142: The Myth of the Media Myth

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The Myth of the Media Myth

"There are six of us around the table, and the conversation turns to what I do for a living, also known as 'my field of study' in academia. 'I'm a game designer and a professor,' I say. The dinner had been arranged by a third party in order to connect academics from various institutions for networking purposes.

"'You mean videogames?' one of the teachers asks. It's said with the same professional and courteous tone that one might reserve for asking, 'Did you pass gas?'"


Good read, it captured the tireless struggle of being an adult and carrying the video game with you. I've met parents who were for games and ones who were against it, so I will say it sounds like your dinner party was a bit biased.

It's interesting to think about trying to include older people into the scene. The ex-core and non-gaming crowd is a strange beast that wants a lot of compromises in game design. Short, easy to learn & play, and more mature content. That's a lot of changes that most gamers aren't going to like.

Great article. I tend to pose this question to most parents and adults I encounter who are prejudiced against violent or sexually explicit videogames: Would you ban your child from the library because there are some books about war, death, sex and rape?

The hypocrisy of videogame hate never ceases to amaze.

Brenda - great article. I'm forwarding this to a few anti-game, but otherwise open-minded people, I know. Often awareness of one's bias can be enough to shift the bias...

As a consumer I find it hard to understand why people fuss so much about the acceptance/non-acceptance of videogames in general.

Besides, many critics may be right, we probably spend to much time in our imaginary worlds and maybe Manhunt is to violent for us.

Cant we just explain ourselfs by saying "Its fun" and let the nutters yell themselfs hoarse?

Excellent article Brenda! And congrats on the IGDA directatorship!

Cant we just explain ourselfs by saying "Its fun" and let the nutters yell themselfs hoarse?

Sure we can, if we want to risk videogames ending up like comic books. And if we really think that the people that work in the industry are innately wrong for doing so. Sure, Rock and Roll emerged from similar turmoil, but that was because it had plenty of supporters working to change its perception.

Perception means a lot.

The most telling part is that many of the people who speak out against videogames have also grown up with them. Instead of growing up with an acceptance, they've been alienated in some way, and that's a very bad trend for an emerging industry.

I really enjoyed reading your article - thanks very much.

I have a few points to make, in no particular order:-

1) Games are definitely addictive I know because I have been addicted to them and playing at 4am when I have to go to work 4 hours later. There again, I suspect that virtually all pleasurable sensory activities are addictive. If a person was not addicted to games they may well be addicted to something more harmful.

2) What parents probably will not say is how pleased they are that they know where their kids are and know that they are keeping themselves occupied and not being a pain around the house.

3) The media is the source of the problem, their objective is to sensationalise everything. Only emotions sell papers and gain viewing figures. Think of some of the seven deadly sins (no I am not at all religious), these are the media's tools to sell advertising space. Hate, lust, envy, greed... and anything else that gets the emotional juice flowing will lead to repeat newspaper purchases or more TV viewers. The media drives opinion far more than it represents opinion.

4) Games are an easy target because they are typically believed to be played by younger people and younger people typically have less of a voice. They certainly do not populate the upper echelons in the media industry.

5) The damage that games do (and let's face it they do some damage because there is rarely smoke without fire), is negligable in comparison with the damage done by false media representation (eg. pretending crime/terrorism/the economy/disease etc is worse than it really is).

6) Hollywoood, the film industry and popular culture does far more to harm society than games ever will. We rarely see the amount of fuss made over films which glorify violence and yet these are real people performing imaginable acts which cause pain and suffering and in some cases depicted as the heroes/heroines for doing so.

7) Games can be very educational. My personal obsession was with WWII games and I actually learnt a great deal about the conflict by playing them. I also taught myself to program because of my love for games and wanting to replicate them.

8) Games are a great deal of fun. I have had many gaming highs and not very many lows. I have also made friends through games and was an active part of a large community in a perpetual online fantasy game. I got to know my compatriots so well that I feel we actually enhanced the quality of each others lives through our shared experiences online - yep, I really mean it.

9) Games definitely result in less exercise and less face to face socialising - let's face it, it's a fact. It only becomes harmful though if people spend all day doing nothing else. I do not see the same level of criticisim levelled at people who just watch TV all the time. I'd sooner my child was playing games than watching TV because they are actually doing something rather than doing nothing or being indoctrinated by the box in the corner of the room. Although, having said that, I'd sooner my child did a mix of several things rather than just watch telly or play games.

Well, that's all I can think of right now. Just thought I'd get that off my chest !

I'll be back :)

An interesting and thought provoking read though there are definitely dangers to video gaming, why just this last weekend I missed out a roast dinner because my mother was too busy playing her DS to prepare it (granted I did buy her the DS so i did indivertibly sow the seeds of my own discontent) the story has a happy ending though as she decided to go and buy a KFC in recompense.

