Are online games an effective tool for social change?

Video Games are not my thing.  When I told my grown children about building a video game, they laughed.  Life has cast me in the role of the person that had to tell them to turn the video game off and go to bed.  Or if they wanted help on a video game, I would tell them “I had 5 brothers, so I never got a turn.  I have no idea how to do that.” So, I decided to try playing the two games suggested.  When I couldn’t get “The Redistricting Game” to run, my daughter suggested I watch videos of people playing and rating the games.  That worked out well. Being an older player, the information presented was not new to me.  I did find that the way it was presented was interesting.

I think that education is always a good thing.  Introducing new ideas for the player to continue to explore later is a way to start to make social change.  But I think both games failed that goal in a few ways.  The way the players were asked questions seemed demeaning to their intelligence.  The game makers implied that the players could be easily swayed.  Also, the names given to candidates and the representation of them was done in a mocking manner.  It was clear that the message was to polarize the players from “the other side” It played into the political war that is raging. 

Candidates and political parties are not all good or all evil.  They represent a point of view.  I was speaking to an older lady this week who pointed out that even during the Nixon era politics were not as mean and contentious as they are now.  Donald Trump started the name calling and villainizing, childish behavior. But both sides are participating now.  Our political history was built on compromise and finding sane middle ground. Now insanity reigns. 

I have known many people over the years from divergent walks of life.  People are not at the extreme right or the extreme left in terms of politics.  They are somewhere right or left of the middle.  I have always told my kids not to vote as I do or as anyone else does.  One should vote for the candidate of their own choice.  That is what our democracy is about.  If video games can start new voters thinking about voting districts and how they are formed and how to be cautious vetting their information, it is good. 

I believe the two video games failed in two ways.  They mocked and demeaned the political parties and representatives. They were also demeaning to the players.  The questions they asked before and after the game were intended to prove how they could sway voters.  As if the player had a weak mind and could be affected by the power of “the Force”.  People see through this pompous elitism.  And video games can only influence if the player decides to push play and then recommend the game to others.

I realize that video games have a history of being irreverent but slinging more virtual mud is not the way to proceed.  We must start respecting all views, gamers included.  The social change I am looking for is not that people can be turned to believe exactly the way I do but that they actively participate in the discussion, are willing to listen, evaluate, and compromise. 

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