In recent months, the United States has been undergoing a reckoning over its troubled history. At times such as these, it’s clear that when we engage in blind lionization of figures from the past, we omit the truth of who these people were and the decisions they made. That is why we at OGN must acknowledge that while Abraham Lincoln was a great president in many ways, he leaves behind a troubling legacy of never playing video games.
We understand that Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, is among the most revered leaders in American history—this is, after all, the man who preserved the Union and helped abolish slavery, who was regarded by contemporaries as an uncommonly thoughtful and genteel politician, whose name is synonymous with a call to the better angels of our nature. And yet, the fact remains: Nowhere in the historical record is there any evidence of our 16th president so much as plugging a few quarters into an arcade cabinet at any point during his lifetime.
Though this ugly fact might shake the vision of Lincoln in our collective historical imagination, it’s the duty of journalists such as ourselves to slaughter these sacred cows. In truth, we do a disservice to our predecessors when we think of history as immutable, that there was never any other path forward. Is it too much to ask that a man of such supposed intellect spend a few hours crushing opponents in a real-time strategy? Perhaps he could have opened his eyes and accept the fact that a great RPG can be as deep and emotional as live theater. Who knows, a mind open to the beauty and power of video games may have saved him from that fateful night at Ford’s Theatre?
Gamers are part of this nation’s rich tapestry, and we should not let poor rationalizations like “He was born in 1809” excuse this prejudicial behavior. Can a man left unmoved by The Legend of Zelda, a man who has never once felt the pain of falling again and again to a difficult boss, be truly worthy of the greatness that has been bestowed upon him? For all of Lincoln’s accomplishments, it was men like him who set the culture of persecution and mockery that gamers still endure today.
Could things have been different? Perhaps. Unfortunately, we’ll never know the answer because Lincoln was too blinded by hate to see the importance of gaming right before his eyes. We must not be so obtuse. We must view our past as it was, warts and all, so that we may all strive even harder and push ourselves to play video games even more because even a great man like Abraham Lincoln never did.