The Australian Mainstream Video Game Story That Wasn't Terrible

"You want a reason to get angry?"

That's what one of my colleagues said to me this morning.

"Sure."

He showed me the image above, from Mornings on Channel 9. The header — VIRTUAL WORLD OF MINECRAFT: HARMLESS FUN OR SINISTER GAME?

Great. Here we go. Mood setting: 'enraged'.

Primed for anger. How dare they? Go after our Grand Theft Autos. Go after our Duke Nukems if you must — but Minecraft? The video game that normally makes headlines for the positive things it does for children? A video game that encourages creativity, the video game recently put in place in every single school in Northern Ireland?

Give me a break.

Once upon a time I felt the need to rush in swinging every time mainstream media took potshots at video games. Nowadays I'm far more reserved. I tend to ignore moral panics because — one — they tend to come and go and — two — the truth is they've lost their sting. The secret is out: video games aren't terrible for children. What we're seeing on shows like The Project — who recently attempted yet another story on video game addiction — is the last vestige of a once reliable source of outrage traffic: the video games that once terrified and confused adults.

TL;DR: best to ignore the impotent screams of dinosaurs howling at the moon.

But I couldn't let this one slide. Minecraft?

Really?

Minecraft?

So, pearls firmly clutched, I watched the segment. The header appeared: HARMLESS FUN OR SINISTER GAME. I grimaced. I prepared for the worst and — weirdly — got quite giddy about the rage I was expecting to feel. Consciously I prepared to harness that self-righteous rage and write the editorial to end all editorials. But then, shock. Horror.

The story was kinda reasonable.

Yep, there were clumsy moments as the hosts began talking about something they clearly didn't understand. Sure, there were a couple of moments where I thought "hey, that's a little unjustified". But you know what? This was a short, basic, informative segment designed to help uninformed parents make sense of a phenomenon that possibly confused or terrified them. Best of all? At the end there was a nice little segment where a Behavioral Expert gave those confused parents some useful advice focused on managing the screen time of children and making sure they were well-educated on how best to play games online.

Weird. I wasn't angry. The "HARMLESS FUN OR SINISTER GAME" header was utterly misguided (and misleading I might add) but the content itself? Completely appropriate for the audience, fair and — gasp — most likely quite helpful for some people. This was not a story attempting to demonise video games, it was a story about trying t de-mystify one particular video game.

Are we living in opposite land?

Have I simply crossed over some invisible age-barrier? Is mainstream media now catering directly to me — a parent in his early 30s. Am I now that person? Am I the target market?

No, I don't think so. I hope not.

Is it possible that mainstream audiences are no longer afraid of video games? Is it possible that inciting moral panics focused on video games and video game culture no longer works on a generation of parents who grew up loving video games; a generation who realises games — in moderation — are relatively harmless?

At the very least we're starting to see a shift.

Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt I'll live to see a hundred more misleading, flat-out wrong stories about video games in mainstream media. But is it possible we'll also start to see positive stories too? Do we dare to dream?

Minecraft has a lot to answer for. It's become the go-to game. It registers in that unique iconic space, it has become that video game 'noun' people use when they don't know which noun to use. Once upon a time that word was Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty or Mario. Now it's Minecraft: as harmless as LEGO. As harmless as a Barbie Doll or a Action Man. It represents, I think, a transformative shift. A video game that toys with our nostalgia. A video game that resonates with the collective childhood of a generation of parents, yet somehow manages to feel dazzlingly futuristic for a new generation of children. It's changing games. It's changing the way everyone looks at video games. It's changing the way mainstream media talks about games.

And that's a good thing.

You can watching the Mornings piece on Minecraft here.


Comments

    Good Article. I must admit, when i saw the screenshot I became a little angry.

    Last edited 23/04/15 2:07 pm

    Breakfast and morning television. Harmless fun or brain rotting crap for the too dumb to think for themselves demographic? You be the judge.

      99% of people who watch that sh*t do it because it runs a news ticker while you’re eating breakfast, is fairly light and has a clock at the bottom of the screen to help you keep track of time while you’re getting ready for work.

      If it’s your favourite show, or you’re recording it so you can watch it when you get home, then yeah I’m happy to join you on the judgement train….

      Man... give me the old days when morning tv was good quality viewing between Channel 10's Cheez TV and Channel 7's Aggro's Cartoon Connection.

      Both followed up w/ great preschool shows!

        Ahhh Cheez TV. The only thing that has ever actually got me to get out of bed earlier than I needed to in order to get to work in time.

    We must be incredibly close to the point where people who didn't grow up with video games no longer represent a significant demographic.

