A concerned gamer wrote in to Sen. Ted Cruz’s podcast to ask how he feels about loot boxes. (Yes, Ted Cruz has a podcast where he talks about loot boxes—my editor made me double-check). We, as a society, have consequently learned so much more about how Cruz feels about gaming than we have ever wanted to know.
If you don’t immediately associate Cruz with video games, you are forgiven. Normally when one talks about the man, they’re talking about the state of gun rights laws in his state of Texas, or abortion access, or the many times in which he has been publicly embarrassed. According to an email read on Cruz’s podcast seeking comment from the failed presidential candidate, the internet user Asmongold wanted to know what the senator’s stance on loot boxes was, and we now know.
If you want to know the actual answer to the question, it is this—like a good libertarian, Cruz is concerned about scenarios where children are put in harm’s way, like being encouraged to gamble, but doesn’t believe the government should be involved. When it comes to his personal use, though, apparently Sen. Cruz does in fact pay to win regularly in the video games that he claims to play.
“Now I'm something of a gamer. I'm not a gamer like hardcore Twitch streamers and I don't do the massive multiplayer games,” Cruz said. “I'll tell you, I don't like it when you can buy in-game items and sort of make your character stronger or get advantages. Now I'll confess when I play some games, I'll sometimes buy it because it is more fun in some way. Your character has a lot more great stuff that would take you six months or a year to build up.”
(Motherboard emailed Ted Cruz’s office to ask what games he is playing—and what he’s spending money on—but they did not immediately reply. He must have been too busy suspiciously not denying that he is the Zodiac killer and hanging out with his father, who may or may not have been complicit in the assassination of JFK).
Cruz concluded this segment by saying that he is open to hearing arguments about loot boxes but doesn’t think it’s a government issue, which is strange, because his personal experience of loot boxes and free-to-play mechanics seem to perfectly line up with all the arguments that call these monetization schemes manipulative and addictive precisely in ways that demand government attention, if not oversight. In a bizarre aside, he also wanted to add that he loves the movie Ready Player One, which probably no one other than him has ever both watched and enjoyed.
“I've seen it several times, but I just happened to do a rewatch last week,” Cruz said, summarizing the plot of the film about people obsessed with virtual reality, which probably even its famed director Steven Spielberg didn’t repeatedly watch willingly. “People amass money in virtual reality and it ends up for many people subsuming the world. There are hard challenges, and we're not yet to the dystopian world of Ready Player One, but well, we might be on a path towards that.”
Next time you log onto the OASIS to look for another one of Halliday’s Easter Eggs and get stomped by some freak that bought every level of the battle pass, take a moment and consider that you may have had the honor having been beaten by Senator Ted Cruz, the kind of gamer who is able to see the issues at hand but also feel totally OK at profiting from them—and also the kind who is so inept that he is willing to pay real currency to get a marginal edge on bored pre-teens wasting time now that school’s let out.