The 5 most asinine local news stories about videogames

Example 3: An oldie but a goodie

Hey, FOX affiliates have been at this thing for a long time. The next example is seventeen years old. The controversy over Mortal Kombat seems almost quaint by today's standards, but if you look at this 1993 story, you'll see that the techniques for demonizing games are still the same.

Misinformation: Check

“Cold-blooded murder is making Mortal Kombat the most popular game in history,” says the reporter. I don't know where she got her information, but even in the series' heyday, MK wasn't even close to the most popular game at the time, let alone ever.

Fear-mongering: Check

“A horrifying possibility for parents,” she says. Need we say more?

Misrepresenting parental concerns:

All the adults in the piece are clearly unenthused about the game, but they obviously recognize MK for the over-the-top cartoon that it is. The reporter, on the other hand, acts like she's talking to parents who fear for their child's life.

Example 4: Science!

Wow, this one doesn't come from FOX. NBC can get in on the act, too. This story concerns a study where researchers had teenagers play a T-rated war game (presumably a Medal of Honor installment) and another group play a racing game. Sometime during or after the kids were playing the game, the researchers put the kids into an fMRI machine and observed higher activity levels in “the part of the brain that controls emotional arousal,” and less activity in areas that deal with concentration and self-control.

The results of the study aren't surprising. Multiple studies have found that playing action video games leads to emotional arousal. However, arousal is a very specific psychological and physiological process that happens under a variety of circumstances. Sports, for instance, tend to trigger the same reactions, which are usually accompanied by increased adrenaline levels. But this in no way suggests that playing games leads to violent behavior. However, if there's something that all these news stories are teaching us, it's that you don't have to investigate a story or even understand it to report on it.

Example 5: Casual games want to convert your children to Islam

Many parts of today's games are outsourced. It's expensive to generate all the content required for a modern video game. Often times, things like sound effects are licensed out from companies that sell entire libraries of sound files. One such collection of sounds found its way into a line of Fisher Price dolls and later into a THQ video game, Baby Pals.

A Columbus mother who bought one of the Fisher Price dolls misheard the gibberish being spouted by her child's toy as “Islam is the light,” and was furious. Deciding that it was her civic duty to alert the local media to THQ and Fisher Price's Jihadist plans, she earnestly makes her case in the above video.

While we would never disparage this woman's earnest desire to protect her children, we do have to question the CBS affiliate that decided that this was newsworthy. A simple Google search would have revealed that the sounds were gibberish, and that many other similar problems have occurred since the advent of talking toys in the 1980's. As Snopes highlights, in 1982, a Spanish speaking doll's vocalization of “Quiero a mami” was mistaken for “Kill mommy.”

As much as we've picked on local news, they're not the only offenders. As FOX News famously demonstrated again just last week, national news outlets do much the same thing, albeit with a little bit more polish and pizazz, for the same reason: they need to pad airtime. And, as anyone in the business of selling advertising will tell you, reality and truth can really get in the way of a good story sometimes. Say, have you heard about the guy from Kenya who got elected to some high-ranking US government position?

Feb 18, 2011

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