In the article, you quote Alexander Sliwinski saying that only 6% of games are M-rated as an argument against the assertion that games on the whole are violent. This seems like a spurious argument - Streetfighter contains violence, and isn't M-rated. A better stat might be the percentage of games that contain no violence (shooting, hitting, killing, blowing up, etc.), or, better, even the percentage of revenue that the games industry recieves from games that contain no violence. Do you, or anyone else, have an idea of what those numbers might be?

For a reasonable guesstimate, taking all PS2 titles that sold over 1.5 million copies gives 89 million copies that don't feature violence, compared to 153 million copies that do. The games on the nonviolent list are racing games, sports games, the Guitar Heroes, Kingdom Hearts (and that one's debatable), and the Eye Toy pack. Taking these numbers, almost 2/3 of all PS2 games include violence.

Good article and a fine summary of the issue.

My take on the issue is that Games appear to be more all consuming than say, film, as they are longer. If you had a film that was really good, and lasted 20 hours, wouldnt you want to spend as much time as possible focused on completing it?

We need to validate it as art through language, act haughty, create an indecipherable nomenclature for the elements of video games and obfuscate, you'll get credibility and noone will be able to argue with you.

We need to validate it as art through language, act haughty, create an indecipherable nomenclature for the elements of video games and obfuscate, you'll get credibility and noone will be able to argue with you.

Hell yeah, video games need an Andy Warhol figure to come and save them.

We need to validate it as art through language, act haughty, create an indecipherable nomenclature for the elements of video games and obfuscate, you'll get credibility and noone will be able to argue with you.

Lol, what a great suggestion :)

Games will become... intellectually untouchable !

pbar - by far the vast majority of games are rated E (59% in 2007), or E 10+(15% in 2007), (for a total of 74%). And T rated violence is on Power-Ranger levels (funny, I remember when that was a big deal to have kids watching/emulating that). Your numbers are false and arbitrary. Your "guesstimate" is not reasonable or even remotely accurate. Its probably more "2/3rds of games dont feature any, or a miniscule amount of violence of any nature." Also, KH features combat, I dont even know why you would include it in that list. It also depends, do you consider mario stomping on abstracted mushrooms and turtles to be violent? I dont. Many of the "skateboarding" or other "extreme sports" games get rated T, yet feature no violence (other than falling down). I would argue that Madden is more violent than say, Mario, but whatever. Your guess is flat out wrong. Please do the MINIMAL bit of research it would take to find out information along those lines (protip: www.esrb.org)

Anyway, on the subject of the article:

I think whether people admit to it or not, popular media has done more to ruin the reputation of video games and video gamers than anything else. Hell, even D&D was demonized back 25-30 years ago. I would think most "academics" would consider themselves current on the news, so they watch their news channel of choice, and absorb it all. How many of them even know what Shadow of the Colossus is? Ico? None of the games who so redily put forth the idea of games as art ever get mentioned on the news. Manhunt and GTA do, because they are blood soaked gore fests turning our children into mindless killing machines! The games industry is hardly helping, such as Mass Effects development "leaking" knowledge of human-alien lesbian scene. But, to make an analogy, the games industry can hardly be blamed for making a popular, potentially addictive product. Just as Budweiser is free of blame for alcoholics, you cannot blame Blizzard or Take2 or whomever for making a product that YOU got addicted to. As mentioned in previous posts, Popular media sensationalizes anything they can get their hands on, just watch ANY TV between like 5pm and whenever the news comes on. You get brief spots designed to "scare" you into watching the news at 10 or 11 or whenever. "COULD THE NEIGHBORS CHILD NEXT DOOR BE A MASS MURDERER IN WAITING?" "COULD SOMETHING IN YOUR HOUSE BLOW UP TEH PLANETS??/" "WHY YOU MITE DIE IN YOUR SLEEP!!1" and such.

It is quite ridiculous. Obviously it gets people to watch, which, to them, I suppose is all that matters. Ill stick with BBC news and other news sources from around the globe, thanks.

Any parent who fears video games is delusional, and should be forcibly shown the ratings system. I do agree with the assertation that parents will be against ANYTHING that children are in to or do, but I think video games are still a special case. Any parent who makes it "impossible" for their children to play video games at home, is essentially casting them to the world for the world to educate them on the content in video games. Are parents really so delusional to think that if they ban video games in their house, that their child won't go out and find their own way to play? Be it a Gamestop store, or more likely, a friends house. Forbidding children from having things due to (soley) some moral ground is (IMO) a poor developmental stance. (Which isnt so different from parents forbidding their children from having sex, without giving any education on the matter)

It is a pompous and ridiculous attitude to take that games are for children. Its even more ridiculous to think that games cannot be "Art." Anyone who holds these attitudes should be locked in a room with Shadow of the Colossus and Grim Fandango, and they cannot come out until they beat them.

Of course games are addictive and have adverse effects upon behaviour; they even skew socialisation in youth and adults. This has been shown true many times over for hockey, football, soccer, rugby, lacrosse... what, I'm supposed to stick with just the video varieties?

(And why is it any more acceptable to waste your time vegetating in front of a TV watching some other people play than it is to do so while playing a game oneself?)

