Mainstream media gets its act together

The latest example of tabloid sensationalism only underscores the progress made in the way games are portrayed in the media.

by

Earlier today, a well-known UK tabloid ran an article about terrorists using games like Call of Duty to plan attacks. The article doesn't merit a link or specific mention here, because it's a familiar brand of tripe produced by and for people who treat fear like an aphrodisiac. Sifting through phrases like "deadly plans," "growing threat," "deadly discussions," and "a terrifying reality," it boils down to an article that acknowledges games have private chat features, which means people could use them to communicate with each other about crimes they want to commit. Be sure to check back next week for a hard-hitting expose on the terrorist-friendly tactical tool that might already be in your pants. (To be absolutely clear, I'm talking about your phone.)

Is Call of Duty teaching your children to slow time while breaching doors in a hostage situation? Film at 11!

Doubtless, many gamers saw that piece and simply rolled their eyes at yet another example of the mainstream media getting it all wrong. And it is that. But it's also a bit of an aberration these days. After years of soft focus features about senior center Wii Sports bowling leagues, feel-good stories like the Child's Play charity, and the ever-growing chunk of the population who have played games (even if it's Angry Birds or FarmVille), there's a better understanding in our culture about what games actually are.

And as that first-hand experience grows, the fear of games--born largely of ignorance--settles into the background. You can see the change taking place in any number of ways. When was the last time you heard Jack Thompson credited as a gaming expert in the papers or on TV? When you hear of shootings on the news, is your first reaction to consider the tragic loss of human life, or is it to cringe and wait for someone to blame violent games? Did you even hear anyone complain about activist judges legislating from the bench when the Supreme Court sided with the industry in Brown vs. EMA?

We've passed a threshold here. Stories that use ignorance to drum up public outcry about games are no longer the norm. And while mainstream media coverage of games is by no means perfect, it is most definitely getting better. Outlets like The New York Times, Forbes, Bloomberg, USA Today, and many more regularly churn out well-informed coverage of the gaming industry. I'd link something as evidence, but factually accurate and informed articles are so common in those places now there's no reason to single any of them out. Even Fox News--which was up in arms over sex scenes in the original Mass Effect and publicized the idea that violent games like Bulletstorm cause rape--has sat quietly on the sidelines while the menace that is Mass Effect 3 corrupts an entire generation with its mandatory hardcore gay sex at the title screen (and the ending that has caused its own outrage, presumably for its lack of gay sex).

"Stories that use ignorance to drum up public outcry about games are no longer the norm."

So things are getting better, and that's encouraging. But they'll never be great. The very nature of news, and of being a journalist, will ensure that mistakes are always made. Journalists--especially mainstream journalists--must become instant experts on everything they cover. For every story, they must know the topic at hand well enough to put it in understandable terms for their readership while retaining enough of the nuance to ensure accuracy. The more writers push beyond their core areas of expertise, the more honest mistakes are going to be made.

Having journalists tied to specific beats can help this problem, but there's no eliminating it entirely. Even at GameSpot, we have writers who are more acquainted with massively multiplayer online games than platformers, more familiar with fighters than real-time strategy. And even if the focus were to be narrowed down further, we would have staffers familiar with 2D fighters but not 3D, or Battle Fantasia but not BlazBlue. There is no end to the number of subjects a journalist will have to cover, and the broader an outlet's audience is, the more diverse the array of topics becomes.

So while I can't promise the local news will never again proclaim the 3DS a hotbed of hook-ups for child molesters, I can at least point out that things have improved. And just as the mainstream media has recognized that games have progressed to a cultural staple, so too should gamers recognize mainstream media has been making progress of its own.

Discussion

44 comments
baldrickhead
baldrickhead

@Damsog Lol. Couldn't agree more. 'Gaming' is just another moral panic that media and fanatical lobbyist groups can sink their teeth into. Oh and it's much easier and sensationally engaging for news reporters to use tags like violent gaming in their 15 second story, than it is to delve into the socio-economic changes of the past thirty or so years. In the end however the media will back off with their tail between their legs, since public awareness and the widespread proliferation of gaming into every aspect of life will mean that asking someone if they're a gamer will be like asking someone do they use a mobile phone. Murderers and non-murderers the world over will play games, the same way murderers and non-murderers the world over now watch movies or drink tea.

wilba789
wilba789

All it says is games like COD but not the game itself... Private chat is what they are talking about... nobody is blaming COD or saying they are using it to plan attacks. The main reason for using that name is most people have heard of it. But this is rubbish as gamer tags are linked to email accounts and I am sure they will just continue to use off the shelf Pay and go mobiles like they have done for years...

oldschoolvandal
oldschoolvandal

@freek33 completely agree. First we have to endure the COD haters repeating over and over how it sucks even when the topic was how cool Rayman Origins was....now we will have to survive COD terrorists? If the second are as dumb as the first there's nothing to worry!! hahahaha

oria
oria

Are they sure it's not people planning terrorist attacks AFTER playing MW3? Playing that game with the world's douchiest gaming community could make you give up hope for humanity...

scratchisme
scratchisme

@Erebus I think the mandatory gay sex was on-disk DLC.

scratchisme
scratchisme

I planned attacks all the time with my friends in CS, but those dang Counter Terrorists kept foiling our schemes. I'll get you VIP!!

