Everyone reading this right now, I need you to sit down. I’m about to deliver news that may be incredibly shocking and could cause you to fall off your chair, which is why I recommend you put a crash mat around where you’re sitting because this news could change your life forever…
Some people don’t like videogames.
Not only that, but some of them actively refuse to fully understand them, revel in their ignorance and limited knowledge and go on television and communicate those ignorant views to everyone watching!
Get the medical team in here, we’ve got another fainter. Dammit, this happens every time.
It stands to reason that with every invention comes considerable backlash from ignorant parties. From the insistence of putting 3D into nearly everything to iPhones and mechanised looms, any invention is going to spawn a group of luddites lining up with blunt instruments ready to smash it in fear it’s going to take their jobs away. Videogames have been one of the biggest victims of this kind of ignorance for years; from a lawyer so persistent on getting them banned that he ended up being disbarred, to politicians trying to ban sales of them to minors for fears of violent content, and that “Videogames cause rape” débâcle around the time of Bulletstorm’s release. The fact that there are so many ignorant comments made in the mainstream media about games isn’t the surprising thing to me. What is surprising is that while the controversy may change and our preferred medium may grow up, the way some gamers approach the criticism and accusations levelled against games hasn’t.
And it’s ruining it for the rest of us.
Recently in the UK, a Channel Five show called “The Wright Stuff” became the latest attempt by the mainstream to criticise something they don’t actually understand and members of that broadcast became targets of another pro-games campaign. This time around, the campaign’s led by CVG and called WRONG (Stop the Witless and Ridiculous Opinions of Non-Gamers). It’s a harmless enough campaign; CVG are tired of seeing the same tired arguments from people who clearly don’t understand the medium, and if you see the transcript of what irked them, it’s difficult as a gamer to sit there and disagree with them. I’d recommend you read the original transcript provided in CVG’s WRONG article, as I’m about to horribly skewer the quotes in lieu of copying the whole thing:
Stefanie Powers: “It’s the horrible violent video games which [have] been used far too long as baby-sitting devices, so that children are raised with these flashing, hot symbols of [irresponsible] violence. And it’s probably that emotionally he’s just as detached from the potential of this as he would be with his Nintendo.”
Anne Diamond: “Having just that sort of armoury under his bed – just like you’d have a couple of Nintendo’s and a PlayStation under your bed.”
Matthew Wright: “You can equate with a teenage boy who almost certainly would have played just those games, spraying a machine gun… maybe we should talk about the shoot-’em-up games again tomorrow in the light of this, because I think you’re dead right.”
Pretty damning and ignorant statements, especially that one comparing having consoles under your bed to having weapons there; that’s practically begging to be criticised right there, and the worst part is that they’re somehow trying to blame videogames for unrelated gang violence. Sure, violence is at a forefront in a lot of videogames, but blaming that violence on games is like blaming the recent economic depression on that fact that the hero is often betrayed by an ally for money in films; it doesn’t make sense, and I actually feel stupider having to create that analogy.
It gets worse.
“The Wright Stuff” then made a reference to the WRONG campaign on another show and called those taking part in the campaign “brain-dead computer nerds” in a manner they knew would bait critics like a paedophile to a playground, and on a following episode they then chose to actually discuss videogames with statements so ignorant and evidence so shaky even creationists would stop in their tracks and re-assess themselves a little. They’re so bad I can’t even bring myself to paraphrase what they said because typing this sentence explaining why I won’t is a better, saner use of my time and the oxygen I’m inhaling in order to be alive enough to type it. You can read the summary of what’s said by clicking on this sentence, and you should feel sorry for the poor guy who had to type it all up.
So after this incredibly long-winded explanation of the situation at the time of writing, I’m all on-board to support CVG and their campaign when I scroll to the bottom and see…
That’s the first comment. The first damn comment to the article. However, in the interests of selectively handpicking comments so I can make my point, here are some selectively hand-picked comments that prove the point I’m about to make.
Now before I continue, I have to admit that a much larger majority of the comments than I was expecting were actually much more intelligent and reasonable than these ones, so hats off to the people who restored a little of my faith in the people who comment on videogame articles on the internet. The people I’ve quoted? You’re who I’m writing this about, and I’d like to ask you to stop. It’s you, the vocal minority that are ruining things like this for the rest of us.