-- Steve

It's been interesting, growing up as a gamer from the age of, oh, five or so, and seeing the effect it had on my parents.

By the age of ten, I was meeting resistance as I dossed away on my SNES and Master System, they insisted I go out and play with my friends, ride my bike, anything but sit on my arse, playing games.

When I hit fourteen, something changed - with the arrival of my PS1 and my brother finally grasping the finer points of Mario Kart, my mum and dad because more understanding. Thanks to the multitap, we could play together. Indeed, a very fond childhood memory of mine was my mother cackling with glee as she lauched a red shell into my unsuspecting exhaust pipe. My father was digging up my Starfox cartridges and having a blast - being a big air-combat entheusiast.

By playing with us, instead of watching, they began to see the appeal of it, how gaming and be fun, and bring people together.

Now, I've hit 20, my dad owns his own 360 and every Tom Clancy game under the sun, and my mum, whilst drifting away from our gaming sessions, is still understanding and considerate. In return, we're always there for four or five hours of evening family time.

Moods are changing, but I think it takes a little effort on the part of the gaming kids to show their parents that they aren't the twitching, reclusive demi-psychopaths that the media portray them as.

Well, except people who play CS. They're freakin' nuts.

It's not all bad, the media focus I mean. I remember not too long ago reading about a man who managed to provide medical aid to victims of a car crash, he was able to do so because of what he had learnt in the game. (Americas Army, I think it was) But... ask me to think of any other positive news feeds on gaming and I think I'll come up short. Especially in comparison to all the negative tales I could tell (and of course, their alleged authenticity).

Unfortunately It's more likely that as a society we focus more on the bad than the good. As an example... if somebody makes a purchase, of anything... and that purchase goes a little south for whatever reason... 'not as described', 'postage took forever' etc... people will hear about it, they will tell all their friends not trust 'so and so'. But when that purchase goes as smooth as a well oiled machine, there is no 'after'... no telling people about an amazing transaction, just silence. Everybody continues as if nothing had ever happened. We simply expect the natural order of things to be "good", so when it is, we carry on... (thus, others never really hear about it) and when it isn't, we slam on the brakes and get pissy.

As for the general attitude of non-gamers on the topic of games. From my experience I've not had any problems with simply talking about games, I think most people I know play games, some more than others, some hardly ever. There's no hate there though.


When it comes time to tell people what it is I do with my life, and where it is I would like to end up, there is most certainly a change in tone. I'm at that point right now where It's likely for me to meet up with old school friends who I've not seen in years and somewhere at the very beginning of all first (re)conversations comes that question that I'm never really sure how to answer. "So, what are you doing with yourself nowadays buddy?"

For the record, I'm not in the industry 'yet', I start applying for 3D Artist positions in about a month or so (hopefully less... need to work faster).

As soon as I've layed my answer down, the conversation turns from full of life and excitement into a fluttering water-bound creature that has somehow managed to jump from its ocean filled home onto a hot sandy beach. "Oh,... erm... cool" is a usual response. I wouldn't say it's sarcastic, though that point could be argued. I'd say it's more so down to a lack of understanding on their part. But why should they understand? I don't know the first thing about plumbers...(aside from the nice financial reward, though I have no idea 'how' I came to know that) but if an old friend told me he was one, I wouldn't stare at him blankly or feel awkward about questioning him more on his career.

I'm beginning to lose my point here... so I'll stop. Cheers for the article, it was a very interesting read, I'll be passing it on to a few people.

Oh, and congrats on your new Chair job Brenda!

An absolutely wonderful article. Being one who's aspiring to enter the Video Game industry, hopefully some people will address this situation. I remember the very first game I ever played, Doom, when I was just three years old. I very much believe that parents can get involved with their children in video games. I used to sit down and play Mario Party 1 with my family every Friday night.

Its interesting that you mention the effect that the term 'video games' has on people's perception. In the UK, the gaming revolution began largely on the home computers, most notably the Spectrum and the C64. It was only really with the SNES and Megadrive (Genesis) that the consoles began to dent this market, and even then the likes of the Amiga were putting up a good fight. This lead to, at least initially, the term 'computer games' being more popular than 'video games.' This has now changed to a certain extent, possibly due to the greater dominance of consoles in the market place, but I still find I vastly prefer the term 'computer game' (or 'console game' if you feel computer is inappropriate for the likes of the 360, PS3 and Wii) to 'video game' as I feel that latter has always sound childish and derisive.

It'll pass. Someone will invent something new and the focus will shift. It happened with jazz, rock and roll, hip hop. It happened with Dungeons and Dragons, comics and television. It happened with almost every scientific breakthrough.

A while ago, some guy decided it'd be a lark to see where the edge of the earth was and started a world of shit, and in a few years from now the good fellows at CERN will compile the data they got when they switching on the LHC and find out some ground-breaking stuff about the creation of the world as it is and more shit will go down.

And in centuries from now there'll be new music, new illicit activities, new media, new entertainment and some old fart in what passes for a futuristic suit and Dr. Phil's Head In A Jar will try and convince the world it's destroying our kids.


