Sometimes we all need an escape. For most of us, that means grabbing a Klean Kanteen, packing some trail mix and getting lost for awhile on some local—or not so local—trail. But for a growing number of younger men—specifically that power demographic of 18-34 year olds—escape comes in the form of a video game console and startlingly realistic computer graphics.

But escapism just got a little harder for some Montanans. Earlier this month, video gamers in 10 key battleground states, including Big Sky Country, were subjected to the first-ever political campaign advertisements embedded in a game. Users logging onto Xbox Live—that’s the online component of a gaming console, grandpa—and playing popular titles like “Guitar Hero” or “Madden 09” will see in-game billboards and signage pimping Democratic candidate Barack Obama’s “Vote for Change” website. Specifically, the virtual ads, which continue through Nov. 3, remind players to register to vote and to vote early.

According to the Associated Press, there’s no word on how much the ad blitz costs, but who can really put a price on such a creative/appalling way to reach apathetic voters?

Maybe we should calculate the cost of the ad blitz in Linden. You know Linden, right? That’s the currency used in Second Life, the comprehensive virtual world that exists online (check out secondlife.com). It’s a place where anyone with an Internet connection can create a customizable 3-D identity, travel through a booming virtual environment that’s more than 65,000 virtual acres large, interact with millions of other Second Life users and take part in a thriving economy that trades Linden, the “inworld” currency that can be exchanged for real U.S. dollars. Second Life includes “colonies” of Montanans and, of course, unofficial John McCain and Obama campaign headquarters. That’s where Second Lifers can learn how to register to vote, read about positions on key issues and are asked to make donations to help in the creation of the candidates’ own slice of virtual reality. Or something like that.

We knew this was supposed to be an election about change, but we had no idea that included having to filter election information in two parallel universes. And, while we’re at it, we get that “Guitar Hero” and Second Life may be totally wicked awesome, but we’re not quite sure why anyone residing in a town consistently voted among the best places in the world would spend considerable time goofing around in a world of pretend. Bozeman residents, sure. But Missoulians?

Ugh. It makes us want to take a walk.
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