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The Top 7… hated habits of the mainstream media


"In one video game, the child playing is given the choice of either sparing or killing the prostitute he has just had sex with."Bob Law, chair of the New York State Millions More Movement

“With a click of the code-word 'Hot Coffee' players can view nudity and play sex games. The Feds say ads and packaging for Grand Theft Auto are misleading..." – KUTV-2 News reporter Bill Gephardt, in a somewhat misleading statement

We’ve all seen this a thousand times: Grand Theft Auto is all about beating hookers and taking their money. Call of Duty 4 is about gunning down Arabs, Mass Effect is about boning aliens and the infamous Hot Coffee minigame in GTA: San Andreas could be unlocked by typing in a code phrase, or clicking it, or whatever. For people who view games as too complex to bother understanding, a lot of reporters seem awfully keen to portray them as simple and easily accessible. Particularly to your kids, with the implication being that your kids are naïve, helpless and prone to repeatedly falling into holes without your protection.


Above: Your kids

More often than not, this follows a familiar formula: Game X is about simple, repetitive task Y, and Y is usually a thing that someone finds morally objectionable. Part of that is because the news media, and TV news in particular, like to deal in quick sound bites that are easy to understand and digest.

After all, are you going to get outraged if someone tells you that GTA is a city-spanning crime story that invites exploration and experimentation, enabling players to go on bloody rampages or simply follow the story as they see fit? Or is it better to just tell you it’s that game where you beat hookers to death, so you get good and upset and keep watching?


Above: ‘Where’s the hooker? Is that the hooker? Is this game about a homeless man taking dumps?’

Another reason is that the “perform short mindless task, repeat” model was the basis for most videogames of the ‘70s and early ‘80s – which was, incidentally, the last time a lot of news anchors, reporters and pundits played videogames. Whatever the case, it’s irritating to see people downplay a complex art form as mind-numbing stupidity, and it only lends fuel to the stereotype of gamers as cabbage-brained zombies who can just sit and do the same thing for hours on end.



“A new type of cyberbully known as a griefer is overtaking other forms of aggression on the Internet and in the world of online gaming, a health researcher warned.” – A Reuters article from July 2007

“Bill Gephardt is here and he says there is a loophole in a kid's game that could actually allow players to see... porn?" – KUTV-2 News anchor Mark Koelbel, introducing a report that aired a full year after the GTA: San Andreas “Hot Coffee” story broke

Obviously, the mainstream media isn’t always going to be on the bleeding edge of gaming news, but it would be nice if they could shorten their lead times a bit. It’s not unusual for a controversy to flare up among gamers, be discussed to death and seemingly put to rest before it’s “uncovered” by a mainstream outlet like it’s something new. Exactly like what happened with the whole “Resident Evil 5 is racist” controversy, which shocked and fascinated mainstream columnists long after most gamers had at least grown used to it.


Above: Sigh

Like so many of the media’s bad habits in reporting on games, its embarrassing behind-the-curveness started in earnest in the aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Picking up on the fact that shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were fans of DOOM, news outlets all but started a moral panic over the “cutting-edge” game and its supposed danger to America’s youth… a full six years after it was first released, and at least three years after its popularity had waned.


Above: OMG IT’S LIKE PLAYING A MOVIE


Above: (What ‘cutting-edge’ actually looked like in early 1999)

Part of the problem is that a lot of reporters – again, not being gamers themselves – don’t fully realize just how fast the industry moves, or how short a lifespan a game has before it’s considered obsolete. With movies or books, a six-year-old work of fiction is considered recent; with videogames, it’s a dusty antique.

That’s probably also explains why some reporters actually think it’s news that Xbox Live is full of racist, cursing homophobes. Instead of, you know, a statement on par with “the sky is blue.”

