really good."

Correction: The first edition of this article incorrectly stated Ron Paul's party. He is a Republican.



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