Oh, Fox News. Will You Ever Not Suck At Talking About Video Games?

Yesterday, several of my friends emailed me links to the video clip above, a "Fox and Friends" segment that aired a few days ago. In their accompanying emails, each person voiced similar sentiments of pissed-off frustration.

"Sigh," I thought. "Let's see how Fox News is portraying video games this week." I transcribed the discussion, as well as my own reactions to what the guys on screen were saying. Let's walk through it, shall we?

We begin with a voiceover from what sounds like an attractive, trustworthy host:

Host Voice-Over: The "Green Police" trying to reach your kids at home on the video game systems! In the Sim Cities Societies games, kids have to build environmentally friendly towns or face a fine. That sounds like a good lesson.

Me: Hmm, other than that first bit, that was a surprisingly sensible, if partisan, introduction. Note the text at the bottom of the screen: "Video Games are Going Green!" On any other news channel this whole segment might just be a short anecdote about a game that's teaching something different to students. Let's see where they're going with this.

Host Voice-Over: ...but is this promoting education or just a liberal agenda with what they actually have to purchase?"

Me: OK, so: warning bells. What could this piece actually be about? What does he mean when he brings up what kids have to purchase? Also, why is he talking about Sim City Societies, which came out in 2007? The gameplay onscreen is from Call of Duty and Flower. Everything that is going on right now is setting off my fail-alert.

Here we cut to a shot of our Eyebrowsy Fox News Host and his guest.

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: Joining us now is Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack. Nice to see you this morning, T.J.

Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack: And you, Buddy.

Me: Heh, I wonder if the host's name is actually "Buddy" or if T.J. just couldn't remember it. (Checks Google. Nope, his name is Clayton Morris.)

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: So let's get into some specifics. You know, that sounds like a good lesson to be learned: "Be environmentally friendly." We wouldn't want people polluting.

(Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack appears to agree with this.)

But it's where you get into the specifics of the game that it gets a little grayer, not green.

Me: Nice one, Eyebrowsy Fox News Host! Grey and not green! Because this is a grey area. Well, maybe that means we'll get some nuance here; perhaps this will be an interesting look into the ways that video games can convey specific political and social messages.

Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack: Yeah, and when you use fear, you know? I think right off the top, any time I see some social cause that somebody's profiting off of, right away, credibility to me is in question. And yeah, I think, you know, the scare tactics, the guilt involved, you know?

Me: Whoa, horsey. For starters: "Any time I see some social cause that somebody's profiting off of, right away, credibility is in question" That sentence is a fairly hilarious accidental indictment of Fox News. But that aside, who exactly is fear-mongering? What game are you guys talking about? Is that a clip of Sim City Societies that they're showing while you're talking about scare-tactics and guilt? Perhaps some explanation is warranted here.

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: Let's be specific.

Me: Yes, let's!

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: In this game, Sim City Societies, players choose alternative energy options like wind and solar and stuff, for city infrastructure, and soy farms and stuff, instead of nuclear power.

Me: Right, those are options in Sim City.

Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack: Right, because (in a mocking tone) "Nuclear power will make us all glow at night," where meanwhile, it's arguably the safest form of energy out there.

Me: Wait, do the nuclear power plants in Sim City Societies make people glow at night? I do not believe that is in the game. Maybe these guys should be talking about Fallout instead.

And more to the point, while I'm sure that Nuclear power is for the most part safe, I'm not sure I'd say it's safer than wind or solar power. I mean… a nuclear reactor just sort of isn't safer than a windmill, ya know? At least he's pronouncing "Nuclear" correctly.

Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack: Actually, take the other one, there's one out there where you're in charge of the (makes mocking face) "World Environmental Organisation" and it's called (incredulously) Fate of the World.

Me: Oh yeah, Fate of the World! That game is super cool, it came out not too long ago. Also I think the World Environmental Organization is actually a thing.

Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack:(Mockingly So here, Timmy, you're five. Play "Fate of the World" and it will all be on your shoulders, son.

Me: Woah, wait! That game is not for kids. Fate of the World is a super-difficult, multilayered sim. I remember our reviewer back at Paste got his ass kicked over and over, and only after hugely adapting and reading a bunch of books (real-life books, not strategy guides) was he able to eek out survival. When did we start assuming these games were for kids, let alone five year olds?

