The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy — everything.
George Orwell, 1984
Recently I’ve turned my attention again to the question of the connection between games and what we often refer to, in all seriousness, as real life, more specifically, to the potential for games to intervene in reality and transform it in some way, hopefully for the better. The is the concept of Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG) popularized by Jane McGonigal (although not originating with her) which is distinct from the co-opted cluelessness of “gamification” (whose only purpose is to sell you stuff). It is also different from the concept of Augmented Reality Games where reality serves as a platform for the game, but the purpose is more traditionally one of entertainment and diversion only (think–gah–of Pokemon Go).
The reason I’ve been thinking about this is, not surprisingly, as a response to the horror of the current US presidential election season, which feels as if it has been going on since about three weeks after the last election was decided. Many conservatives and liberals in the US, who can’t even agree on what to put on their toast in the mornings, seem united in their belief that the current election season has not simply plumbed new depths but has in fact powered up a giant drilling rig (drill, baby, drill!) and is boring straight for the center of the planet.
Before we can talk about how games might improve the US electoral process in a couple of small but significant ways, however, we have to look squarely at the nature of the problem.