Getting a proper read of where video games reportage and research stands at right now is very difficult: By and large, we’re subjected to a hybrid beast of misunderstanding and sensationalism combined with real concern and ignorance. Much emphasis, of course, is put on the social psychology of gaming – its ills, woes and side-effects, leading to “expert”-citing sweeping statements and controversy-inviting headlines.
Where does the real enthusiast figure in all this? Always on the defensive?
What really befuddles me are the gloriously indistinct, contrary messages being sent out. Times Online recently caught my attention in posting two articles that could not be further apart from each other in register: Rob Fahey, from A New Challenger Appears, was gloriously able to squeeze through the article “Violent video games won’t corrupt anyone”:
Decades of research, often funded by groups with a vested interest in proving the “evil” of video games, have failed to prove a link between game violence and real-life violence. Is the issue, then, that we still consider video games to be for children, regardless of that huge, red 18 rating sticker?1
Only a mere week later, though, Times Online publish the report, “Computer games fan ‘planned school massacre’”:
A 13-year-old computer games enthusiast is facing charges of attempted murder after police said that they had thwarted a plan to shoot dead his teachers for giving him poor marks.2
A computer games enthusiast? Not a frustrated school kid, an angry student, a young misguided boy? Clearly what’s happening here is that first-hand experience and expertise - even if it stands at an arm’s length in the form of Fahey, for instance - simply does not get utilized; perhaps such sociocultural insensitivity towards gaming and gamers does not yet reach and touch a large enough portion of the audience to materialize in a response?
It’s not just the old guard that keeps on purporting these mistaken identities, overstatements and half-truths, either: Our very own games journalism tends to revel in sardonic reportage, gleeful misappropriation and biting commentary, often utilizing an insider perspective shielded by innate irony and negativity. What in the world is being done here, for instace? GotGame’s Sean Ryan briefly wrote about this in his piece, “Video Game Journalism: Contributing to Gaming’s Bad Image?”:
That being the case, why … is our own enthusiast media advocating this gross portrayal of our beloved hobbies by reporting these same stories? I agree that these stories should be told if they are in fact relevant to our niche sub-culture, but wouldn’t it be wise for video game journalists to exercise the appropriate filters? Otherwise, they’re just as guilty for giving credence to sensationalism.3
Sometimes, when a new sorry excuse of a study or a report appears, I feel as though my own ability to properly discuss these topic has been marred somewhat by years of misunderstanding, ignorance and neglect. All I instinctively know is to throw the defence switch, fully aware of the fact that it’s not nearly enough. I do remain confident, nevertheless, that we will soon all benefit from the tacit knowledge and expertise of the generations of today - that is, the kids - who are much more equipped and accustomed to dealing with the intricacies of the medium. You go guys and girls!