Myths and Legends

Myths and Legends
The Myth of the Media Myth

Brenda Brathwaite | 25 Mar 2008 12:54
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After all the questions and email back and forth, I haven't really progressed much past the question I had when I left that dinner party a few months ago: Where the hell is all this coming from? If not the media, where?

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Brian Ashcraft, Night Editor at Kotaku.com, said, "Sounds like fear of the unknown more than anything else. It's an easy way for people to deal with things they don't understand."

Dennis McCauley, Editor at GamePolitics.com, also saw it as a broader issue. "Videogames do suffer an image problem. It's part media creation, the FOX News effect, part generation gap and part the industry's own fault. It's hard to calculate, for example, the extent of the damage that a title like Manhunt 2 does to the overall public perception of the industry."

Alexander Sliwinski, Contributing Editor at Joystiq.com, attacked the myth at the core of the image problem. "The thing I love people saying is that videogames as a whole are violent. Mature rated titles made up only 6 percent of the rated games in 2007. If there's anything remotely over the top with one or two of those titles, it'll receive 90 percent of mainstream media's videogame attention for the year. Not only that, but many mainstream media stories pick up on games that aren't even rated and are 'outside the industry' like Super Columbine Massacre or JFK: Reloaded. It would be like the film industry being blamed for people making snuff films or amateur bedroom porn."

For David Edison, Associate Editor at GayGamer.net, the "image problem" has affected him personally, as it also affects me. "There's certainly a prevailing antipathy against gaming out there," he told me. "I'm a gay man living in lower Manhattan - in other words, I've got a pretty open-minded support network! And yet I've been rejected on dates for being a gamer, lost the respect of 'mainstream' friends by working in games media and spent more brainpower and tongue-time justifying the participation of adults in the videogames industry than I'm willing to admit. And almost without exception, those non-gamers who do accept games as a valid, mature, interactive art and entertainment medium do so only after having their standing biases challenged."

Ultimately, Edison arrived at the same conclusion I did. "To me, that implies that the biggest myth might indeed be that there is a media myth at all - that non-gamers rarely think about games until they have to, and then tend to dismiss the industry wholesale. That part seems to come pretty easily."

More and more, Edison sees a split between two extremes. "I see popular thought divided starkly between those who play, enjoy or appreciate interactive media and those whose feelings fall somewhere along the lines of 'I hate videogames,' 'Videogames are for kids' and 'There is no redeeming value to be found in gaming.' If you take the latter group, you hear two contradictory beliefs: that videogames are a children's medium, and that videogames are too violent and explicit for children. Just those two conflicting biases alone would be enough, I think, for a person unfamiliar with videogames to throw up their hands and be done with the subject until someone more invested works it all out."

This leaves us in the industry in a kind of context-sensitive limbo. Says Edison, "If you're more into Oprah than Okami, can you imagine how frivolous it must seem to watch Geoff Keighley defend Mass Effect on FOX News?"

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