Mainstream Media: If You Must Cover Video Games, Could You Please Do A Better Job Of It?

"You might think games are only played in dark basements by computer addicted geeks but it's a very big business," drawls the presenter, repeating a paraphrased opening gambit that's been rehashed since 1994, with very little change.

I was even involved in one myself.

"Video games were once the domain of super nerds like Mark Serrels," opened Today Tonight's segment on 'Cutting Edge' games. I wasn't offended in the slightest; I've been called far worse, and it was kinda hilarious to be involved in the matrix of tropes that is mainstream video game reportage.

Today's Daily Telegraph headline? 'Video Game Kids Going Crazy?' That's part of another trope entirely, a far more insidious type — that of the moral panic, and the 'we're losing our kids to this crazy new fangled technology we have no understanding of' trope. The kind of headline you might expect, and probably not something worth getting worked up about, but when it comes to The Telegraph's irresponsible story in this morning's edition, I just can't help myself.

The story itself is hardly cutting-edge news — a handful of parents and psychiatrists are looking to have "video game addiction" included as a psychological disorder in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Laura Parker from Gamespot did a far better job, reporting on this topic in 2009 — two years ago.

And that's about the sum of it. I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of The Daily Telegraph's 'exclusive' report on an issue that's been rumbling since the proposed "video game addiction" disorder was rejected from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual back in 2007 — that would be the very definition of pissing in the wind — but I do have a question to ask...

Dear mainstream media: if you must cover video games, could you please do a better job of it?

Step one would most likely be this: kindly update your stock images. Pictures of children holding PlayStation controllers designed in 1994, surrounded by chocolate, chips and a box copy of the original Crash Bandicoot, is hardly doing your story any favours in the legitimacy department.

Step two: anecdotal evidence is meaningless. Sure, feel free to pepper your story with examples of how 'Little Timmy' was up all night playing Minecraft so couldn't do his homework and doesn't have any friends, but do not frame this as the norm, and please back up any wild statements with some kind of proper evidence.

Step three: balance. Criticism of he said/she said journalism aside, if you're going to report on video games, kindly give both sides of the argument a fair and equal hearing. Do not pander to your presumed audience of cranky, scared conservatives — and don't insult the intelligence of that presumed audience either. If you're going to open with that oft-used 'video games are more mainstream than you think' gambit — believe it. Your audience is likely far more video game savvy than you think. They'll probably laugh at your hyperbole-ridden headline for a second, blame the parents and move on to the sports pages.

Step four: if you're going to write about video games, you don't have to be a video game expert — part of the fun of journalism is the joy of discovery — but kindly show games the respect they deserve. I fully understand that playing on the fears of the misinformed is your modus operandi but, for the most part, people aren't afraid of video games anymore, they've embraced them. Mainstream media — you're lagging behind.

In ten years time I'll be 40. If things go to plan I may even have a couple of children myself and I'll want someone to be thinking of them. At this point I'll most likely be socially conservative, misinformed on the youth of the day and completely vulnerable and terrified. In short: I'll be your new target audience...

And you'd better have something better for me than the bloody social dangers of video games.


Comments

    I'm happy to pronounce this the best article that was posted at 12:30PM today that I read. While sober.

    Seriously though - fantastic article. If only it could be sent to the editors at the newspapers and actually be read by them.

    But Mark, Killinator 5000 is turning teh yoofs into monsters! Monsters I tell ya!

      So are many other religious texts and shows on TV. Why isn't anyone chasing them up?

        Nonsense- you don't expect journalists to write critical, researched pieces do you?

          I used to until I reached high school. It's main reason I hardly watch the news or read a paper these days.

          Anyone who is anyone can get a article printed in the paper these days - its insane.

      I love how the "go to" rebuttal for psychological problems caused by video games is the bible.

      Statistically it's true, there are bound to me more incidents of religion based violence/mental issues than video game violence/mental issues.

        Dare i mention... say... the crusades?

    Dear Mark, if you must be brilliant, could you please send this to the papers as an opinion piece?

      I sent them an email while reading that article this morning. Had a great laugh. Then I hopped in the car and BAM! It's being talked about on the radio with one mother calling up and saying that games are being developed with psychologists designed to intentionally deliver dopamine to the gamer to get them addicted.
      I then get to work (Games Studio) and look around, alas, no psychologists.

      I had a good time arguing the difference between a hobby and an addiction over lunch though. Anyway, back to making games to get the youth of today hooked!

        I giggled because I saw that in a brief scene of NCIS (which I disowned my mother for watching) talking about that.

          Unfortunately, that's propably EXACTLY where the caller got her information from. Yet another stereotypical midday drama viewing homemaker, maybe someone should write an article about how they lock themselves away from the world all day and are endorsing anti-social behaviour?

            I see wut you did thar.

        No psychologists?

        Pity, If I were you, I would need one after hearing what that mother said.