JOYRIDEME
JOYRIDEME

Unless their plan involves directing a Micheal Bay film I am not sure how COD would help them. Stupid terrorist... use Operation flashpoint or Arma instead

Kickable
Kickable

another subset of loonies having the air taken out of them. congrats mankind, better late than never i guess

QQabitmoar
QQabitmoar

Why would they use CoD to plan attacks? It's hitscan and doesn't even have balistics! If you folks over at Al Qaeda are reading, you need to do it right and use Arma.

shadowysea07
shadowysea07

hahahahahahaahahahaha we have nothing to worry about then XD

Erebus
Erebus

What what? Mandatory hardcore gay sex at the ME3 title screen? So this is the kind of stuff I miss out on when I don't pay full price for 80% of AAA video games....

jspillen
jspillen

While I am an educated gamer and usually don't respond to the type of fear-mongering that blames video games for the world's violence... I do have an example in both directions. I was a Virginia Tech student at the time of the shooting and I was dreading hearing that lunatic was a gamer, but fortunately, he had never been into Video games. However, the guy who shot up that school in Norway killed 69 people and he directly sited Call of Duty: MW2 as his best training tool. He claimed it enabled him to prepare for so many different possiblilities within his attack. Lastly, Fox news is off the band wagon right now, in order to fully concentrate on getting a Republican elected for their greedy mega-money lobbyist masters. "Crazy like a Fox news" - Futurama

freek33
freek33

thought it was a bit much to ask that people actually talk about the topic and not to try and be funny about how bad they think MW3 is. It's so very VERY tired. It's not the best game in the world but it's also FAR from being the worst. If you don't like it, cool don't play it just stop banging on about it non stop

DAMSOG
DAMSOG

Every generation has it's scapegoat, something to blame for that generations problems.....rock and roll being a good example, video games for us and Justin Bieber for the next.....

Techn1c4l
Techn1c4l

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Boxxcar88
Boxxcar88

if terrorist are using COD to train, expect some 360 no-scopes. no bad that stuff dont work in real life lol

Tharkun89
Tharkun89

so terrorists are using video games to train and we have real military training. not concerned

jayjay444
jayjay444

Useing games like cod to plan attacks?? have they gone mad? this must be some sort of joke or some thing they cant be serious. P.S if they are useing games like cod to plan attacks then i feel that little bit safer because lets be fair games arnt any ware near real are they.

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

It was the same thing when rock and metal music was Evil ... you know ... Extrem Christian Red Neck who see Evil in everything. And well since when mainstream (everything mainstream as music, journalism, tv etc ) make quality product ???

PseudoElite
PseudoElite

Come on Tabloids are sensationalist in every sense on just about any subject Anyone who takes them seriously needs a brain check

Aztook
Aztook

I find this funny, because of these stories that call games bad and will ruin everything it makes people call bull to other storys the media pulls out, because lets face it, the number of gamers are growing even more by the year, and the age range of gamers are growing as well, and the number of people listening to the media is...well going down, I know many people get their news mostly from news blogs and such. I hope for the day media giants like Fox will be a thing of the past and the news will be more truth and facts and less...opinionated and political. but that might never come true lol.

Rocker6
Rocker6

Its just a passing trend.Masses always need something easy to blame,and there are parts of the media who exist only to find stupid things that can be villified,while ignoring real issues that matter... Now its the video game industry that is being villified since it only recently started its push towards mainstream,but Im sure back in the day,when the film industry was on the rise,it was being villified and blamed for everything all the same. For a couple of years,they'll come up with a new "blame" trend,while as always,no one will be acknowledging real issues...

GeneralArrow
GeneralArrow

Well Joe Baca is trying to pass a warning label for video games in congress again lol.

Slimm457
Slimm457

I wouldn't say mainstream media is "making progress", more like "looking for new a scapegoat to vilify"

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

I think there'll always be tabloid outliers who live on fear and fabrication, but the good thing is that, more and more, non-gamers are rolling their eyes and moving along, leaving only the core tabloid fanbase (mindless gossips) to be poisoned by this idiocy. The broader issue with news is that it's increasingly trending toward the negative. People just don't WANT to read good news, or at least that's the conventional wisdom these days. Combine that with the 24-hour networks and the blogosphere creating a "news as entertainment" ecosystem, I don't see game bashing letting up any time soon.

DukeMagnum
DukeMagnum

@AmalgamOfMeat Yeah, but I think the guy has somewhat of a point since nearly every single news outlet, and even ESPN, has ran stupid, stupid stories on video games, yet Fox News was the only one whose stupidity was specifically mentioned in this article. Notice the words the writer chose... "even Fox News", even being the keyword. The guy was saying even the worst culprit is doing a better job covering games today. And the writer's political beliefs very likely influenced his wording on a subconscious level. Thus there was a bias against Fox News here... albeit unintentional. Not that I really care one way or the other... just sayin'. I didn't need this article to tell me games are getting better quality coverage in mainstream media. Just the other day I read a pretty good article on Forbes about Mass Effect 3's day one DLC rubbing consumers the wrong way and how it doesn't help build or maintain brand loyalty, which is extremely important in business.

