Myths and Legends

Myths and Legends
The Myth of the Media Myth

Brenda Brathwaite | 25 Mar 2008 12:54
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I also talked with many in the development community about my findings, the myth of the media myth and the notable absence of any derisive sound bites directed at anti-videogame activists.

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Dave Taylor, who worked on Doom and Quake, and who is currently a producer and agent in the industry, agreed with me that it was sad, but wondered if the industry hadn't set a little bit of this fire, too. "I also feel that the game industry in its greed and desperation for sales has been negligent of this growing issue of the fallout of kids playing games. We're all about how addictive the game is, how much replayability there is and making sure it's a popular genre like FPS. That's fine and all, but the result is that you're creating a program that turns kids into game-playing automatons that spend a lot of time on it because of how addictive and replayable the games are, and that makes them very good at twitch reactions for hiding, jumping, crouching, shooting, lobbing grenades, etc. I agree that a great multiplayer FPS can teach valuable skills when it comes to teamwork and tactics ... but it doesn't improve the basics, like literacy, math skills, physical fitness and diet. These are a lot more important to responsible parents, and if your kid is either playing games all day or pining and whining to play games all day because his friends can, then you're not going to have a lovely view of the medium."

When I talked with Alyssa Finley, an executive producer at 2K Marin, I was surprised to hear that her experiences with non-gamers were so different from mine. "I haven't found this kind of attitude about games per se. But in my version of your dinner party anecdote, I start with 'I make games,' not 'I make videogames,' and I've never had a response like the one you describe. This leads me to wonder if the very term 'videogames' is the problem meme."

"If you asked your same set of 40 people how they feel about games, online games, board games, web games and finally videogames, I wonder where the vehemence would start to show up." I wonder, too, but my sample set is already polluted.

Josh Jones, a character artist at Bethesda Softworks, isn't sure these memes spread by word of mouth alone. "I'd argue that, although the sample group didn't directly cite any one report, that they have absorbed this information from many media sources over time. ... How many of the sample group are aware that the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre played games? I'm guessing that they all are aware. That was probably the single largest anti-game media maelstrom, and I bet for many people it helped cement [their] antipathy toward games."

Jake Simpson of Linden Lab thinks it's a cultural issue. "It's not the media that causes this; the media just responds to buttons that are already there. We are already afraid of the neighborhood murderer, so if the opportunity comes to push that button a bit, then sure, Big Media presses it. It means more attention for them. To a certain extent we as a culture somewhat perversely enjoy being frightened, so of course we are going to tune into 'Is your neighbor a closet murderer? Story at 10!' And while we are there, we get the story 'Videogames are bad for you' as an added bonus that's thrown into the mix just to keep it interesting and add some kind of validity. Because this kid beat another kid senseless, we as a culture have to justify and validate it."

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