Just as Budweiser is free of blame for alcoholics, you cannot blame Blizzard or Take2 or whomever for making a product that YOU got addicted to.

Any parent who fears video games is delusional, and should be forcibly shown the ratings system. ... Any parent who makes it "impossible" for their children to play video games at home, is essentially casting them to the world for the world to educate them on the content in video games. Are parents really so delusional to think that if they ban video games in their house, that their child won't go out and find their own way to play? ... Forbidding children from having things due to (soley) some moral ground is (IMO) a poor developmental stance. (Which isnt so different from parents forbidding their children from having sex, without giving any education on the matter.)

Now mind you, I would like to say that I do agree with you in part, but these two sections have me shaking my head in disagreement. I may not be able to blame a videogame designer for creating a game that is addictive any more than I can blame the Beer/Wine/Spirits industry for creating beverages that are addictive, but the principle here is a little different. The alcoholic beverages industry tells you on the bottle how much of the addictive substance is in the bottle by percent or proof, and is for sale to adults only and to be consumed by adults only as mandated BY LAW. It is assumed that adults are old/mature enough to be responsible for their own indulgences and we have consequences in place if they choose not to be.
The videogame industry is deliberately creating a potentially addictive substance/experience for children. Children, even teenagers, generally do not possess the reasoning capability to decide for themselves when enough is enough. There is biological evidence to support that brain/reasoning development continues into the late teens and early twenties. This is why we do not sell alcohol to children, setting aside that there are definite medical consequences for overindulgence. Children may or may not become addicted to videogames, just as adults may or may not become addicted to alcohol, but adults are of an age to decide for themselves just how much is enough and suffer the consequences if they choose poorly.
This brings me to the second point. Good parenting involves setting healthy limits for your children. If you believe that certain videogames are inappropriate for your child then as a parent you have the right to say that in your house your rules stand for your child until your child moves out, has their own house, and can make their own rules. If you are morally against ALL videogames ... I agree that the logic there is faulty. Banning your child from videogames will make him/her a social pariah in much of today's culture, however, there is something to be said for encouraging him/her into developing other artistic, musical, physical, and social talents instead. As a parent, it is your right and responsibility to make the best decisions for your child based on their welfare and benefit as you possibly can. It is also your responsibility to be well-educated on whatever you are making decisions on, and this applies to more things in life than just your children. Do I think that it is wrong to forbid your children to have sex while they live in your house under your roof for purely moral reasons? Absolutely not. However, you still have a responsibility to educate your children about sex because the media and culture of today are going to tell them about it and you might not agree with what they have to say. The media and much of today's culture romanticizes, rationalizes, and welcomes sexual expression and experiences. It downplays or outright ignores abstinence as a form of birth control. It devalues a very special experience that should be shared only with someone you deeply care for, trust, and value. If you've created an environment of love, trust, respect, and responsibility, then your children are going to be more likely to respect your wishes when it comes to what you do and do not want them doing and that goes for relationships/sex, videogames, drinking, drugs, and likely anything else you can think of. They may not like what you have to say on the matter, but they will respect your decision until they can choose for themselves. Forbidding your children from doing something on a purely moral ground is a perfectly good reason to do so, provided that you have done thourough research, explained to them why you have chosen this stance, and have built a home based on the aforementioned principles. If you respect your children and behave in a way that is logical and provides a good framework for appropriate behavior, then your children should model that behavior, because it is consistent with what is considered just and right. Telling your children they can't drink when you get drunk every night in front of them is a poor model for behavior. Telling your children they can't play videogames because they all contain satanic references is both illogical and shows lack of research. Your children are more likely to refrain from playing addictive games if *you* do not play addictive games and you define your reasons in logical processes. "I think we can find better things to fill your day" is acceptable because you have said "we." If they can't play videogames, then perhaps there is another place where you can steer their desires that you can find and explore together. As a family. It shows that you are interested in who they are and what they want. It's respectful of them while you ask them to be respectful of you; it's a good model for behavior.
A parent who fears videogames isn't delusional, he/she's un/mis-informed. Ratings don't cover all definitions of acceptability to all people. The child who has gone out and found his/her own way to play videogames against his/her parents' wishes has parents who have something more fundamentally wrong with them and their parenting style than an un/mis-informed ban against videogames.

This is not a double post.
[From the article] Dave Taylor: "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."

