I’ve been professionally writing about video games for almost two years now and I’ve never felt the need to incorporate politics into my articles (I did write an editorial back in 2008 on the election, but games never came into it). Two weeks ago though, our president made some comments that really got under my skin.
For those of you who may be unaware, President Obama was giving a commencement speech at Hampton University in Virginia when he began talking about the bombardment of the masses by varying news and information reports from every technological orifice imaginable. Now, this is a valid point and I do personally believe that society does have a problem, at times, when it comes to filtering its news. But he said it in a way that, basically, throws video games under the bus for a lot of our information consumption problems.
His exact words that I am calling into question were: “With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.” Personally, as someone whose life is dedicated to the reporting of and playing of video games, I took serious offense to this statement.
Firstly, the comment makes our president look like a Luddite and that he is out of touch with the constantly evolving technology that our lifestyles now demand. Secondly, as our president has admitted on camera to his BlackBerry addiction, to bash modern technology and those of us who use it, but to also admit to relying on it like a crutch himself, makes him look like a hypocrite.
Now I’m not knocking the President just to do so, the point simply is that most of us can process information effectively in today’s society and still play games. In fact, I’m sure many of the students he was talking to were gamers (maybe even gaming during his boring speech). For many of us, it is called a hobby (and a lucky few, a job). Most of us do not confine ourselves to our mothers’ basements surrounded by empty Red Bull cans and Doritos bags (and those of us who do are usually getting paid to do so)! Many people play video games and have a full social life. I know successful, intelligent people from a female medical doctor that likes to fly with Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 2 (yes, she’s married guys) to hockey players who double as Dark Jedi Masters in their spare time in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed to army specialists who practice maneuvers with zombie hordes in Left 4 Dead 2.
Video games are simply a safe, entertaining way, to pass time by oneself or with friends. I’m sorry that we’ve moved beyond the printing press Mr. President. Maybe you should look into banning movies, reality TV, trashy romance novels, the Internet, or any other of the plethora of things that people do for entertainment. Or maybe you’re just frustrated that Midway Games, who were based out of your hometown of Chicago, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Either way, games are here to stay and are nowhere near the reason why the economy hasn’t rebounded yet, unemployment is through the roof, and Iran is getting their hands on low-grade plutonium. Maybe, Mr. President if you added President Mahmoud Ahmadinjejad (the President of Iran) to your Xbox Live friends list and played him for a few hours in NBA Live (we’ll make Bill Clinton an unlockable like in the old NBA Jam if it’ll help) he’d be more willing to listen to those sanctions you’re always going on about. Until then, choose your words more wisely because as someone who is using his gaming column to criticize your words, I feel pretty damn empowered. Game on!