Tyblt
Tyblt

I disagree with just about everything in this article. . All forms of meida (including everything concerned with Gamespot), will always drum up ignorance, be a hotbed for peoples biases, and used as the battlecry for some cause or another. The reason is simple, everyone has their own opinions; and it's more often the "vocal minority" that gets listened to....When I say "vocal minority" I refer to those, most often on forums that post hundreds of times reguarding the same topic, on multiple webpages, spending hours upon hours replying to every post to their comment. As for Gamespot's "focused journalism", this leads to extreme biases reviewing games and slants on stories. Often times, it seems like certain genres of games or certain publishers are given better reviews than others.

genjuroT
genjuroT

If you don't want constant presidential bs and more world news, i'd recommend 'BBC world news America'. I use to watch cnn but it shows 90% politics now...

csftar
csftar

So Terrorists have ADHD, who knew.

inaka_rob
inaka_rob

@Jbul "I f***ing hate the news." ummmm.. isnt that a little too absolte? dont you think that maybe taking an educated stance towards it would benift you a little more in the long wrong. I agree news can be one-sided sometimes, depression most of the time, I think it important that we stay as informed as possple. Too many times somebody hears one thing and they jump on that bang wagon, or hear one fear mongering statment and fall behind that belief. How about you try to stay infmored from more than once source and use your judgment as to what might not be true, or what my be a politcal or even a comerical agenda. I like cnn.com a lot but it is quit clear plenty of times they post a lot of stuff just to get more hits so they will make more money. People dont realize that even in the heat of the iraq and afgan war the world was and STILL is a safer place than other point in human history. Violent crime is down all across the world. The news does portray that. They will print anything that gets them viewers/readers. That being said I would still rather understand the economic conditions of Europe and the political problems of the middle east. The news is your friends, but you have to choose and pick them wisely. and no blidny follow them is all.

AmalgamOfMeat
AmalgamOfMeat

@twztid13 I don't know what you're trying to say but this article has nothing to do with political leanings. He mentioned Fox news because they ran a particularly stupid and ignorant story demonizing video games, not because "REPUBLICANS IS DUMB LOL WUT U GONNA DO ABOUT IT COMMENTERS?"

toonsim2
toonsim2

What I loved about the article is that it said it teaches you to plant bombs, so you know your screwed if you see someone holding an xbox remote in a crowded area.

toddx77
toddx77

I remember comic books getting the same treatment back in the 70's. The older generation said they were corrupting the youth and turning them into murders and the same thing happened with video games. I bet in the next 10 to 20 years saying playing a FPS makes someone want to go and kill a bunch of people will sound as stupid as saying reading a batman comic with the joker can turn people crazy lol.

TehReaper
TehReaper

Terrorists, the boogeymen for adults!

twztid13
twztid13

I don't want to single anyone out, but everything is FOX NEWS' FAULT! San Fran libbies aren't biased, lol. Mistakes are only made my conservative stations that try to balance out the 10:1 ratio of left to right leaning news organizations.

Jbul
Jbul

I f***ing hate the news.

AmalgamOfMeat
AmalgamOfMeat

"Even Fox News--which was up in arms over sex scenes in the original Mass Effect and publicized the idea that violent games like Bulletstorm cause rape--has sat quietly on the sidelines while the menace that is Mass Effect 3 corrupts an entire generation with its mandatory hardcore gay sex at the title screen (and the ending that has caused its own outrage, presumably for its lack of gay sex). " Lol'd.

KamuiFei
KamuiFei

Mainstream media like Fox and CNN are too busy lying to the public about the GOP nominations to be concerned with smearing the video game industry.

jimgray1066
jimgray1066

I have been playing games for 20 years to better prepare for the inevitable zombie outbreak/robot revolution/alien invasion. The fact that you are suggesting my 10 's nay 100's of thousands of hours of kicking pixled ass and taking handles has not transferred to actual killing skillz infuriates me. Sure I have never held a gun and they kind of scare me but when s#!* goes down I will be prepared. Also if there is any chance I have pwned some n00b terrorist on COD then is it not better to accept the possibility that they too are out there trying to learn via games the same as I am (albeit for different reasons)? If for no other reason than bragging rights?? Please before your write an article like this think of me, think of my ego. Oh also well written, interesting article. I hope televison and movies take some time to try to portray gaming in a more realistic light as well. I'm looking at you NCIS. 'All the high scores on all the mmo's' indeed.

Fiscaldeal
Fiscaldeal

As the current gamer generation ages, I'm sure we'll see the acceptance of video games increase exponentially across many aspects of life; not just in the media.

obsequies
obsequies

its those young people that aren't in control that wreaked the world..damn hooligans