This is precisely my view of videogame development as it exists today. Videogames can be a great facilitator of various features of character education. But character education isn't all that children need to learn. When parents allow (and unfortunately in many cases it is that they simply allow and do not put a stop to) their children's *unhealthy* interest in videogames, then they are allowing their children to neglect other facets of their education. Ultimately it IS the parent's responsibility to decide what, when, and how long their children will play. However, the videogame industry isn't making it any easier on the parents when sections between saves become longer and longer, or you set up to do a raid on WOW that will take multiple hours to complete. (Not that WOW is marketed to children, but you get the idea...) Videogames for children need to have more convenient features like easy saves and pick-up-put-down playability. I LOVE Fire Emblem for precisely that reason. Saving is EASY. The pick-up-put-down is 100% there. It has GREAT replayability. Videogame designers should perhaps focus as much on who controls the purse-strings (that was an old reference...) as the audience it is trying to hook. Wouldn't parents be more likely to buy your games if they had an easier time getting their kids to finish their homework and go to bed even though the gameplay and storyline is so addicting that it'll keep the kids playing for months (and keep their parents buying sequels)? And while you're at it... throw in a line about eating a balanced diet, or about how playing soccer is a great activity when you're not busy saving the world! Hey kids, math is fun! [I'm gonna be a math teacher...] Kids generally listen to their heroes more often than to their parents anyway. ^_^

I think the writer tainted the pool anyways by asking "what do you HONESTLY think about X". I don't know why, but adding the word HONESTLY seems to make people want to give negative responses. Try a little experiment. Ask your same people what they "honestly" think about other things, particularly things that you think everybody should be okay with. I'm pretty sure that your answers are still going to be negatively slanted.

Oh, and about introducing your profession in public: I think it has more to do with the idea that games are for kids (and thus must not be healthy) that makes people cringe when they hear an adult is in that profession. I also think it is jealousy, as they wish their job was as fun as they assume yours is. They then draw upon what the media has told them in order to "verify" their opinion, so that they don't seem selfish. Getting people to actually explain the real reason they don't like something is difficult, because, often times, they don't even know themselves, and subconsciously make it up as they go along. I know I do!

Oh, and about introducing your profession in public: I think it has more to do with the idea that games are for kids (and thus must not be healthy) that makes people cringe when they hear an adult is in that profession. I also think it is jealousy, as they wish their job was as fun as they assume yours is. They then draw upon what the media has told them in order to "verify" their opinion, so that they don't seem selfish. Getting people to actually explain the real reason they don't like something is difficult, because, often times, they don't even know themselves, and subconsciously make it up as they go along. I know I do!

I agree wholeheartedly, though of course this is not the sole reason. But a very accurate one. Let me explain a bit:

I work for a telecommunications company that is extremely large, employs a LOT of people and basically holds a major market share of the telco industry - mobile (cell) phones, terretrial (land line) phones and the internet. We were founded by the government when Australia first got on its feet and were a government department designed and founded to create and operate the country's phones. So, being tax paid and the only one we grew strongly.

Then we privatised, got into mobiles and the internet and suddenly the media had us in their sights and suddenly the flavour of the decade was articles and media commentary on how we were a monopoly, how little old ladies got massive bills they couldn't pay and how we were more expensive than our competitors.

So now when I tell people where I work, I have to be careful or I'll get that look you get when you tell people you work for Satan and/or a telemarketing company. Of course, out of 2.5 million internet customers alone and a whole lot more land line customers, we're still number one in terms of customer satisfaction and quality - but that less than 2% that complain make our lives a misery. All because the media has instilled this opinion that my company is horrible.

Great article Brenda!
I NOTE that there will always be those who point at the new thing and find it scary (and try to capitalize on it).
I HOPE that with our persistent, informative and respectful conversations to the general non-gamer population we can defuse their concerns.
I KNOW that over time this will become a non-issue as gamers age and increase their demographic penetration to pretty much everyone.
The main concern is how can we advance that education and stop any negative legal restrictions from being implemented until games are no longer scary? We have games industry representatives at work, but everyone in gamer culture could do ourselves a favor by putting out good facts that show the truth about games. Here is the ESA link to the top 10 facts about games and gamers. http://www.theesa.com/facts/top_10_facts.php

