As I vote today…

2014 elections

I don’t think it’s too prudent to point out how lucky we are. Today, people will go to their voting booths and make their mark in the 2014 General Elections by voting for the party that they feel best represents their feelings and will work towards the same goals that they themselves desire. The past year has been littered with insults and scandals and Twitter arguments and occasional acts of violence but this is still a democracy in its youth – the teething issues are still there. Yesterday, the battle lines were let down. The opponents packed up their campaigns, they picked up their weapons and sat back to see what would happen.

No matter how you may feel about the elections, at least one can admit that this is a far better situation to be in than what we had just over twenty years ago. 

This probably is a weird thing to see on a gaming website and all and I’ll admit that this is true. When Nelson Mandela died, there wasn’t a post that went up announcing it or paying tribute to him, it simply didn’t belong here. You could find those things anywhere else on the internet if you wanted them. But this column in particular does have something to do with gaming and I’m just going to scrunch it here into the opinion section because that’s the only place where it fits. Overlord and Master Dane Remendes’ wishes for correct categorisation need to be heeded to at all times!

As I vote today, I’m grateful for several things in particular that Nelson Mandela and his other companions fought for and the primary one is that I have friends of different creeds and races that I can mingle with and play games with. I wouldn’t have been able to speedrun God of War II with my good friend Mokhoena at my house in Graaff-Reinet. I wouldn’t have been able to LAN with my college buddies including Mohamed and I definitely wouldn’t be able to tease my friend Ric about his height or how much of a player he is. Under the old apartheid regime, this wouldn’t have happened.

I also wouldn’t have a mentor in the form of Neo Sibeko. Neo does pretty much all of the hardware reviews for the magazine and is a professional overclocker and editor of his own online publication, The Overclocker. Even though Neo’s in Taiwan and I’ve only ever glimpsed him once in real life, he’s the one I turn to when I needed to know things of a highly technical nature and he was my primary inspiration for getting into tech writing specifically. I owe a lot to him and I wouldn’t be able to learn from him today if it weren’t for the liberation of our country from white supermacy rule.

I also wouldn’t have been able to see the absolutely adorable son of columnist Pippa Tshabalala and her husband whose name I can never remember (sorry man, I tried really hard!). Pippa took on her husband’s surname, Tshabalala, something which would never have been condoned or accepted in any way in the years before 1994. Their son will almost certainly be brought up on a diet of games and books and good music.

While you stand in line and Tweet to your friends, post selfies outside of the election booth, listen to Podcasts or Gareth Cliff’s online radio broadcasts or even play Fruit Ninja on your phone, consider that the myriad of games and technology that surround you would have been much more sparse under the old regime. Sanctions against South Africa meant that technological advancements pretty much slowed to a crawl and interaction with the outside world was even further choked. We have a multicultural and multiracial country that we call home but we also have a very connected country.

The prevalence of the internet amongst the youth thanks to Blackberry handsets with BIS and the incredible traction of the Playstation and Xbox brands would simply not have had the same impact otherwise at any other point in time. NAG Magazine’s own readership is composed of an incredible collection of different races and creeds and genders and the forums are just as varied. Though I’m constantly astounded that the human race has survived this long and has reached the nuclear era without blowing up the planet, I’m even more astounded at the progress we’ve made here in South Africa. Change is sorely needed in many areas, but it’s coming.

Telkom is even moving to properly commercialise VDSL and fiber-to-the-home offerings within the next two years. Telkom, of all things. Eskom’s still dragging their feet but at least we’re seeing initiatives into alternative energy sources like solar and wind power, something that many other countries in Africa haven’t even begun to plan for. Like an extended, real-time playthrough of a deity-level, global-sized Civilisation V map, we’re moving forward, even if the direction is completely wrong for a few turns and you don’t tech into the skill trees in an efficient order to maximise beaker use.

But as you add your mark onto the ballot papers and carefully, decisively, make your little [X], consider that what we need now isn’t a continuation of the status quo – we need a way forward. Whether you think that the ANC, DA, EFF or any other party is the key to forward progress isn’t the issue that’s at stake here. You’re voting for your futures and your children’s children’s futures as well. We need women and men capable of driving growth and jobs and a stronger economy. We need more room for local business to grow. We need for the situation for all South Africans to improve.

Just imagine – Parliament! But instead of people nodding off, a Gamers Party-dominated government would instead have everyone playing Hearthstone against each other.

If there was a Gamer’s Party, I’d vote for them. Why? Because we get stuff done! We know how to conquer worlds, wage wars, fend off zombies, defeat the Borg and fly spaceships in epic battles. We crunch through the side missions, we make the difficult decisions in Mass Effect and we get stuck in for the necessary hours to level up by jumping everywhere in The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. We’re so dedicated to doing something well that we’d put the same energy into education as we would into a Mage on World of Warcraft. Gamers wouldn’t argue with others in the usual way, we’d settle things with a Unreal Tournament deathmatch of capture the flag.

Face it, we’d be awesome. Unfortunately, we’d also all be too busy playing Hearthstone to notice anything really going wrong.