An Open Letter To The Media

Being a gamer, you quickly learn that your hobby labels you as a certain type to outsiders. You can hold arguments with outsiders about the merits of a passive versus active pastime, but it won’t get you very far. All that you can do is try and suppress a smile, when a person that watches the Corrie and Eastenders omnibuses religiously every week informs you that playing videogames is a waste of your time, but that is a minor complaint. People tend to have strong opinions about things that they don’t understand, and when I come across people that judge me, without knowing what they are talking about, I just label them as dinosaurs. This also extends to the media, in all of its wonderfully different ways.

It has reached the stage where every time I read one of those tragic stories where a child has murdered another child, I expect some behavioural expert to explain that the perpetrator had an unhealthy obsession with videogames and that this tragedy was an inevitability. In fairness, this assumption has died down a little now and they have gone with the equally patronising assumption that gamers are work-shy, soap dodging social dropouts. Every time a major release rolls around that attracts a midnight opening, I just dread the roving reporters, because they will always focus on those gamers that give gamers a bad name. It’ll either be two generations of a family, where dad is happily keeping his kids out on a school night to pick up 18-rated games for their pre-teens, or the new favourite trick of interviewing an avid World of Warcraft gamer during his actual gaming session, just to artificially hammer home the point that these gamers have serious social deficiencies and just can’t be torn away from their games.

I won’t rail against that Panorama show, or that fake news story involving Raoul Moat and a GTA spin-off; we know better than to even debate just how deeply, profoundly pathetic those efforts were. The only way those efforts could be topped for inaccuracy and offensiveness is if we were to discover that Josef Fritzl was actually an avid player of The Sims, or that Julian Assange accidentally leaked a copy of his RapeLay game along with those non-event Wikileaks (honestly, Wikileaks was a non-event as of the time of writing). However, seeing as it is coming up to Christmas as I write this, I feel as though I should make a wish. It won’t come true though; either because Santa isn’t real or because it simply doesn’t fit in with our media’s agenda. Just once, I’d love to see a 2,000 word article in the Daily Mail focusing on gamers that aren’t an embarrassment to the human race; An article that acknowledges that gamers can come from all walks of life, without being a living, breathing FBI profile. If that were to happen, I’d be as happy as a pig in Côtes du Rhône.

Warning: Enlargement image may offend!

Yet, having said that, it seems as though the media has stopped reporting on games as if they were a pastime only suitable for pre-teens. Let’s give credit where credit is due. Do you remember the furore when Mass Effect 1, by virtue of choosing the gender of your Commander Shepard, allowed for either hetero or lesbian shenanigans with a member of your crew? Or the full frontal nudity in GTA IV’s Lost and the Damned? And this furore was coming from channels or newspapers that were happy to advertise 18-rated films. That hasn’t happened for a little while, which I will take as a sign that things are slowly changing; all that needs to happen now is that all the positive things that gaming can do is highlighted by the media.

It might not seem it, when you have the misfortune of jumping into a particularly awful public match of Call of Duty: Combat Evolved but gaming has, as we all know, embraced the web 2.0 and it’s now easier than ever to find folk who enjoy your hobby and spend time with them. Need help completing a level with a friend that lives in a different city? You can do that. Want to share gaming tips or just plain show off? Gaming has your back. Want to send playfully abusive messages to a fellow gamer that’s better than you? Go right ahead. Gaming has moved far beyond the time when it really was just a solitary pursuit. Gaming really does encourage people to be more social.

In the words of someone much smarter than me, we only have one life. This isn’t a dress rehearsal, this is it; and for however long we have on this side of eternity, we might as well embrace and enjoy all opportunities that we have to enjoy ourselves. Life is stressful enough and if the media can try and forget the outdated stereotype it holds of gamers, we might even see the day when you can announce proudly to anyone that you are a gamer.