As noted, you can't really explain this through any cultural/political split like Harv Smith did. It is (video game violence effects), in my experience, the one thing that all sides tend to agree on. I wrote a sociology project on my local Quake and Quake 2 deathmatch scene. This was new stuff at the time and the teachers were very encouraging. It was so long ago all the cultural criticism texts were still banging on about the 'meaning' of vast data storage like CDROMs, the simulacra of FMV games like 11th Guest etc and were hopelessly out of date (even being only a couple of years old). Academia was moving too slow to keep up. As a result what a wrote was mainly descriptive and half of the page count was an extensive appendix and glossary so people had some idea what I was talking about (when I had tried to describe online gaming in class people would go off on tangents related to Freud/Lacan film theory and Beaudrillard at what I said. I wanted to make clear that this was nothing like any medium previously seen and all current theories were inadequate.)
Anyway, after I submitted the criticisms came pretty evenly across the board; "I don't know how you can delve into a community like this and not address the terrible violence it is based upon." At the time I was stunned. I had heard such stuff before of course, but usually from bleating rightwing church going pundit types (who don't hold quite the sway in Australia that they do Stateside, thankfully). My university was notorious as an open minded, free thinking, hippy pinko enclave (hell, it's partly why I went there) and some of the staff at my little school were tenured godfathers of these principles who'd been there since the start. asking around it seemed to be the tacit assumption of fellow students as well. If we had these sorts of people offside we really were screwed, I thought at the time. The Columbine massacre was still over a year away (geez I'm old). This kind of thinking was just taken for granted.
It was interesting to look into as the thought of quake2 DM as in any way "violent" never even occured to me. Seems silly I suppose in one sense but, without getting in to too semantic chicanery, I don't think it is, in any physical or psychological sense, violent and the graphical representation of violent acts must be separated from those ideas and assessed in context. Afterwards I started trying to figure out "violence" and I kept running into a philosophical wall. It's a bit OT, but the only way to solve it, in short, was if violence holds a special place in the mind/brain and almost nothing can touch it, certainly not a silly game. Emotions are not on a linear scale from calm to excited to agressive to angry to murderous rage, even if it feels like it is sometimes. I haven't really delved into it for years so I'm quite behind on all the psych and neuroscience in those areas these days. But that's vaguely where my view did not accord with the accepted assumptions about how it all works, and that was the problem.
My point is, as it occured to me later; these folks were of that humanities school of the late seventies and early eighties and in that post structuralist world symbolism is as good as truth. The advent of the FPS really worried these guys as they'd been reading Lacan and Beaudrillard for years and those guys bang on about how mediated life is and how, in effect, we are what we watch (extensions of notions that we are what we read. Much of this stuff is barely reconstructed Whitgensteinian stuff). Here were games where there was no seperation, as they saw it. You weren't controlling anyone doing terrible things anymore; they were your eyes now, your hands firing the shotgun. That's almost as good as doing it yourself to them. If you're doing it in a game the shape of your thoughts are the same as those in real life. (And that's where I 'violently' disagree. Incidentally most scientific MRI type studies of the gaming brain work from a similar assumption and most psych studies delight in finding links between feelings of 'aggression' and games playing. So I might be way off. Yet to find a study that repeats the same questions with football, however). These supervisors of mine would have been the sort of lefty intellectuals against censorship in the arts, keen to debunk the Hayes code and the Wertham comic book theories, would have loved outing religious opposition to rock and roll as segregation by another name etc etc. Games though were valueless and even dangerous indulgences still beyond the pale.
The typical right wing conservative side takes a view of human psychology along the lines of 'monkey see-monkey do'; sounds the same sort of thing, but it's not quite. It does, however, allow people to arrive at the same opinion of games on both sides of the cultural divide.
My tutor did confess to me that he might not be looking at it properly. He felt he'd seen what too much fantasy can do when one of his friends in a D&D group went mad and murdered another.
Of course, in the years since the backlash has only gotten worse as graphics have improved and games got popular. But now there are at least more academics who will go into bat for games, where ten years ago there were practically none. I reckon the broad 'sides' of western culture still find it pretty easy to agree that games a negative and corrupting influence though, even if it's for different reasons. And the media effects argument is unlikely to be resolved until we hit the level of simulation in The Matrix and see what that does to people. It's gonna be a long road back from frogger.
(christ it's a bloody essay! Sorry. Consider the volume of verbage representative of my view on the quality of the Escapist and its articles.)

On topic of literacy...

Playing through Mass Effect with subtitles on definitly won't hurt your literacy skills. Even without subtitles, I'm sure vocabulary would be slightly improved as well. It is a VERY dialogue heavy game, with a very complex story of higher quality then a lot of childrens literature.

I agree with Clint Hocking.

Remember, Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent and the deterioriation of the once vibrant comic book industry in the US? No one realizes that it was exactly going overboard with accomodation with those who never read a comic in their lives and were horrified by the insubordinate "obscenity" THAT THEY WERE TOLD ABOUT that was contained within. That is what ultimately killed the industry. What made it appealing to the younger generations was stripped away...and the industry dwindled. The Comic Code, which ultimately controlled content that could or could not be shown, basically killed an entire industry.

Here we go again.

At least the Wertham of our generation, Jack Thompson is incompetent and insane. But has there been any in depth reports in mainstream media on his disbarrment proceedings? No. Not really. Because if the personification of Big media's and the politically conservatives' opposition to games would be shown to be worse than wrong but insane. The average person would deduce that well...if the piper is that messed up.....

Of course the TV, newspapers, and magazines are ALWAYS right.....HAHAHAHA good one. Let me wipe my nose on my copy of the Wall Street Journal. And use the Fox News Network to cure me of this laughter. Bad idea. Makes me laugh even more. But in a generation or so, Fox will be irrelevant (probably why Murdoch hedged his bets and bought MySpace)and that palpable desperation they have now for viewers through their pandering makes me laugh even more.

Look outreach is fine. Education is fine. But damnit don't let them influence the games we design, code, draw, record audio, and market for. But the only way to educate effectively to the older audience is to use Big Media. The same Big Media which is losing revenue to us.Yeah. right. They are really going to help educate people to enjoy what is essentially the entertainment medium which will force them to lose their prominence and market.

No. It's not going to happen. Not at least in a meaningful way.