        Zynga do, I believe. According to some Cracked article over 12 months old.

        Funny then, that Farmville players are probably more mothers than children.

        You must work for one of those less successful smaller studios. My company had as many psychologists as animators. We even lobbied Microsoft, Sony & Nintendo to install dermal opoid pads to stimulate gamers when they got more points for killing prostitutes or police officers. We even encourage piracy as a way to get more Somali's hooked!

    I agree with the Daily Telegraph that vidyagames are sending our children insane and are ruining our society.Just look at what happened with World War 2. They made a game about shooting nazis, and then before you know it, Germany invades Poland.The evidence is there people, you just have to look.

    Shame this weekend hosted one of the best events out of a "dark basement" in quite a while.

    How does that stereotype even work in Australia where we don't tend to have basements?

    Anyhow, this is just the usual yellow journalism that we're used to seeing in the Aussie papers nowadays. They don't respect their readers and they know that they can get away with it. Doesn't take much to see why newpapers are a dying medium.

    For those who care, the pictures I linked above are from Dreamhack Winter 2011, the world's biggest LAN. There were tournaments for all of the biggest competitive games and that arena was where they played the finals.

      I should also mention that "balance" is almost always misused in journalism these days. It isn't giving both sides equal airtime, it should be giving both sides equal scrutiny. Sida A says X but Side B says that X is not true, so you present the arguments for both and when it turns out that Side B is correct you make it clear.

      Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but simply showing different opinions and giving them equal weighting without regards for which opinion is actually true is a dangerous game to play.

      It's safe to say that I am not a big fan of the mainstream media.

    Saw the headline at News.com.au, and was reminded why I vowed to stop reading that crap months ago.

      Heehee, I can read the whole news.com.au front page in about 2 seconds, goes like this:

      No terror attacks in Australia....good
      No major incidents near me or my family...good
      No announcement the company I work for has gone broke...good
      All done

      I really couldn't care less if Kylie got the PM to hold her trophy, if fact I couldn't really care less for the PM either.

    Could this not be something up to the ACCC or something. I mean, essentially these media outlets are defaming a product without any evidence. This can do harm to a business, and if anyone else turned around an back a company or the product without good grounding, they could find themselves in court.

      Nope they could claim it's a 'parody'.

      TBH, if stupid journalism like this turns people off the hobby that I am interested in because the believe crap like this, I'm more than happy. Less idiots to deal with during my 'me ' time :)

    Won't somebody think of the children?!

    Great article, but doubt those that feed on the fear (almost all media outlets) are going to take notice.

    "5 year old recomendation to add gaming addiction to DSM to be revisited" isn't going to scare all those little old conservatives now is it?

    I think the key factor here is not videogames but the perception that the mainstream media cover anything adequately. I'm talking about the Everyday News Cycle kinds of pieces here, in particular, not the longer form features and actual, you know, investigative journalism that does still happen from time to time. But the vast majority of what's printed in newspapers and on TV 'News Programs' (those 4 hour morning shows in particular) is not journalism.

    The fact that Fox News is, in fact, mainstream in the US is probably the most obvious example of this. They don't do journalism.

      A big problem with those sorts of outlets is that they come up with the "story" first and then try to find something to corroborate it. When they should be taking the facts as they are presented and work out how to make a story from it. They've got it all backwards.

        Makes me sad that CNN, the most legitimate cable news channel, is the lowest rated behind Fox News and MSNBC -- two networks with clear bias. I guess this isn't really related to the article, except for real news being frowned upon by the masses. :D

          That's probably the worst part about it. They do it simply because it gets more viewers than legitimate news. People don't want to be informed, they want their views reinforced.

          A favourite example for this sort of thing is the reporting of violence in the media. Let's face it, things these days are pretty awesome. Violent crime is continually dropping, quality of life improves and everything is rainbows and lollipops. Except when you watch American news channels, where the sky is falling and if you aren't careful, people will break in to your house and rape you with a stolen shotgun.

          The perception of violent crime is significantly higher than the reality of it. For some reason, people are comforted by this idea that there is more violence because it isn't happening to them. So they feel fortunate to escape this "harsh reality".

          The world is a twisted place.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzNhaLUT520

            enough said xD

          "legitimate cable news channel" - oxymoron of the day :-P

    Another great article Mark.

    As a nerd/geek I'm offended that the phrase has been hijacked by people who purely play games. If you're only playing games and want to claim the nerd tag - then you're doing it wrong.

    Apart from that, only mindless plebeian drones believe in anything the Telegraph, Today Tonight, ACA or any other sensationalist media "report".

    Get Media Watch on to them - STAT!

      Actually, according to the definitions, nerds are specific, geeks are general, so you can be a computer nerd or a sci-fi nerd or a gaming nerd.
      But you can't be a geek if you're only into sci-fi or comics, but you can if you're into both.
      Journalist here, who agrees but can't do much to affect change.
      Yet.

