Building Connections

Video games connect students during times of isolation and begin to influence the culture of politics like never before.


Art by Sam Mutz


One byproduct of the pandemic for many Americans is increased isolation. As a way to combat loneliness, many people have turned to competitive and entertaining video games to connect with friends and others around the globe. Intriguingly, video games have also made a significant impact on an unexpected facet ofAmerican society, politics.

In an attempt to promote voter turnout for the 2020 elections, including the presidential election between former Vice President Joe Biden and the incumbent, Donald Trump, politicians are using video games to reach out to our country’s gamers, a growing demographic of primarily young new voters.

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), currently a representative of New York’s 14th congressional district, recently went on Twitch, a video live streaming service. She played the popular game Among Us with famous streamers and reached over 400,000 viewers, making it one of the most-watched streams in Twitch History.

Her main goal was to push for the viewers to vote in the election. “If you are able to vote, [go to] Make sure that you make your voting plan, and if you can’t vote, talk to someone who can vote and try to direct them to and make sure that they get their voting plan in place,” Ocasio-Cortez said during her stream.

I wouldn’t be surprised if politicians using video games to connect with the younger generation becomes a new normality.

— Joy Xu

Her stream captured nationwide attention, even making an impact on Paly students. Junior Joy Xu felt that AOC’s stream reached its overall goal in encouraging viewers to vote.

“I watched AOC playing Among Us on stream with many famous Twitch streamers,” Xu said. “Twitch has a live chat where you can interact with other viewers, and many were stating how they were going to either vote or spread the word about the importance of being involved in the election.”

Xu recognizes the tactical bene ts of appealingto young voters this way. “AOC went on stream to appeal to potential voters, and Among Us has been gaining popularity, especially amongst the younger population,” Xu said. “AOC was able to push for viewers to vote, particularly by relating to them, which is important because the last election did not have a great voter turnout.”

According to the Center for Information & Re- search on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIR- CLE), in 2016 the estimated voter turnout for young people, ages 18-29, was 45-48%. In 2020,that percent signi cantly increased to 53-56%.These percentages amount to millions of citizens which have the power to influence key political decisions.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if politicians using video games to connect with the younger generation becomes a new normality,” Xu said.

Internet interactions

Aside from politics, video games have also played an important social role for students. Games such as Call of Duty, Madden 20, Minecraft, Among Us and more are go-to pastimes that provide students with stress relief, a form of communication and a source of entertainment.

Paly senior Timor Averbuch utilizes video games’ communication methods to connect withothers. “Video games are very bene cial in a socialaspect,” Averbuch said. “Multiplayer games with built-in voice chats are designed to enable people to communicate while playing, and that’s why they are so suc- cessful at allowing friends to stay connected while staying at home.”

Video games have consistently evolved to benefit their consumers’ playing experience, and easy access to communication options has been revolutionary in the gaming industry and the benefits to the users.

To some extent, my communication with my friends has become even better as we have spent more time together through games.

— Timor Averbuch

“To some extent, my communication with my friends has become even better as we have spent more time together through games,” Averbuch said. “Video games are more of a method of communication rather than a game.”

Paly junior and avid gamer Ella Kim appreciates the value of connection during a time of isolation. “Video games allow you to interact with others and build more of that social connection we are all craving more than ever during quarantine.”

Video games aren’t limited to providing players with a form of communication, but also allow students to rely on games as a stress-relieving outlet.

“I nd video games to be a good form of distrac- tion, especially if you engage in them with friends,” Kim said. “Video games help to channel stress and energy towards a temporary distraction from anything difficult that could be going on.”

Especially in a time where Paly students are dealing with the struggles of social and physical isolation, outlets such as gaming can be instrumental in maintaining stable mental health for some students. However, it’s equally important for students to create a balanced lifestyle, one that is not completely focused on video games.

Dylan Oba, a Paly junior knows the temptations of gaming. “If you do a lot of school- work then I recommend video games as a stress relief activity.”

But, as with most activities in life, video games must be played with restraint. “Video games are good only if you have moderation and self-control,” Oba said. “When you play video games, you need to be disciplined.”

Although video games have a danger to become addicting or take away time from more important activities, they nevertheless continue to improve the lives of many students. Not only can they provide students with a form of socialization and stress relief, video games are being harnessed as a political tool for policy makers to engage the younger generation, something that will surely shift our view of gaming forever.