Last five articles by Victor



  1. Si says:

    Well said Vic. The problem with the media is indeed that they are intent on pigeon-holing the “typical” gamer. They don’t understand that there is no such thing. People who share a passion for gaming often come from all sorts of different backgrounds, like different sorts of music, film or literature, and have different beliefs, socially and politically. The media, or more specifically television, also has the same problem when trying to cater in a positive way for “gamers”. With such a varied demographic it’s impossible to provide programming that suits all gamers. It also doesn’t help that the average television producer still has the outdated mindset that all gamers are acne-ridden teenagers – which is probably why they resort to the teen oriented style programmes of Gameface, et al.

  2. Lauren says:

    Agreed! Especially about all the killings you mentioned where “Oh, Jimmy was so obsessed with World of Warcraft that when his mom told him to clean his room, he stabbed her and their puppy” or some stupid crap. Like, really?? My husband and I always banter about this, saying that video games don’t make kids violent, their upbringing and personalities do. There is no evidence proving that video games make anyone violent. If anything, they make one LESS violent, because they get it all out of their systems.

    I don’t know. My family doesn’t even understand the appeal of gaming and every time I try to tell them about a new game I bought, they kind of roll their eyes and say what a “waste of money” it was. I guess some people will just never understand. So sad…

  3. Edward Edward says:

    Excellent stuff, Victor :)
    However, there’s an important reason why they do it:
    Those who play games are those who typically watch as much TV or read as many papers, etc. Media types view those who play games as those who won’t give them money too, so they try and attack what they don’t know. Ironically this further alienates gamers but it also turns those not in the know against it and gives that media more money by doing so.
    It’s a horribly broken system, but I’m just waiting until they shut the fuck up about games.

  4. Ste says:

    Putting that Panaroma bollocks to one side, I do think that elements of the media are getting better. A few months back Radio 1 had a gaming week going on, they were talking about favorite games and reviewed one or two of them on air. It was a little bit half arsed but I suppose it is better than nothing and a step in the right direction. I think we are now at a time where people like me who grew up gaming will soon be starting to acquire positions of importance within the media. When this happens I think we could see a change for the better in regards to the current, sometimes, backwards views elements of the media hold.

  5. Adam Adam says:

    Horray for Vic :) Can we vote for you at the next general election?

    It’s a shame that modern media won’t embrace gaming culture but they do like to sell newspapers and if they can give people something to nod along with and complain about before they go to the pub, get drunk, do drugs, beat up loved ones and all that then I suppose its only fair.

    Slightly unrelated but for everything I may not enjoy about Call of Duty, I did love THAT commercial they ran in the run up to the games release showing people from all walks of life playing the game -showed what gaming is REALLY like. Loved it.

    Great read Vic

  6. Miles says:

    Breaking news! An average gamer plays too late and sleeps past his alarm making him late for work.

    While this may be the normal situation that we all experience, it’s nowhere near news worthy. As with every Harry Potter release, they showed the overnight campers waiting for the store to open. The Twilight news clips showed only 40+ mothers wishing they were sleeping with the underage stars (though if those roles were switched, every man in that theater would be on Megan’s law before the movie was over). The only part of subcultures that are deemed fit for the news are the ones that fit the stereotypes or the extremists. That being said, gamers need to stop whining about this ‘negative light’ they are being cast in. It is the easiest time in history to be a gamer, these stereotypes of gamers being outcasts and nerds were once completely true. I was made fun of all throughout grade school for my desire to game instead of going out and riding bikes. Now, with how mainstream gaming is, there is a game for every clique. Between the midnight release of Reach and Black Ops, I felt like it was lunch time in high school again, with sci-fi geeks, jocks, stoners, cheerleaders, goths, etc., so let’s get over the pity party we throw every time a news reporter interviews someone dressed as their favorite character, and realize it’s the fucking news, all of it is bullshit anyway.

  7. Lee says:

    There’s only one thing for it vic, you have to try and get your next article published in the Sunday telegraph.

  8. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I said this another place, in another time, but people are who they are and it doesn’t matter what their interests may be… if they have it in them to be the type to walk up to someone and put a gun to their forehead, then squeeze the trigger without a second’s hesitation then gaming won’t make them any worse. Similarly, if someone is intrinsically lazy then they just ARE lazy regardless of whether they spend eight hours a day gaming or twelve hours watching reruns of Sons And Daughters on some obscure satellite channel.