Topics

Top 7

169 comments

  • troxman - November 24, 2011 9:12 p.m.

    o yes side boob is full digital nudity and the fact that you have to be 17 to even purchase a M-rated game is exposing our children to a area persevered for sexually addled adults, i mean as a 18 year old i dont have the wisdom of the news anchors. if your 17 shouldn't you be able to decide if you can handle side boob with out creaming your self? after playing though all the gta and doom games acording to them shouldn't i want to go around shooting ppl to rack up a high score in my mind i rlly dont think i do. all in all after my rant all i have to say if you report something on any media plz grow some balls and watch or play at least some of it before you demonize it
  • CinnamonToastAntista - April 26, 2011 5:02 p.m.

    I don't blame the preceding generation. To me the problem lies in the 24 hour news cycle and the notion of being "well informed" by a process that distills available information into a over simplified format. I fell like the reply of "is it really that simple?" could assist in taking the bite out of mainstream game reporting. Or at least some sense of context.
  • Nonstop17 - April 26, 2011 5 a.m.

    out of all the fucked up things going on in this world of ours these days i love how stupid reporters waist their time on stuff like this...the media needs a big slap of reality
  • ToyMonkey - November 19, 2010 7:31 p.m.

    My favorite editorial week of the year is back!
  • Azated - April 30, 2010 4:06 a.m.

    I'd like to know why people think of video games as childish toys similar to barbie dolls, when the military uses them to train battle hardened soldiers? I wish we had a gamer as a reporter for once. They'd probably get blamed for being biased though.
  • linkganon - April 29, 2010 3 a.m.

    @ DOCCON, well yes because master chief is fictional and abortion is well real. it's practically killing somebody who would have otherwise walked on this earth. it is backwards. if your going to do something that risks you to have one, you might as well have it. it's better than leaving that in your conscience. stupid media, we know what's real and what's not.
  • linkganon - April 29, 2010 2:53 a.m.

    TV, (fox, cnn) reporters and video games is the equivalent to giving a dumb-ass a shotgun, or for that matter, a psychopath “Currently, nothing under New York State law prohibits a fourteen-year old from walking into a video store and buying... a game like 'Grand Theft Auto,' which rewards a player for stealing cars and beating people up. Children can even simulate having sex with a prostitute...” Uhh, well actually they don't sell them to minors stupid media, their parents have to buy the games for the kids and the blame should go to the parents for buying the game in the first place even after seeing the damn warning. some idiot tried that one in gamestop the other day even after they were shown the rating and warned. Zombie' is a video game. rrriiiggghhhttt, and fox news team are not a bbbuuunnnccchhh of iiidddiiioootttsss. intended to use sarcasm in my statement and this is the best i can do. they should allow people who play video games or developers to speak on our own behalf. any idiot can talk about a video game, but it takes somebody who knows something other than shit to actually talk about it. Fox news are notorious for pulling a shit story out of their ass that does not exist at all and using it as relevant info. i say the news station are more zombified/brainwashed than we are.
  • troxman - November 24, 2011 9:17 p.m.

    hahah dinnt you love there data they collected. so lets take the number of video gamers im going to say its well over 11 million world wide and maybe a dozen went nuts and killed alot of ppl that totally prove just by playing violent games you gunna turn in to a serial killer or mass murder
  • pat5556 - March 24, 2010 12:26 a.m.

    sigh...the media needs to understand: IF THE RATING SAYS 18+, IT'S NOT MENT FOR KIDS! IT'S NOT THE GAME MAKER'S FAULT IF SOME DUMB PARENT BUYS ONE FOR A 6 YEAR OLD! i mean, shesh...seems like reporters TRY to make everything look bad...
  • D0CCON - March 23, 2010 9:27 p.m.

    It seems backwords to me that if you are 16 and want to buy Halo, you need a parent with you now, but if you are 16 and want an abortion, your parents never have to know about it. Call me crazy, but I think an abortion is a little more important for parents to know about than playing as Master Chief.
  • YourOldPalD - December 29, 2009 7:43 a.m.