So I say...they are irrelevant now and they will be irrelevant later. As a marketer, as a business development guy...yes I want to reach larger audiences but my core target is and will always be under 40. Hell under 35. Let the desire for this older audience simplify user interaction and other technical aspects. But hands off of the content and assets. That's what the music industry, the TV industry and the movie industry did sem-right when they were confronted with EXACTLY THE SAME DAMN UNFOUNDED AND HYSTERICAL PERCEPTIONS AND MYTHS. Which the comic book industry failed to do. Protect the content and the right to fashion content that appeals to our and younger generations.

No. The important thing is to educate our generations NOW to not react to what comes after games as the primary entertainment media in the same stupid, reactionary, and ignorant way the baby boom generation is reacting to games now. Like the "Great American" generation before that reacted to Rap...to Rock and roll...to TV....to comic books. Let's end this cycle of fear baiting. This blame on media of the issues that have more to do with human rights, economics, war and religion than games.

Let's educate ourselves not to be the same idiots and fools.

OK, here's where I hobble out on my walker and say I remember when there weren't any video games to blame and people were still saying, "It will make our children brain-dead, psychopathic, and socially stunted." Of course they were saying this about television. My mother's house is still not wired for cable of any sort, because watching TV is a morally bankrupt activity and she's not going to pay to be able to do more of it. And yet, despite being protected from the corrupting influence of Showtime, I grew up just as alienated and screwed up as anyone else.

I think that we have a subconscious cultural awareness that we really aren't spending time with our kids and it freaks us out. We don't have dinner together, we watch TV in different rooms, and now the kids sit playing games for hours on end, oblivious to the family around them which, to be honest, they'd probably be oblivious to anyway, it just wouldn't be so notably focused on one object.

Some parents will proudly declare that they do not allow their kids to play video games or watch TV. These are frequently the same parents that have their kids signed up for umpteen different sports leagues, music lessons, or after-school programs. Well, this is all great, but they STILL aren't actually spending time with their kids, unless you count the drive time back and forth. Whether the kids are off playing soccer or playing the latest Super Mario game, they still aren't talking with their parents. So this anxiety about losing touch with our kids continues to grow and collect around the available cultural flashpoint, which is now videogames. I would argue that even the wave of comic book censorship in the '30s and '40s was a manifestation of this.

It is not inherently corrosive to their development for kids to watch TV, but if kids watch TV with their parents and talk about what they are watching (as opposed to sitting side by side staring at the same screen) that can be a great learning and bonding experience. I would suggest to a parent who is concerned about how much time their son or daughter is spending playing video games that they play video games with their kids. You want to engage your kid in conversation, have them explain the gameplay mechanics and strategies to you. I have never seen a kid fail to open up to an adult who asked to be taught how to play.

Just think, if you learn to play and enjoy games with your kids, you now have something in common that you can always talk about that isn't school and isn't prying into their slowly developing personal lives, though I bet once you are clutching a controller alongside them, you'll start to hear more about that as well. In selecting games that you can play together, you actually get to engage your kid in a conversation about how their tastes and yours intersect and why each of you likes what you like. Where else are you going to get a conversation like that? You don't listen to the same music, you probably don't watch the same TV shows, and you probably don't read the same books. Gaming could conceivably be the only medium you can really enjoy together.

Sure, with games there's a content issue. Same with movies, TV, and yes! even books! My god, if my mother only realized what I was reading when I was 13! Lots of sci-fi and fantasy, but we're talking Theodore Sturgeon's Venus Plus X and Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books here. And she thought D&D was a danger to the salvation of soul but let me run around with Gene Wolf's Shadow of the Torturer under my arm.

A big part of keeping games from being scapegoated is to acknowledge the anxiety that fuels the frenzy. In a way, I think it would be a relief to a lot of parents to decide that they are the victims of the video game boogeyman that sneaks into their houses and steals their kids off the couch - that way they wouldn't have to face their role in their alienation from their kids. So I think people who care about games need to call them on this. I do think the other big part is for the games industry to make sure they mind their obligations as contributors to the culture, because they aren't just a passtime any more, they are a way we tell ourselves stories about who we are. They are The Media now, too.

This was a really great article, but considering the writer, I'm not surprised.

I think that the media's need to report the sensationalized topics is part of this. After all, it's far more boring to report that everything is working fine than to say that everything is totally jacked up. While I totally understand that topics of interest mostly revolve around things that are bad rather than things that are good when it comes to the media or the news, I also think that people should see that there are two sides to every story.

I agree that the negative connotation to games is comparable to the negative connotation attached to what was considered entertainment before the gaming industry got into full swing, whether that is TV, music of a certain genre, or something else. The way that all those other entertainment mediums became accepted was a certain degree of positive coverage for them. If there was a bit more positive press for games along with some education, they wouldn't be so demonized by people who didn't know any better. They'd rather point to the one story of how someone died after playing games for 48 hours straight or the person who got physically assaulted for killing someone else in a video game and say that games in general are bad, when in fact those are extremes you can find in any one bit of media entertainment.