    This kind of story is on the way out, there's no fighting that, but I'm surprised at times by its persistence in a world which has been awash with gaming for several years now.

    You're talking like parents have time to pay attention to more than the stupid lead in. 90% of them will tune out 5 seconds later.

    I want to find the guy who wrote up that headline for the news segment and hire him to become our new Prime Minister. He seems quite accomplished in coming up with inflammatory nonsense that has little to no bearing on what actually happened.

      But ... we already have a Prime Minister who does shit like that ... :P

      You sure Abbott isn't actually moonlighting as a news headline writer?

    You should read up on Gabes parent meeting to discuss videogames. Many parents still have no idea what attaching their credit card to a mobile game means.

    Action Man. Haven't heard him referenced in a while. Is he still a thing?

    The mismatching of the "watch bait" title with an otherwise reasonable segment is probably the fault of the show's producer imo!

    I actually had myself nodding along with the expert they had on there. He was level headed and seemed like he'd done his research. For once, we had hosts who admitted they knew jack shit, an expert who led in with 'videogames are just videogames'. Him pushing the idea of parental responsibility, regular breaks for kids, active monitoring and setting playtime for kids really struck a good tone for me. I was genuinely surprised by this, if this is the sort of reporting we're in for in the future, I guess I'm ok with that.

      Agreed... honestly the only real problem w/ that whole segment was the twit who decided to use Fox "shock and outrage" style headliner

        Indeed. Its like "Well done!..........oh youuuuu!"

    Something that I found cool recently was one of the Penny Arcade guys being invited to give a talk at a PTA meeting about video games and what parents can do to protect their children from harmful games and how they can take a more active role in the child's gaming life. For interested parents, you can read some of the questions and answers here.

      That's fantastic. I guess we're starting to see the gradual swing of society towards understanding gaming isn't a giant demonic beast to be feared but one to be embraced and understood and taken responsibility of.

        I liked it better when it was a giant demonic beast though ;)

    It may also be a sign of resignation rather than acceptance. Perhaps the older generation recognises that they don't know much about games, games are here to stay and fighting them for years hasn't gotten us anywhere so they may as well try and understand them and at least minimise the harm, rather than completely obliterate.

    Tipping point has been passed.

    Most of the gamers I know are late 20s to late 40s. A few outliers in my Destiny group (a couple older, probably a few late teens/early 20s), but the vast majority of the gamers I know have full time jobs (or are between jobs!), mortgages, a nice car, enjoy a beer and even gardening and either have kids or are intentional DINKs.

    These are ADULTS.

    It's bloody hard to maintain outrage at gamers when the editors and presenters are in the same demographic of 20s-50s. They probably have a PC, a console and a smartphone. They probably played Angry Birds and their kids play Minecraft. There must be a point when the presenters see the script and saw "oh come on, let's be outraged at something else, this is just silly."

      Now all we really need is a new media or form of entertainment so we can channel all our generational angst against it and repeat the "moral outrage" cycle all over again! :D

    The project did a piece on rhinos going extinct the other night...

    I only mention it because, despite their seemingly anti video game bent, the music for the story was all from Halo games.

    Nice try trying to model the perceived best way to handle the situation. If something isn't just, say it. Who cares what it looks like or how kotaku writers will judge you? Who cares if they occasionally try an redefine the literal definition of "prejudice" or teach you arguments that ignore the holistic social perspectives currently taught in schools?

    If something is unjustified, ignorant or prejudicial, don't grasp at straws in a vain attempt at projection or silence yourself out of fear the media will simplify and generalize your stance to the point of irrelevancy. Think it through and say what you think.

    I mean, seriously? It's moderately more informed than previous stories but it's still woefully below a standard that actually represents the video game audience. This isn't an introspective, holistic exploration of a game or culture, just look at the headline. If this is considered a "good" standard of journalism, then at least i can rest easy knowing fox is so progressive.

    Yeah, I know, it's better to be less angry. I don't believe, however, that anyone else has the right to judge someone's reaction to an unfair representation of any culture.

    Last edited 23/04/15 4:05 pm

    Kinda sounds like whenever I see another Kotaku GamerGate article.

    “You want a reason to get angry?”
    That’s what one of my colleagues said to me this morning.
    “Sure.”

    Whyyyeeeeeeee? It's Thursday! 'Light at the end of the tunnel' day! Monday, Tuesday... sure. I need that motivation/distraction. Wednesday is about when I start to lose the intestinal fortitude for that level of stress. Getting angry on a Friday? Unforgivable. I get mad at MYSELF if I let myself see something angry-making on a Frday. Life's way too short for that.

    If you like science, then no you are not the target audience.

    Mornings: How to catch a horse in Minecraft

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