Personally, I’m struggling to find relevancy for any of this right now. But I’m still doing it.
Each time a traumatic news event happens, I have to remind myself of why I write about video games. They feel…not that important in the grand scheme of things.
On November 8th the United States of America elected Donald Trump to be its next president. As of the writing of this piece, nearly 60 million people voted for Trump to take office (59,937,338), dominantly spread around the middle of the country. Clinton took a bit over 60 million votes (60,274,970), but lacked enough electoral college votes to secure the job. My political leanings are no secret, and neither is my experience in America as a black man. From both of those perspectives, November 8th’s decision was a disappointment.
Regardless of which candidate made it into office, the results of the election would have disappointed 60+ million people; not just the people who voted for the other party, but third-party and write-in voters as well. And 90+ million eligible voters didn’t vote for any number of reasons: disinterest, disillusionment, lack of access, voter suppression, the list goes on. It’s hard for me to look at an outcome like this and not see something as inherently broken regardless of who gets elected.
That isn’t to say that I feel these particular results are the same as any other possible election result. Given, there would still be the potential for violence: let’s not forget that we had Congressmen saying they would “grab their muskets” and militias preparing for action if their candidate lost… but I don’t know how many post-election days have looked like this.
Many people in my communities are reeling from the potential impact of losing insurance, healthcare coverage, or even recognition of their relationships or selves. This isn’t about a collapse of “safe spaces” or a lack of “trigger warnings;” it’s feeling unsafe in public spaces, fearing direct antagonism or physical violence. After my own incident on public transportation recently, I find myself opting out of public transportation far more frequently when possible.
With actors in the immediate world becoming more and more violent, with angry protests in cities across the nation (with ones in Portland, OR declared riots), and with social media becoming a circling pool of intolerance on both sides, it’s hard to write about games right now. It’s hard to feel that games are important right now.
I spend a lot of time trying to convince others that games are important. I try to write about games that challenge people’s notions of what the medium is capable of. I streamed for 25 hours this past weekend, trying to showcase people and games that highlight the kinds of feelings, strategies, and stories games are capable of. Hell, I hosted a panel at a game festival in St. Louis titled “Games: What’s the Point?” And even after hearing people about how games and their communities opened them up to a world of new experiences, I just feel…well, I don’t know. Like I still don’t know the point of much of any of it.
Being a game critic is neither lucrative nor prestigious. It’s not altruistic; I’m not protecting lives or upholding civil rights with my essays. In the grand scheme of things, most people don’t even know the subjects I’m talking about…I’ve watched many a friend’s eyes glaze over as I start in on rants about the latest game and its lackluster plot. I stumble at running this site frequently, and the anxiety I feel from missing deadlines or follow-ups bleeds into my social life, affects my sleep. I always feel like I could be working on another article.
I think about giving up a lot. A whole lot. Probably more than I should. And with each new antagonistic event, the appeal gets a little stronger.
All this is to say it’s hard to write about games right now. But something being hard isn’t a good excuse for not doing anything.
To pretend that life in America isn’t fundamentally different on November 9th, 2016 and forward is to ignore reality. And that fundamental difference makes it really hard to write about games right now. This is precisely why I’m going to write about games even more now.
On November 9th, the first message I awoke to on my phone was from my sister to my family’s group chat: “I love you guys more than anything and I hope you all have a good day.” My father’s response: “You too, Honey. Be safe.”
This fear is in my family, in many minority communities across the board: black, immigrant, LGBT+, Muslim, and more… it’s not just a fear of policy, of what will happen on Capitol Hill, but a fear of what will happen right in our own towns and cities, on our buses, in our streets, at our homes. This fear is founded, and far too many of us already know someone who’s been harassed or attacked personally if we haven’t ourselves.
But games raised $2,350 for a children’s hospital here in Portland. Games created conversations where strangers talked to each other about dealing with relatives with Alzheimer’s. Games opened spaces for people to discuss race, sexuality, religion, and share those experiences with the world. Games gave us communities to stand in, jokes to share. Games gave us an excuse to walk in the world around us and meet new friends while catching digital monsters.
Talking about games is hard right now. Still, regardless of what’s going on around them, games are important. They’re important because of the lives they affect, and that won’t change regardless of what happens in politics. Talking games alone isn’t enough…I want to do more outreach to help the creative community grow in underserved areas, and I want to focus more on connecting with friends and family. I want to create light for people to look to. My hope is that if we all focus more on creating light, regardless of where we sit on the political spectrum, the world will look like a brighter place for everyone.