Warning if you don't like HARSH reality then stop reading.

This doesn't surprise me since the media has been a problem since its conception and generally in the US or any country the Media is a damage control system geared to keeping the current regime in a good light and propagating their disinformation on as many topics as possible. China is currently practicing it with the Tibetan monks, they block youtube videos and in a more relaxed and covert way so does the US. One could consider the Media being the 4th branch of the government. There is reason to believe that 9/11 is not what it seems. The American College of Physicians wants to research the effects of Marijuana as a Medicine but can't because of the disinformation of it through the reefer madness era and it could be the cure for cancer. Carl Marx noted a pattern for things first there is economic creation and then there is social limitation no matter what is made people will make laws against it. For every drug that is synthesized or found there is an equal amount of banning and scheduling. Florida state Rep. Mary Brandenburg is quoted saying "As soon as we make one drug illegal, kids start looking around for other drugs they can buy legally. This is just the next one," in the current process to make Salvia a drug that has been legal since the 1990's illegal. Where do the corruption and lies end?

I would like to say I don't think videogames are bad, I think _BAD_ videogames are bad.

It's just like literature, film, activity, food etc. Games that are social, cooperative, and need critical thinking are great. Also there are games which are asocial, hyper competitive, and mindless. I don't think violence is what makes a game bad. SWAT 4 is an example of running in and shooting the bad guys, plenty violent. But I think it's a good game for your brain especially if played cooperatively with friends. Screaming obscenities at your fallen Halo adversaries listening to Linkin' Park should only be done for short periods of time.

The main problem, I think, with anti-video game people is that they still view games as simple pixels upon a TV screen, devoid of story and substance, and gamers as socially-maladjusted shut-ins, wasting away, totally lost in a fantasy world. The fact that some games, such as Half-Life, have complex stories far beyond some novels today is unimmaginable to them. They also fail to take into account that some video game companies have become extremely powerful. Gaming is no longer a "simple" hobby. In my opinion, playing a new video game is on par to reading a new book.

I also have to agree that the sensationalist tendencies of the media are also to blame. People need to realise that Fox News is just playing off of people's fears in order to get ratings. I stopped viewing them as a reliable media outlet a long time ago. Just look at Fox New's coverage of Anonymous. You can see the fearmongering dripping off like sweat.

It'll pass. Someone will invent something new and the focus will shift. It happened with jazz, rock and roll, hip hop. It happened with Dungeons and Dragons, comics and television. It happened with almost every scientific breakthrough.

And in centuries from now there'll be new music, new illicit activities, new media, new entertainment and some old fart in what passes for a futuristic suit and Dr. Phil's Head In A Jar will try and convince the world it's destroying our kids.

I totally agree to you. Since i not only play video games, but also listen to death metal, i am literally waiting for myself to turn into a bloodthirsty, gun-carrying abomination.
In Germany, unfortunately, there are school shootings as well, and every time the media just says, the guy liked to wear leather coats, played games and listened to super brutal music like Slipknot. Yeah, in the world of German media, Slipknot is as brutal as it can get. I never unterstood why they wont just portray Cannibal Corpse lyrics.

There has been an episode from a serious news magazine called "Frontal 24" with a special about violent videogames (they call it "Killer-spiele") and they showed, for example, a sex-scene from the "Hot Coffee Mod" for GTA San Andreas, played Nirvana┬┤s "Rape me" to that and told the audience, GTA was all about raping innocent women. And if youre not raping women, you slay bystanders in the most violent way possible, and killing children or grannys will grant you bonus points.
I wish i was joking.

Great article, by the way.

This Clint Hocking sounds like a half-witted ass. "In the end, we will stamp them out if we have to, but it would be nicer if we all tap danced our way into the future together" ... how childish and silly. Too much Hero Worship, some slight delusions of P.O.W.E.R.? Too many VIDEO GAMES??? ;-)

Yea, when you seriously think about it most games are really silly, but then our culture as a whole is comfortably silly and immature. That's certainly reflected in every form of media - movies, games, journalism and people's speech bubbles. It fits quite well with Bush's politics and Hollywood myths. Any more questions why so many games perpetuate sad stereotypes, if they offer any thought food at all?

Where is the stuff for adult players (I don't mean the porn)? A few articles further down someone agonized over Beyond Good and Evil, so I'm not the only one starved for something approaching the level of Deus Ex (the original). Games are kidstuff, for the most part, and most of you people know it at least half-way: "Short, easy to learn & play, and more mature content. That's a lot of changes that most gamers aren't going to like"... Most gamers being the ten-to-early-twenty cash cows with lots of time on their hands. Deus Ex wasn't much of a smash hit, the game equivalent of The Matrix can and has yet to be designed.

As it is, the non-gaming population is decreasing - in twenty years, most adults will be ex-kiddie-gamers. I'm not expecting a revolution here, so maybe we'll all spend our old age in the care of virtual reality sex dolls. The other alternative is simply not to care for this stuff anymore, and maybe that's a good thing. There will be other "novelties" around...

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