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Yes, games matter. Yes, even now.

In the wake of the US's version of Brexit, do games matter? Shit yes, they do. If you voted Trump, you'll find some aspects to hate in this piece, though the overall message applies equally to everyone.

Megan Fox, Blogger

November 14, 2016

4 Min Read

(originally posted on my Patreon blog, over here - lots of queer-themed stuff, sexuality, anti-Trump sentiment, so bail out now if that's going to squick you)

So we just elected an Annoying Orange as president. Shit got real. That means a lot of folks are going to ask in the face of that, what possible good can a bunch of dumb games do? Why are we wasting our time making these?

First, fuck that.

Second, no, seriously, fuck that. Art matters. Here's why.

When I was about 11, I stumbled across the Ultima series of games. Here was this whole world I could explore and affect, full of people to talk to, it was just a trip. You could even pick your gender! It all crystalized in Ultima 7: Serpent Isle, in this really goofily animated sex scene involving a female enchantress. At the time, budgets and norms were such that you didn't change the gender of major characters based on player choice, which means if you were female - hey, whatever, the scene played out the same way, Frigidazzi was still a lady.

That was my first exposure to a lesbian romance, and in a very literal way set me on the course to realizing I was a transsexual, and eventually becoming the lesbian I am today. Which is incredibly nerdy, but neat, right?

(also, yes, I was a gay male before I transitioned, and yes, I stayed gay post-transition, and yes, that isn't uncommon - if you're curious, google it)

That is one moment among tens that I can point to where video games literally changed who I am. I could just as easily have mentioned the bit where nerdy, emotionally stunted kid me initially based my morality on the Ultima virtues. That's even just the video game examples - don't even get me started on the sheer number of novels that rocked my world, or how often I would hide from my abusive step-parent in one of them.

Someone might try to nudge this in a "but those were good times, people in trying times don't spend money or time on art!" direction, but - then you have them look up history on Hollywood and film attendance during the Great Depression. They might be very, very surprised. People who couldn't afford bread would often still spend the money to get into the theater (or sneak in the back door). Art mattered more than bread (or felony trespassing) to those people. How's that for mattering?

Importantly, also remember that I grew up in Alaska. I was born in the rust belt. I was the grandchild of a Deacon of our Church, to which I was wearing suits and ties by age 7. Try and imagine who I might have become if I HADN'T had those experiences, at the right times, to the right things. Now for fun, try and imagine how many teenager me's are out there right now, balanced on the cusp of change - and then imagine what happens if the art they favor dries up. Imagine voting demographics in, oh, about 10 years.

Art matters because art can and will change people. We don't need art less in difficult times, we need it MORE. It's at turning points like these where you can nudge people most effectively, and it's in trying times like these where people most need spaces into which they can retreat. The safety and sanity to be found in an all-encompassing world is an absolute requirement, whether crafted in polygons, paint, or ink.

Those retreats ALSO need to be crafted into the kind of spaces we yearn for now. All those end of the world, post-apocalyptic narratives we were liking up to the last few years? How you feeling about disappearing into one of those right now, eh? Art, at least kitsch art, has a very definite shelf life, so we specifically need NEW art, right now, informed by THESE times. That is made by people who, in response to times like now, double down on creation, and work even harder to craft spaces and experiences for those around them.

So. When someone tells you now isn't the time for art? That art doesn't matter? You tell them to fuck right off, and then you get to work.

And then you give them exactly what they need, just as they realize they need it.

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