When considering the latest game release, many players excitedly discuss the opportunities for interactive engagement in their latest purchase. Did you go renegade or paragon? Did you roll a paladin or mage? Which party members did you take into the final encounter? We’re fascinated by the chance to express a choice, and see that decision reflected in the resulting scenario. And yet, if we’re to believe demographic data, when it comes to expressing choices at real-life polls in the United States, much of the game-playing public simply doesn’t show up.
At this point in the history of the medium, gamers come from every walk of life and every age group. But among adults, the percentage of engaged gamers still skews toward the younger end of the spectrum. In a 2017 Pew Research Center study, 60 percent of Americans between 18 and 29 said they played games regularly (that drops a bit to 53 percent of those between 30 and 49). Compare that with the last midterm voting cycle from 2014; the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement found that only 19.9 percent of people aged 18 to 29 voted in that election. While we don’t know the exact overlap between those statistics, the numbers certainly suggest that the same people playing the most games are the people casting the fewest votes.
One of the most common refrains that fuels the decision not to vote is the belief that it won’t matter, and a perception that somehow everything remains the same no matter who is in office. Regardless of your political opinions, recent years have made that argument ring hollow, particularly for several issues that many game players profess to value. The net neutrality debate has the potential to directly impact gamers and their hobby. The recent and heartbreaking mass shooting at a Madden tournament in Jacksonville suggests that both the gun control and mental-health conversation has direct relevance for those interested in the burgeoning competitive-game scene. International trade wars could have a direct impact on tech and game companies and the products they release. And it’s this same bracket of younger adult gamers who tend to have deep concerns about health care, student-loan borrower protections, and civil rights for LGBTQ individuals, among a host of other concerns.
Candidates voted into office in this November’s midterm election will undoubtedly sway the course of all those issues for years to come. The 2016 presidential election was ultimately decided by 80,000 votes in just three states. By way of comparison, Epic Games recently announced that Fortnite had reached 125 million players. Even if a tiny percentage (0.06%) of those players of a single game were U.S. voters in those states, they would have had the potential to decide the presidential election. And in most of the midterm votes for governors, senators, representatives, and other offices in this upcoming midterm, the difference between winner and loser is likely to be far less than 80,000 votes.
Many other individuals don’t vote because they’ve been led to believe they can’t. That’s a travesty, because they’re often wrong. A simple internet browser query for “Can I vote” will instantly bring you to a website run by the National Association of Secretaries of State, with simple drop-down menus for your state offering details on how to register, find polling places, and the valid forms of ID you need for your location, among other details. If you’ve never stepped into a polling place before, it’s far easier than you’d expect. If you can figure out the upgrade system in the latest Bethesda role-playing game, I promise you’re more than capable of showing up to decide who will dictate the course of your country, state, and city.
Voting this year is on Tuesday, November 6. No matter your political leanings, you should make your voice heard. For many of us, the opposing team isn’t a political party or group – it’s an establishment that is counting on you to not show up. As long as we remain silent at the polls, they can afford to overlook our deepest worries and the issues we care the most about. If they were taunting you in a pregame lobby, it would infuriate you. But that’s just what they’re doing. They’re winning because we’re not even playing the game. Don’t rage quit the match. Prove them wrong.