    Sadly Adults are our own worse enemy so we feel it's necessary to delay the inevitable realisations about the real world ALL KIDS EVENTUALLY FIGURE OUT! (Sex, drugs and rock and roll) But it's not just children. Fear of the unknown is caused by a few shining examples of nutjobbery caused by whackos like the arsetards at the Colombine massacre WHO IRONICALLY snapped because they were deemed outcasts and freaks by the very society that makes out all gamers to be psychotic freaks unable to distinguish the difference between pixels and reality.(And yet you point this fact out to the people who shunned these kids and made them snap and they simply call you an evil heartless barstard shelling out dribble before blocking their ears closing their eyes and singing “LAH LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!.) This article is exactly the wake up call that non-gamers need to get through their thick and often empty noggins is that just because a few bad apples are in the bunch doesn't mean that the bushel is ruined. Besides who are these idiots fooling anyway. They're raking up never ending claims about something they know NOTHING or very little about. I mean c’mon. It's like trying to fix a car whilst some jerk who has no knowledge of cars other than reading the safety manual(and yet STILL gained no knowledge from the experience) stands about telling you that everything you're doing is wrong because they know better because they've read about the bad bad things that can (and mostly don't) happen. Plus the world is full of horrendous atrocities, sadly you can't change that. But hey it's not acceptable to have FICTIONAL and (very rarely) NON-FICTIONAL simulations of these atrocities who 9 outta ten times you're actually the good guy in. Apparently this is worse then the real life dramas playing out day by day.... pfft ingnorant tosspots. Add in good old fashion generational gaps and you get a whole bunch of supposedly Intellectually superior jerks ruining the fun for everyone else because apparently THEY KNOW BEST when in reality they know nothing at all. Now normally shit like this would be fine (Forget these twats they’re stuffy old windbags) if it wasn’t that they’re the ones in power so they can if they’re so inclined outlaw the sale of certain games based on their own ignorance. Wow, now that’s fair. Pfft.
  • TheDude - October 17, 2009 9:46 p.m.

    I'd like to see fox news freak out when New Super Maro Bros for the wii comes out and they freak out becuz it encoruages kids to jump on peoples heads. Great article GR. one of the best top 7's yet.
  • kanerox547 - October 16, 2009 2:41 a.m.

    ahh its after reading articles like this that really pisses me off and a good way to relieve that is to go play some fallout 3
  • Doctalen - October 15, 2009 9:53 p.m.

    Shits is just to funny seriously. I wonder when the next gaming "hanging" is going to happen so I can laugh my ass off.
  • Cwf2008 - October 12, 2009 2:16 a.m.

    Of course the thing is glen beck is not and never was a respected media member. He and Hannity and raving idiots hell bent on turning america into an anarchy state
  • mattrules - October 9, 2009 10:51 a.m.

    The baby pals thing pissed me off quote from video: "but the packging clearly states the product was licenced by nintendo" but the console's logo that doesn't mean nintendo licenced it
  • PivotPlurals1 - September 5, 2009 8:32 p.m.

    Hmmm... i wonder what they would about Zelda: wand of Gamelon XD
  • oldgrammastinkyfeet - August 9, 2009 10:32 p.m.

    Geoff is my new favorite person ever.
  • Blade1006 - April 28, 2009 10:49 p.m.

    Speaking of the media what about ESRB they are corrupt and way to influential for their own good according to a reliable source of mine the ESRB doesn't even play the games they just watch trailers and base the ratings on them, also because of the most ludicrously wonderful ESRB(sarcasm) I cannot play nearly any of today's best games simply because they have an M label on them sometimes for no good reason!
  • unknownwarrior33 - April 24, 2009 3:23 a.m.

    There is actually a game out there where you indeed earn points (they're actually called points) for murdering people gruesomely. Yes somehow, Madworld hasn't gotten a lot of press in that field.

Showing 1-20 of 169 comments

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