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: Here's what the game designers have to say about this. This is Ian Roberts, he's a game designer and he's defending these games. He says: "Video games are about real world issues, and they're important much like films. They let us experience things we could never could and help us understand ourselves, each other, and the world around us."

Me: Oh yeah, Ian is cool! He worked on Fate of the World. Wonder why they didn't make a bigger deal out of that. Well, that is a nice, simple quote. Fairly self-evident... maybe he should have said something about how games aren't necessarily for kids… well, let's see what Eyebrowsy Fox News Host has to say.

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: That sounds like a fine defence...

Me: It is a fine defense! Maybe he'll stop there.

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: ...but at the end of the day...

Me: Damn it.

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: ...parents don't really know what's in these video games, so they send them to play Sim City and they're learning these lessons that might not be something the parents want their kids to learn.

Me: Why are you choosing Sim City to exemplify your line of thinking? Do you know any kids, any at all? I can tell you, most of them do not go home and play Sim City. They go home and play Minecraft and work on their Kill/Death Ratio in Call of Duty: Black Ops. But you're telling us that we should be concerned about the ones who do choose Sim City. Wow.

Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack: Exactly! And again, I go back to the fear. There's actually one here, it's called "Mcdonald's The Game", and it tells a kid 'Listen, there's a whole lot more to the story than your hamburger. You have to think about deforestation, the slaughter... (laughingly... the word "slaughter" is right there on the front page of "McDonald's: The Game." And, "evil corporations."

Me: Wait, there's a "McDonald's: the Game?" (Goes to Google.)

Hey look, there totally is! It's a commentary game made by Molleindustria, the same group that made Leaky World. Leaky World was a political statement prompted by the Wikileaks fiasco, a playable version of Julian Assange's essay "Conspiracy as Governance".

So... first of all, "McDonald's: The Game" has a point: There is indeed a lot more to a McDonald's hamburger than just the meat and the bun. But more importantly, it is fundamentally different than the other games in this discussion... it's about as comparable to Sim City Societies as Assange's own "Conspiracy as Governance" is to All The President's Men.

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: But are people taking this too far by saying that this is liberal fear-mongering or indoctrination somehow? That's what some critics on the right are saying about these games.

Me: Aah, the old classic: "Some critics" are saying this thing that actually, I am saying.> By "some critics", do you maybe mean... you?

"Some video game bloggers have described this Fox News segment as a bit crap."

Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack: Yeah, you know… (gives the impression of actually thinking about this) I think so, because again, this comes back to a theme, you know: let kids be kids. It's one thing where Sesame Street would teach you not to litter, and teach you how to say hello and please and thank you, but they do it through nice charming fuzzy little puppets. These guys [meaning game designers] actually have kids freaking out with sweaty palms, worried that they're gonna kill a bunch of virtual polar bears.

Both men laugh about the idea of "Virtual Polar Bears."

Me: Oh, Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack. Who are these kids you're talking about? Are they your kids? The kids of a friend? Why are you even talking about Sesame Street? Haven't we established that these games aren't even designed as children's entertainment? If I were a kid and played Fate of the World, I'd probably be freaked out too, but only because I was unused to losing so hard at a video game.

(Side note: as McCormack talks about kids freaking out, the screen beside him is showing some footage of Flower, a.k.a. the most soothing, non freak-me-out video game I've ever played.)

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: It's funny, because I can see both sides of this debate...

Me: That's funny, because I've been watching for a couple minutes now and I've only seen one.

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: ...I see all sides of this, because some people were writing me this morning to say, "This is better, perhaps, than teaching the kids how to play war games, so..."

Radio Host and Parent T.J. McCormack: (Out of nowhere) It's also boring! These are not games! (Sarcastically) It's a game because it teaches kids how to do a tag sale.

Eyebrowsy Fox News Host: (With great sarcasm) T.J., what's boring about building pipelines? I don't get it.

(Both men have a good laugh at their super-hilarious awesomeness, and the ridiculousness of trying to use a video game to teach anyone anything, ever. The segment ends.)

Me: I need a drink.


Comments

    Are they talking about a game that released years ago?

    Anyways there is only one solution for this: end the career of T.J. McCormack.

    How about we make a video game that about fox news and the player must make as much bullshit stories and troll to increase views. See fox news make a story out of that one.

      HOLY SHIT YES!!!!! THIS NEEDS TO BE MADE INTO A REAL GAME!!! WE NEED TO GET MAXIS ON THIS QUICKLY!