    When I listened to the radio interview that our very own Michael participated in, focusing on the Panorama show and how gamers were portrayed, I was shocked to hear that the radio host was doing his best to get Michael to say that he was addicted to gaming and that it was all he could ever think about. The irony is that, for fifteen minutes prior to the few minutes where they covered the gaming lifestyle, the show was dedicated to the X-Factor where they not only covered the latest show in some detail, but the host went on to editorialise and they then took calls from their listeners who, if you ask me, sounded more obsessed about Simon Cowell’s moobs and Cheryl Cole’s dimples than any gamer I’ve ever met would obsess about their latest game. It just goes to show that people will invariably see what they want to see, and colour their attitude based on trends and how the media manoeuvres them.

  9. Samuel Samuel says:

    When the media realises that reality TV and “celebrity” extramarital affairs isn’t newsworthy, that sensationalist tactics cheapen and insult society’s collective intelligence, and that a series of vox pops by ignorant people in the street isn’t the way to discuss serious events and phenomena, in short returning to the time when I could watch the news and see a stoic faced and gravitas laden newsreader sitting behind a desk informing me of things that actually fucking matter happening in the world, then that day is the one I will give a shit what the media thinks of me and my pastimes.

    I’m already proud to say to anyone, any time, that I am a gamer. If they don’t like it, that’s not my problem. It doesn’t define all that I am. I also love literature, and film, and music. I’m reasonably confident of being much more sophisticated in my tastes in those than most of the general public, too… I have never read all the Harry Potters, watched Twilight, or bought an album by anyone who has ever appeared on the X Factor. Today alone however I have read from Don Quixote, and the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft, watched a foreign language film without subtitles, and listened to some opera. That I happen to play games and be a gamer is but one facet of my interests. Were I to stab someone in the face tomorrow however, I bet only my large collection of games would be mentioned as a probable causal influence.

    It’s as ludicrous as saying that rock music is the work of Satan, or that society is getting fatter because junk food isn’t labelled to say that it’s high in calories. And frankly, beneath my contempt. I’m not missing out, the people railing against something on the basis that it is partially or entirely unknown to them are the ones missing out.

    The best way to respond to the general media’s absurd antics is to simply be the bigger man and ignore them, until such time as they grow the fuck up and return to being relevant.

  10. MrCuddleswick says:

    It isn’t just gaming that the main news outlets get wrong. They get almost everything wrong.

    Largely, the news is reported by people who know nothing of what they are reporting.

    I wouldn’t ask a 5 year old for their opinions on the coalition government, and that is the exact reason why I don’t watch BBC, Sky or ITV news, or read the likes of the Mail or Express. Misinformed hyberbole. The BBC especially is an embarrassment. 1.5 hours of primetime programming every day is pissed away on watery news, when WE PAY FOR A SODDING 24 HOUR BBC NEWS CHANNEL ANYWAY.

    If people like the news so much why don’t they marry it? Or just watch the dedicated news channel. Then I can watch re-runs of Only Fools and Horses.

    Seriously, don’t get me started.

  11. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    If people like the news so much why don’t they marry it?

    You’re awesome :)

  12. NeoVampyre says:

    Hi. Vic! Myself personally, I think the powers that be are only now seeing the potential tool that videos games can offer themselves as a further control method that can be used to break up the physical social interaction to suit their needs. they now will probibly no longer oppressively diminish videos games whilst they can use them to keep people apart and control people into only playing the ‘suggested’ genres. So far they have already addicted the masses into the facebook world so why not consider they have noticed the console gaming world as well? There was a time when people spent the week-end gathering in pubs, clubs and other social venues just for the sake of getting together in a group. but now why bother? Pubs are dieing in the UK due to no smoking rules and I’m sure they haven’t finished playing the ‘swine flu’ gimick as they did during last music festival season. So why bother going out to see and be with friends when you can play online with them, chat on IM and facebook? We all may be sharing ideas with the world and whats wrong with it, but when was the last time people got together in public to actual enforce their ideas?

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