How The Mainstream Press Fails At Covering Video Games

How The Mainstream Press Fails At Covering Video Games

It’s been evident for a while now that the many in the mainstream (read: non-gaming) press maybe don’t quite know how to cover video games. Evidence of this is in every well-meaning but ill-informed radio segment and every weird newspaper column. Gaming has been A Very Big Deal for a long time now, so why should it be so hard for the mainstream press to talk about games in a thoughtful, critical way?

Over at The Brainy Gamer, Michael Abbott has taken a look at the problem in a well put-together new post called “Tropes are for dopes“. In the piece, he singles out NPR, whose programs which he says he very much likes and supports, but hopes can move beyond the tired tropes he keeps seeing.

Those tropes include:

  • “Gamers are CRAZY!” or, telling only stories of crazy and obsessive gamers rather than talking about the games themselves.
  • “I don’t waste time playing games myself, but I’ll happily discuss why you think they’re interesting”, or, the fact that many mainstream journalists simply have a lack of understanding due to never having played any games.
  • “Video games make a CRAP TON of money. Even more than movies!” which is certainly a pet peeve of mine, though it can be hard not to trot out the financial stuff when trying to convince sceptics of gaming’s relevance.
  • “I don’t have anything interesting to say about this game, but here’s a provocative montage with lots of carnage, accompanied by blurbs with numbers in them.” Which I like to call the “Fox News Method for Video Game Coverage.”

It’s a thoughtful, even-handed post, and worth giving a read. I, too, am happy to see that NPR has been giving gaming more and more time on their programs. Given the high quality of most of those programs, I have hope that soon they will move past tropes like the ones Abbott cites and begin doing more in-depth, critical coverage.

Tropes are for Dopes [The Brainy Gamer]


  • “.. And by killing the prostitutes, you gain more points…”

    They thinking everything gives you points, obviously having not played a game since space invaders in the 80’s when their parents hated them.

  • I don’t know if gaming will ever escape the tropes. Look at rap. It’s been going for 30 years plus now, and there are still people in the media who complain about it’s violence and misogyny and so on. Or even the Mormons – you think we all would get tired of magic underpants jokes (I know I haven’t). The point is, commercial news has always been, and will always be, about tropes and cliche and recycled ideas. Because that is what people enjoy. The Big Bang Theory is not successful due to it’s awful writing or terrible performances. It is successful because it is nigh identical to the past two decades of sitcoms. Same goes with the news. Same goes with fucking everything.

  • It annoys me when they compare videogames to movies in terms of financial profit. It really does. Why? Because you CANT COMPARE.

    Movie ticket? 12 – 15 dollars.

    1 copy of a game? 70 – 100 dollars.

    There’s a huge discrepancy. Now, divide the profit MW2 made by 5, then compare to The Dark Knight, tell me, which made more money…

    • Wait… What?

      That doesn’t even make sense. Let’s assume that the dark knight also cost alot more to make then MW2. Profit wise MW2 would have come out ahead of the dark knight. Also we may pay 70-100 for games. I can assure you stores don’t pay that price. If one thing made 500 million PROFIT and another thing made 500 million PROFIT. They both made 500 million. Logic seems gahhh.

    • Now multiply your adjusted profit of MW2 by the hours of gameplay (conservatively 30 hrs) over the movie length of the Dark Knight (2.5 hrs).
      There’s a huge discrepancy. Now, compare the profit MW2 made to The Dark Knight, tell me, which made more money…

      • Bur remember warner Bro’s will be still be making money out of the Dark Knight for another 50 Yrs or at least as long as western civilivation lasts.TV rights, box sets. pay per view,directors cut,laser holographic rerelease etc.. MW3 revenue will be over in 2 years max.They really arn’t comparable but I’d rather have resisuales on TDK.

        • After their initial movie release and a their first month of public release on disc and netflix, movies make a pittance in the long term. The only exceptions being Star Wars and a few other film sagas. Even then the vast majority will rarely by a film more than once. Why do you think studios get boners for monstrous anti piracy bills like SOPA?

          Games have a better shelf life and through the magic of DLC, can continue to make money after being sold. Think about it, everyone who bought MW3 and signed up for a year of Elite bought the game twice.

    • I agree that they shouldnt compare but more for the reason I wouldn’t compare a car and a boat. They’re just not the same thing.

      I’d also note that on a household basis its not that different.
      Movie ticket for 2A + 2C (at My local) is $66.28. So I would say the $70-100 bracket (depending on whether you just get tickets or have the Cinema experience with popcorn etc) would fit for cinemas too.

  • Whenever I hear the old “you can kill prostitutes” line, I think: Wouldn’t it be really bizarre if you COULDN’T kill the prostitutes? Maybe Rockstar could cause a stir by making hookers immune to bullets and bonnets in GTA5

  • Post release support for movies usually makes the studio money, whereas post release support for games costs money.

  • It’s going to change in the next 10-20 years though (ugh sounds worse when I think about it) when the new generation of journos make their way into the mainstream press. Most of my young journo workmates either play video games or have some knowledge of them – and they’d be more likely to be level headed about the whole thing. The sooner when can get the Koshies of the world off TV the better really, him acting all bewildered and exasperated at everything to have happend since 1950.

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