It's become a depressingly familiar cycle:
Gun Tragedy → "Thoughts and Prayers" → zero meaningful change.
Increasingly, the "thoughts and prayers" offered by politicians following gun attacks are seen as a diversionary tactic—a hollow sentiment to soothe emotional anguish without addressing the underlying cause. To offer "thoughts and prayers" in place of gun reform can seem about as effective as mindlessly mashing buttons on your computer's keyboard.
As it happens, that's also the exact premise of "Thoughts and Prayers: The Game"—a retro, 80's style arcade player available to play for free online.
The premise of Thoughts and Prayers is simple: In response to an "epidemic" of shootings, it's up to you, the player, to stop them by (what else?) thinking and praying.
You're shown an animated map of the United States upon which notifications of various incidents of fictional gun violence begin appearing for different cities, while a timer counts down from 30 to 0. In that time, you must hit your "T" and "P" keys (for "thoughts" and "prayers" respectively) as much as possible in order to, well, do nothing, really.
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After ten seconds, you are given the option to ban assault weapon sales. Click on that, however, and the game will call you out for being "UNAMERICAN," remind you that you accept money from the NRA, and urge you to keep praying.
Once the timer hits zero, you're shown exactly how many thoughts and prayers you offered (my high score is a finger cramp-inducing 197) and how many lives you saved: Zero.
First noticed by Paper on Friday morning, the game is the creation of GOP Arcade, part of the company's "on-going series of lightweight games designed to make all the hoopla surrounding the election slightly more enjoyable." To that end, the company also has a Diner-dash style game, in which players must sell as many guns as possible, and another Punch-Out inspired offering, in which you must force Donald Trump to divulge his tax forms.
There is, of course, an irony inherent in a game that has players mashing buttons to highlight the ineffectiveness of offering thoughts and prayers. No matter how satirically biting it may be, the game will likely be about as useful at crafting a genuine legislative solution for gun violence as the very thoughts and prayers it serves to skewer. They are, ultimately, flip sides of the same ineffective coin.
Still, while it's unlikely to change anyone's mind, or actually bring about a change in our nation's laws regarding firearms, Thoughts and Prayers is a razor-sharp reminder that, ultimately, the life-and-death fight over gun control is anything but a game.