    Thank you so much for writing this Mark, Unfortunately the article has spread to nearly every one of Daily Telegraph subsidiaries, written word for word in the same 'moral panic' inducing style. Luckily it appears as you said, most people laughed at the story, blamed the parents and then promptly moved on

      I don't think the problem is that we're all able to identify a terrible article and move on. The problem should be that some ill-informed, care-free journalist is allowed to write such a shocking article and have it published in the newspaper. What happened to having to put your credibility to every article you write?
      Articles like this shouldn't be printed in the first place, it taints the newspapers reputation and then almost all of the articles become discredited, even the ones are still worth reading.

    Isn't the most concerning thing about that front page that Kylie is obviously drunk?

    I couldn't agree anymore with those steps. Today I've read a videogame article in the Herald Sun and I was very frustrated that there was not enough proper evidence being used and how biased it was. You also made a very good point about anecdotal evidence. In every videogame article, all I ever see is anecdotal evidence which only weakens the argument.

    I've been very tired of how the media makes a load of crap on the very essence of videogames andI'd be very happy if you could send this article as an opinion piece to the newspapers.

    Its articles like this that annoy me. The mainstream media assumes it knows what its talking about but they're far off base. Parents need to be parents and not be afraid to use discipline. It's the only way they'll learn what's right and socially acceptable, and what's not.

    I'm still waiting for a story to top the Mass Effect "alein rape" news coverage. I don't think anything has come close to how misinformed and mishandled everything was around that.

    We might as well throw all our games away and play Lee Carvello's Putting Challenge http://youtu.be/ac9Z6CN14Gs
    No doubt the mainstream media will connect it in due time to some form of killing spree though.

      How can any golf game NOT be associated with murder?
      I mean, they're complementarity goods!

    Daily Telegraph = Daily LOLs. Worst newspaper ever!
    I don't think anyone expects "balance" from the Telegraph - I think they threw that rule out ages ago.

    But I agree - it is tiresome seeing such incorrect details being used in any articles relating to gaming, be it old hardware being shown, wrong terminology being used, or being just plain stupid and ignorant.

    *applauds raucously*

    Amazing - AMAZING article. So simple yet so damn true!!

    I don't understand how video games can make more then the film and music industries but still be seen as "underground".

    The part that irritates me is that they could cite any kind of addiction as stemming from or leading to mental illness. Gamers are just the flavor of the month (Decades).

    As a gamer with diagnosed mental illness, I'm very tempted to go off on a vicious rant here.

      +1. I actually find that the gaming time helps with my mental state. I feel calmer and more focused after a couple of hours solving puzzles or trying to get 100 per cent in some games...

      And I haven't paid attention to any "news" either on television or in print for going on 5 years now. It's too depressing.

    At least their headline was better than the Courier Mail (same article): "Real-life violence sparked by World of Warcraft"

    Represent!
    ~o=

      Also...
      GO FORTH AND BE FERTILE!
      ~o ~o ~o ~o ~o ~o ~o ~o

      Now, I'd best be off. I've got some hookers to kill... FOR POINTS!

      Super Nerd! AWAAAAAAAAYYY!!! ~o=

    something like 7.5 million copies of MW3 sold, + about 3 million or more of BF3.

    now i don't know about you guys, but i'm pretty sure everyone who bought those games are running around being vandalism jerks and/or murderers. in fact, haven't humans been killing the shit out of each other for tens of millions of years??

    What's that? oh mainstream media! didn't one of your corporations hack into a girls phone and convince American police she was still alive? then a huge inquiry was lodged? yes yes, lets throw the attention off our own corrupt business to a minority of gamers, because apparently they're all psychos with no morals and are up to no good

    Super nerd.

    ....Super nerd.

    .............SUPER NERD?

    Just, what even, I don't, but the, how, we, so can, but the..........

      Its Today Tonight. Mark was lucky they didn't accuse him of being an illegal immigrant who exploits welfare while doing dodgy contract work on the side.

        Haha yeah dude, I am well aware of both the standard of reporting from Today Tonight and the mainstream media in general.

        But it is just hilarious. I just found the piece online as well because it didnt screen here in SA (as far as I know) and had a hearty laugh. It is just abysmal the reporting that goes on there. From the editing to the dialogue, it just makes me cringe. There's not even mention of how long voice controls took to get here. Maybe Microsoft paid for that entire segment.

        I am also interested to know how edited Mark's dialogue is.

          Back when I was at Uni an industry insider told us the producers of the show look at their audience with contempt, yet they still come back for more.

            Thus the cycle continues.....

            I am also interested in the editing because I have a neighbour who's really starting to piss me off, so I wanted to make sure I am represented correctly when I take it to television......

            ....

        i lol'd for real :P

      Somebody call for...

      SUUUPER NEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRDD!!! ?

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