Is there an entertainment platform that a person can go where they can escape the constant barrage of media messages in regards to the upcoming United States presidential election? Or does such a platform exist where the people don’t have to be forced to constantly think about the ongoing issues within the country? It seemed like there was a time where gaming was able to avoid this. But when Rep. Alexandria Oscario-Cortez, D-N.Y., did a gaming live stream last week to advocate citizens voting in the November 4th election, I quickly realized that we are in a time when not even video gaming is exempt from politics.
Don’t misunderstand. I am aware many games are infused with political messages, characters, and stories that are based on reality. And historically, there have been times when the content of video games was the subject of discussion in Congress. Those types of things, we can’t escape or avoid. In the United States, we as citizens are given the freedom to communicate our thoughts, ideas, and opinions in a variety of ways. This expression includes video games themselves, social media, and game streaming channels. These rights are something that I believe in as a citizen. Also, I am a firm believer that there are many issues in the country that do need to be addressed. But is forcing politics into gaming a good thing?
Like the presidential election of 2016, this current race has been divisive to many people. Unfortunately, there are people from all sides acting as if their preferred political platform has been divinely chosen. This makes them unwilling to have respectful disagreements or even consider the valid points the opposite sides are making. So it becomes about how to defeat and dominate the other side. A few days after Rep. Oscario-Cortez’s appearance on Twitch playing Among Us, a spam attack took place in the game by a President Donald Trump supporter. Should video gaming be a realm that plays host to the political battleground?
These are questions I ask because I think a variety of perspectives could be useful in this discussion. My view is that people are faced with reality 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We don’t need to be reminded of it and we certainly don’t need it further emphasized in our lives. What I appreciate about entertainment is the fact that it provides a means of being able to take a break from reality, even if only temporarily. This is part of the reason why video games, movies, television shows, concerts, festivals, and professional sports draw the audiences that they do. Entertainment allows people to have fun and create enjoyable moments in their lives without having to think about responsibilities, stress, or other things that may encompass their everyday lives. For me, gaming is one of the things I do when I want to de-stress, as well as engage in something I find fun and a way to get a good mental workout.
I am not surprised that the Academy Awards ratings suffered once the shows started becoming filled with political rhetoric that overshadowed what the night was originally intended for. The same can be said for the National Football League (NFL) when players started kneeling during the national anthem and the National Basketball Association (NBA) once the league decided to put “Black Lives Matter” on the court and also allowed the players to wear social messages on the back of their jerseys instead of their names. There is proof in that when the audience feels they are being force-fed an agenda then they will naturally resist or avoid it. I would hate the see the same thing happen in gaming and see the industry suffer as a result.
Video game companies are becoming bolder with how they want to promote products and messages within their gaming products. Electronic Arts and 2K Games both were criticized for inserting unskippable advertisements in games that customers had paid full price for. Rather than giving customers a heads up, they snuck in the ads through silent updates. The companies have every right to put these ads in the game but instead of forcing consumers to watch them, why not give them a choice or at least let them know about the ads before the game launches so that they can decide if that is something they want to deal with. The current approach makes gamers perceive developers and publishers as being deceptive. I bring this up because it seems as if our games are being intruded upon to a greater extent today to promote products and agendas no different than the way television does. Is this what we want as gamers?
I can respect Rep. Oscario-Cortez using a Twitch stream of her playing Among Us to encourage people to vote, although I believe it would have been better to leave it at that instead of adding what political party she believes we should vote for. At least what she did wasn’t invasive by directly affecting a person’s ability to play the game like the spammer’s approach. When I am gaming, I personally don’t want to see the real world infringe on my time to relax and have fun. Leave the real world to the real world and allow gamers to simply be gamers. Believe me, there is always plenty of time to deal with reality.