Joe Biden has almost certainly never played a video game in his life. Donald Trump probably hasn’t either, but given his scintillating B-level status as a reality show celebrity in the ’90s and 2000s, there’s a decent chance he’s at least handled a Wiimote at a long-forgotten VMAs afterparty or something. Barack Obama was raising young children while he was in the White House, and therefore I’m confident in saying that he’s played a couple rounds of Guitar Hero in his day, but that’s probably the extent of it. Regardless, my point here is that our most recent bloc of presidents aren’t gamers. You are not going to bump into them during a Fortnite queue anytime soon, nor are they going to be sizing you up from across a Street Fighter matchmaking lobby. But on the internet, which has currently been set aflame by delirious A.I. automation, the chairmen of the Democrat and Republican party alike have been morphed into the most toxic gamers you know.
ElevenLabs is one of the countless startups who’ve tapped into the rising tide of A.I. technology. Their product allows users to seamlessly transform text into a human vocal tone of your choice without any hitches or hangups — and the results are downright uncanny. (ElevenLabs requires a subscription for most of its features, but I highly recommend playing around with its basic toolset.) The software represents another step towards our strange, cybernetic future, where, like, John Wayne can be effectively resurrected and puppeteered through deep-learning chicanery. Yes, the long-term prospects of the A.I. revolution remains shrouded with portentous ambiguity, but for now, let us just laugh at Obama, Trump, and Biden screaming at each other when they make a tier list of all of the Legend of Zelda games.
“Next up is Ocarina of Time, I think we can all agree that this is a pretty clear S-tier?” says Obama, in a cool, perfectly modulated off-the-cuff drawl.
“S-tier? Really?” bellows an eternally aggrieved Donald Trump. “Has our society degraded so much that this is what makes an S-tier these days? I won’t deny that it’s much better than A Link To The Past, but S-tier should be reserved for actual masterpieces.”
“I don’t get how you can simp so much for Majora’s Mask, and call this game big and empty,” retorts Biden.
There are hundreds more videos exactly like this, as the youth of America imagines a world where our political leaders submerge themselves in the sort of debates that might captivate a cadre of blue-haired YouTubers. Patient zero is a TikTok uploaded by a user named Vortecks on February 15, where Biden and Trump engage in some chaffed ribbing before a match of Overwatch — a popular multiplayer shooter released by Blizzard. (“I wanted to solo-queue and then I see fucking, fucking Bidenator in my lobby, just to ruin my day,” quips Trump.) That clip garnered over six million views, and sparked a legion of copycats. Today, you can watch our A.I. presidents gather for a round of Mario Kart 64, or a Minecraft campaign, or a heated argument about the difficulty of Dark Souls. At last, we have achieved bipartisan detente between the parties. All we needed was some machine learning.
I don’t want to get too over my skis here. These videos have become popular because it is both hilarious and amazing to see how an A.I. device can sufficiently patch together a Turing Test-passing facsimile of Joe Biden — who is already not the most eloquent man on the planet — speaking fluently about Nintendo games. Yes, there is a wealth of dystopian implications on the horizon, as the fabric of reality continues to fold in on itself. I’m sure, before long, we’ll all be decrying the turbo-QAnon renaissance that a deep-faked John F. Kennedy Jr. will undoubtedly empower. But for now, I genuinely do believe that the Biden/Trump gamer debates are bringing America together. After years of the most oppressive, soul-killing political discourse any of us have ever endured, it’s kind of nice to listen to the men on the top of the ballot bicker about anything that isn’t health care and drag shows.
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“Everyone knows Halo 3 is peak Halo,” says Donald Trump in another video where — you guessed it — the presidents are adjudicating the precepts of Microsoft’s Halo franchise. “The campaign is infinitely replayable, the armor is the most beautiful looking in the series, and the introduction of Forge added so much creativity to the community.”
“You’re on crack, everyone knows Halo 2 is the best,” counters Joe Biden, who is photoshopped on screen to wear a chunky pair of LED-bejeweled headphones.
As someone who grew up playing a lot of video games, I have regularly quarreled about this exact same topic with my friends, usually over voice chat, until two in the morning. There is no male bonding quite like taking a contrarian stance about the heady minutia of a first-person shooter. A.I., at last, has let us put the fractiousness aside and pretend that everyone can get along, even Biden and Trump, through the communion of a Steam friends list. It’s a world worth fighting for. Yes, maybe someday the ruling class will not be exclusively dominated by pallid geriatrics and dimestore narcissists. Maybe the proclivities of our presidents won’t be so alien and out-of-touch that the only way to relate with them is to recreate their voices with frightening Matrix-like machinery. Then, and only then, we set aside all of the irrelevant culture-war flotsam that so often dominates the chryons of Fox News and CNN to instead bandy about a topic that is far more pertinent to our interests. Like, say, if Pokemon Red and Blue is A-tier or B-tier.
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