Just throwing this out there, but just for once, when the mainstream media attacks gaming with incredibly ignorant statements and insinuates that playing videogames will make us all violent socio-paths, can the majority of gamers not act exactly like that in response?
“Oh, they said games make us all violent, sociopathic and detached from reality? Well, I’ll go shit on their doorstep! That’ll show them!”
Excuse me for examining your obviously flawless logic, but surely by doing that you’re just helping to prove their point? After all, how many other groups of people can you think of who’ll look at the criticism they get and then actively and willingly prove said criticism?
On the aforementioned TV show Anne Diamond said something that cannot be overlooked in this circumstance: “I’ve come across these people before. If you write anything critical or say anything critical of computer games, you become a victim of really vicious hate mail.”
The worst part of what she said? She’s completely right.
When Fox News investigated Bulletstorm and Carol Lieberman claimed that “‘the increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games“, the gaming community was in uproar, and quite rightly so. After all, she made an incredibly inaccurate statement and any attempts at rationality were clearly abandoned for the increased attention they’d get by sensationalising the story and scaremongering. What did some gamers do in response? Quite hilariously, admittedly, attacked Carol Lieberman’s book on Amazon, rating it poorly and making inaccurate statements about the book much like she did about the game in an amazing display of irony. I couldn’t discourage it at the time because the best ones were way too hilarious and gamers weren’t being worse, just being the same and using the same logic as their opponents, and dealing with it with humour is fine as long as you’re aware your opponents can choose not to recognise your sarcasm and take you seriously for their own ends. That, I can deal with. What I can’t deal with is what some of the vocal minority were doing, and it’s the same as what they were doing with the Penny-Arcade ‘Dickwolves’ kerfuffle. For those not in the know, Penny-Arcade made a comic that satirised the inherent evil of “rescue x amount of people” quests, but gained controversy and ire for making a rape joke in the process, angering vocal feminists and other detractors. What did they want? For Penny-Arcade to either pull the comic that they felt was insensitive towards women, apologise, or both. What did that vocal minority of gamers do? Send those people death threats and advocate their rape. You’ve just crossed the point where you’ve made it impossible to defend yourselves or for others to defend you, and you’ve just ruined it for everyone else. You, the vocal minority, have become children so desperate to defend something that you’re willing to cause legitimate grievance to anyone who dares disagree with you. It’s something that makes you rub your eyes, get out of your chair and loudly exclaim “What the fuck?!”
Again, I know these gamers are the minority, and that’s something I can imagine anyone willing to dismiss this tirade will be thinking and desperate to say to me, but consider this:
Those people on the TV? The ones you’re attacking for giving gaming a bad name with their uninformed opinions? They’re also a minority now. Gaming has become more mainstream in recent years and now those people running their mouths off are a minority that’s slowly dying out as their generation are gradually replaced.
Think about the insurgents in Iraq for a second. Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this. Now, tell me, who did you think of first; the many innocents who haven’t done anything wrong, or the terrorists? Both have fundamentally similar beliefs, but different ways of expressing those beliefs. Those terrorists may be the minority, but they’re the ones who come to the forefront and who many think are speaking and acting on the behalf of the rest. That’s what this situation almost feels like, that those vocal minority of gamers ruining it for the rest of us are claiming to fight for our cause, but doing so in such a way that it makes it difficult for the rest of us to be taken seriously, because the minority are all-too willing to fulfil the stereotypes others are willing to brand us with.
I want to end this with a direct message to those people:
You’re making it harder and harder for gaming to be taken seriously and you’re making it harder for the negative stigma surrounding playing games to dissipate. As a result, it’s harder for the medium to defend itself against criticism and it prevents the industry from maturing as quickly as it should be. The way you act is childish, and you’re ruining gaming not just for yourself, but for everyone.
I’ll still support CVG and their WRONG campaign, but only in tandem with my own view…
GRIFT: Gamers are Ruining It For Themselves.
CVG – WRONG: Anne Diamond, Matthew Wright. Please stop talking about video games.
CVG – WRONG: ‘Brain-dead computer nerds’ gifted national TV exposure.
CVG – WRONG: Which came first, GTA or drive-by shootings?
Rock, Paper, Shotgun – Will Bulletstorm Murder Your Children? (No)
Rock, Paper, Shotgun – BulletstormGate: Fox News Responds.
Channel 5 – The Wright Stuff – Episode 68-22