Every Goddamn Government Hearing Reminds Me Why We All Just Play Video Games

We're all just angry, and we all feel, somehow, video games are supposed to make that better...?

Here in the good ol’ United States of America, impeachment is on the table. For real this time. Again.

I could talk about the situation — it’s all accusations of foreign interference and collusion… honestly, I dunno how much you pay attention to this. The details aren’t important.

Except I already know a lot of people don’t want to directly engage with this. And so they’ll instead either talk about or, preferably, go on to play video games instead — the ultimate twenty-first century coping mechanism.

As I write this, once again, we have a board of witnesses trying to either deadpan accusations of “them too” or “this is all conspiracy, them too,” or a bunch of tired old guys trying to spell out actual answers to other old guys’ questions that weren’t actually posed. Because as I’ve learned at family gatherings, that’s what old guys do when they’re trying to one-up each other.

But then there’s the rest of us. Across the board, somebody is mad at something.  In America, leftists feel we’re not doing enough to make sure everyone gets enough; right-wingers don’t believe everyone has worked hard enough, or done enough years of paperwork, for it. As far as I know, every country in the world is caught up in something right now, whether it’s within the government or from angry citizen groups.

And we’re all trying to get by through all this. Somehow. Some bars in DC are open early for the hearings (and hopefully in NYC, too, which I’m sure I’ll find after this article). Some of us tweet or use Facebook. The more in-tune rage on live streams.

Video games, though, have always been called the ultimate escape. It makes sense! As opposed to movies and even TV shows, to a degree, we likely engage with games far more intensely. We’re not just viewing, but engaging with a world that’s designed to entertain us.

That’s fine! We all need to get our minds off things. Heck, some labor researchers actually think this escape is impacting our economy. Male unemployment is going up, and while not the only factor, some believe video games are to blame.  That’s not to condemn the situation — we’re not defined by our labor, and we are worth no less for not engaging with capitalist systems! — but instead to point out that video games are, frankly, a fresh, powerful coping mechanism in difficult times.

And video games take us out of “IRL” for a really, solidly long time. If you’re an MMORPG player, you’re paying monthly to just pretend your more important life, for that moment, is in that game. AAA games increasingly rise in hours played (and storage space taken). Even shorter games are throwing in more “secrets” to unlock and DLC to give a spin.

So of course video games are the new bastion of entertainment. And better yet, we don’t have to leave our houses. Heck, we’re not expected to leave our “battle station.” TV did bring that concept in the 60’s, but in a more family-gathering style. Now, there are entire threads on Reddit, Twitter, and infamously so on 4chan for showing off our little gaming recluse nests. Not to mention the increasingly industrialized and commercialized state of our world has made it harder to go anywhere and exist idly without forking over money (or owning a car), anyway. So why leave the confides of our designated physical and digital spaces?

Beyond just going out into the world, many of us end up socializing through gaming anyway, whether it’s through social media or in-game social options. I’ve made some of my best friends through gaming. I don’t have to leave my apartment to get most of the human stimulation I need. (In theory, Though it’s not a good theory, honestly.)

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Between everything that video games have to bring, this is peak potential for, “I don’t have to care, so I won’t.”

Is that attitude good for civil engagement? Going to say… it shouldn’t be? But maybe we’re all overwhelmed because we’re just too plugged into our flawed world. Global warming, corruption, riots, coups… It’s far more exciting when it’s fictional than real, right? It’s all better to process when it’s not creeping up on our minds and threatening not just us directly, but the world around us?

Essentially, while engagement is good, many would also argue it’s not healthy to be perpetually plugged in. Plenty of self-identified gamers engage with politics (for better or worse) and swap tabs for some Fallout 76. I’m sure even the most horrid politicians, some of which are on television and streaming services, have their vices, like going out to fancy dinners or golfing with people who have agendas for said politicians. I slightly envy that level of not-caring! Point is, whatever is keeping us sane in this day and and age has to do some good.

So as I sit here trying not to think too hard on the impeachment hearings blaring in the background — because trying to understand the non-logic some of these people are expressing is exhausting, and the rules, and the processes, and the sheer rambling — I’m just thinking to myself… who can I beg for the new leaning-on-the-wall emoji in FFXIV? And then maybe I’ll be an Angry Politics Tweeter Online later, too. That’s how it goes as someone Online Today, I guess.

Oh, and maybe we’ll witness history in the coming weeks, too. I wonder if I’ll have beaten Death Stranding by then.

(P.S. Just… please be mindful of how you bring your grief about the real world into gaming communities. The world’s not perfect, and your MOBA party may not be, either.)

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Victoria Rose

Victoria is a Brooklyn-based, chaotic-good former dungeon master and a Contributor-At-Large for Fanbyte. She's a self-proclaimed esports pundit, and used to do Dota 2 news and reporting as a full-time part-time gig. She's also four red pandas stacked in a hoodie. [she/her/hers or they/their/theirs]

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