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Opinion: Now is not the time for games... and that's okay

The current state of the world is unlike anything in the last 35 years and right now, it doesn't feel like the time to retreat into the fantasy worlds offered by video games. And that's okay.

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At some point on Monday, despair set in. I wasn't sure if it was the sound of more helicopters outside my window. I don't know if it was the latest video of peaceful protests turning to violence, many of which were instigated by law enforcement. I don't know if it was the President of the United States unleashing the U.S. military on American citizens for the sake of a photo op where he peddled the tenets of a religion that he doesn't know the first thing about while holding its holiest book upside-down. But at some point, I stared at my greatest source of escape: video games. And I didn't feel the slightest urge to turn them on.

And you know what? That's okay.

We're living in a time unlike any other. And as hard as it is to believe, we're living in a time very much unlike the hellscape we were in just a few months ago. What makes it worse is that we technically aren't out of that hellscape. Oh no, COVID-19 is still out there and, if anything, that's only going to get worse. But that's a conversation for another day.

The world has often looked dreary. To paraphrase a sentiment from 1997's Men In Black, it feels like there's always an extinction level event right around the corner. And to this point in my life, video games have acted as either a coping mechanism or a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on the moment or on the reader's point-of-view) escape.

A Black Lives Matter protest in Irvine, CA
A Black Lives Matter protest in Irvine, CA

Even with COVID-19, video games were supposed to be the great escape. Everybody was told to stay home, avoid congregating, stay safely indoors. And that naturally for me, and many others, meant staying home and playing video games. Catch up with that back catalog. Chip away at that Pile of Shame™ in the corner. The easiest way to forget about the miserable state of the world is to retreat into gaming. It's to retreat into the many fantasy worlds that gaming can take us into. It's always been our safe refuge.

But this is not the time for that. To retreat is to knowingly turn a blind eye to the harshest reality that's staring everybody in the face. It's to ignore the pain of your neighbors, your brothers and sisters, and those who are suffering from a system designed to inflict pain upon them. Racial injustice can no longer be ignored. Some would argue that it shouldn't have taken George Floyd's murder to make people realize that, but that's an argument for a different time. This is the reality that confronts us now and it's one that will get worse before it gets better.

That's why the gaming world has momentarily come to a halt. There's no greater evidence of that than Sony postponing this week's PlayStation 5 event with no makeup date on the horizon. Sony understands it and they made it clear in their statement. This isn't the time for celebration. And this isn't the time for fun and games. Right now, your neighbors, your brothers and sisters, and those who are suffering need you.

There are reasons to go out and protest the cancer that is police brutality, especially considering what message the militarization of police has sent to the American populace. We are watching as the United States military is sicced on America's own citizens. We are witnessing local police forces given military-level body armor and shielding while the doctors and nurses trying to contain COVID-19 have to wear garbage bags in a vain effort to protect themselves. The Los Angeles Convention Center used to be home to E3, the greatest celebration in gaming. Now it's home to the National Guard, who mobilized it into a military base overnight. It took weeks to create testing sites for a worldwide pandemic, but protestors threatened the affluent Beverly Hills neighborhood and the military couldn't be mobilized fast enough. Are you outraged reading that? You should be. All of this is cause for outrage.

And if you aren't protesting, then use this time constructively. Speak with your neighbors. Educate yourself on the issues. Go beyond what you see on TV and actively research what's happening. Most importantly, listen to Black voices. Shacknews has attempted to do our part during Monday's Wide World of Electronic Sports show, taking time away from gaming and giving the Black members of the Super Smash Bros. community a forum to speak on the civil unrest that we are all witness to.

I'm not going to pretend to speak for the African-American community. I can only speak as a Mexican guy who can hear police helicopters outside my window as racial tensions escalate between downtrodden minorities and a predominantly white police force. But I can listen to their voices. I can respect what they have to say. I can respect their demand for equality after hundreds of years of oppression. I can respect their simple demand to not be disproportionately targeted by trigger-happy police forces. And right now, I can say that I don't feel comfortable booting up a gaming console in the wake of all of this. If you don't either, that's okay.

Gaming was meant to unify all people in the wake of COVID-19 and act as a symbol that we were all in this fight together. It was there to tell us that we would all be together when the worst of it was over. But now many of those same people are needed in the real world. And we don't know when or if the worst of this will end. But we can be there for each other, standing in solidarity, because Black Lives Matter. We all need to stand together against those who are trying to tell us that they don't. And if we do come out of the other side of this as a more united people, who love each other and treat each other with the respect and dignity that all people deserve, then our games will still be there waiting.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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