    I couldn't finish the article and not because of how it was written or anything but because the absolute fail that is Fox News makes me cringe so much it became painful to read their idiocy.

      I was STRONGLY tempted to do the same. These people just have no clue

    Im happy to live in a country where these type of games would be encouraged. Where TV hosts would bring up the point 'These should be in schools'. I remember playing Sim City 2000 for Geography.

    I would be pissed if his 5 year old can play fate of the world. That game looks simple but I found it really hard when I played it on a mate computer. Also I don't think you have to be environmentally inclined to "win" Sim society, he can be a basterd and just throw everyone in jail, or do what I do and try and make Armishville.

    Wouldn't want the kids knowing the truth about what mentally unstable adults are doing to our world, eh! Hamburgers come from a magical land of bubblegum and fairydust...

    "So here, Timmy, you’re five. Play “Fate of the World”..." ahahhahahhaahaha
    /almost fell off my subversive, communist exercise ball and spilled my 'half-empty' fanatical, leftist glass of tap water on my hypocritical partical board desk.

    remember when Mr Murdoch offered to block Google from searching through his crap? what ever happened to that? I was so excited.

      That did actually make me lol.

    Colbert could pick that one up for a skit and run it without edits. Hilarious!

    I laughed when Fox News accused anybody else of 'fearmongering'.

    Wow... just, wow.

    I like how at the end he declares that everybody (or at least kids) finds the Sim City games boring. My friends and I found Sim City 2000 a lot of fun to play on the primary school computers. Including laying pipes. :P

    I just learned about a few games I'd like to check out. Few strategy games kick my arse long enough to justify the purchase price - that Fate of the World game sounded great until I read that it was based on preventing a 3 degree temperature rise... -_-

    Still, the article reminded me of Cities XL and I should see what this Flower game is all about ...

    Also Fox News continues to fail, but for some reason stays on the air... uurghh..

    I just watched the clip. :-O. That was the worst thing I've every seen. Does anybody take this seriously? It makes me feel like I'm watching two drunk conservatives in their living room rip on video games for laughs.

    They spend the first part talking about games like Sim City Societies and Fate of the World indoctrinating children, then at the end they're like 'but they're boring! It's not a real game'.

    So what's the problem? If they're boring, kids won't play them, therefore no indoctrination. If they're playing them then you can argue they're better than games teaching violence.

    Look over there! It's a hamster on an exercise ball!

    ...are they serious?
    Are they serious!?

    ...are they serious?
    Are they serious!?

    Why does this post have 'At Talking About Video Games?' at the end. Shouldn't it just read 'Oh, Fox News. Will You Ever Not Suck'

    *sniff* I smell News Ltd Douchebaggery. Next they'll be phone-tapping the game dev's for their next special investigation.

    I do wonder at what market share Fox News has. I remember hearing at one stage that they were the most popular news channel in America.

    That's a scary thought.

      I like to think that Fox News is watched by so many because they find the shows to be hilarous.

      Don't forget that News Ltd has an 80%+ market share for news outlets in Aus!

    Great comedy. These guys should do stand up, seriously. Obviously it's all tongue and cheek like The Onion. Didn't know Fox was trying to be more like The Onion.

    what i find amazing is how they make a living talking absolute garbage.

    Sheer idiocy. Apparently trying to teach kids environmental issues through a videogame is A Bad Thing.

    Purely because it's a game. The kid has to decide.

    Anyone want to start a mass email campaign against Fox News pointing out their errors?

    In fact, that could be a good idea for an Xbox Live Indie Game - some sort of strategy game against an evil news corporation staffed by complete and utter morons. May sell along the same lines as FortressCraft...

    The ignorance is incredibly frustrating.

    If games aren't being swept up in a moral panic over values politics (violence! sex! war! mature themes!) they're accused of being part of some secret liberal agenda. As if SimCity was less of a city simulation and more of a propaganda tool.

    It's absurd.

    How hard is it to understand the concept that video games are not just for kids, have never been just for kids, will never be just for kids, and in some cases were never intended for kids in the first damn place...

    *shouts Kirk a drink*

    It sickens me that someone in the world is taking these delinquents seriously...

    this. this is 2 guys who haven't a clue what their talking about making up a story. I don't even know what point they were trying to make???? what was the point of that segment?!?!

    sim city is a beast, although i never understood why people would always leave my city... I thought having a massive wind turbine in a residential area was a good thing!!

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now