There's no denying that TV and film have a great deal of influence on the popular consciousness, which is why we get so upset when their depictions of our beloved gaming fly so very wide of the mark. The truth is that outside of repeat offenders like serial crime dramas, visual media is improving at depicting gaming accurately. Since The Simpsons and Bart's arcade days there's been a slow movement within cult TV to portray regular people playing regular games. The geeky but well-adjusted Tim Bisley of British sitcom Spaced was regularly seen with a PlayStation controller in his hands, typically with little comment. Games were just something he liked, no big deal.
There's no denying that TV and film have a great deal of influence on the popular consciousness, which is why we get so upset when their depictions of our beloved gaming fly so very wide of the mark.
Now gaming is a frequent, accurately portrayed part of a growing number of TV shows including South Park, Futurama, and action-comedy Chuck. Hearing Morgan talk to Chuck about sniper rifles in Gears of War 2 makes us feel like we're watching our own. Meanwhile, in the 2007 film Reign Over Me Adam Sandler's character uses Shadows of the Colossus as an effective escapist tool for dealing with his emotional trauma. And 30 Rock's Liz Lemon has taken valuable parenting lessons from The Sims.
In some cases, however, the superficial accuracy is overrated. Just because The Big Bang Theory gets the names right that doesn't mean its portrayal of gamers is any less clichéd. House may feature shiny new handhelds but it uses them to represent House's inner man-child. Even Gamer correctly visually referenced Call of Duty and PlayStation Home, and look how that turned out.
TV and film have so much influence on the mainstream, much more than games do regardless of which industry is the commercially biggest; everyone goes to see the must-see film, not everyone plays the must-play game. TV and film writers are now growing up as gamers themselves, but they can still offer an external perspective that those of us closely tied to the industry, be we critics, developers, or core gamers, simply cannot, and there is unique value in that external perspective.
Sinan Kubba is a London-based freelancer whose work has appeared at Kotaku, Paste, and play.tm. He hosts the Big Red Potion podcast and has been known to wear his girlfriend's Pikachu slippers on occasion.