Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The biased truth: A lesson in relative fidelity

Man has always been at war...it's in our blood. It's been that way ever since one monkey picked up a rock, bashed it over another's head and found that he was able to then take that other monkey's things. It gets into everything, from small things such as the fight over who can use the bathroom first in the morning to the big things like invading third world countries for natural resources I erm mean..."weeding out the bad guys who'd do us harm! yeehaw!"...the point is as a species we thrive on conflict. Even video gamers. There's always some story in the media that goes on about how video game caused violence is on the rise; it was Doom that caused Columbine, it was Grand Theft Auto that caused that Thai man to kill that taxi driver back in 2008, it was Katamari Damacy that caused the recession because it compelled Jeff Jefferson to run around hoarding everything in the world so that inflation sky rocketed because there was so little left in the world that Jefferson didn't own....those were dark, dark days indeed....

Of course, before video games, life was golden! Nothing bad ever happened! I mean sure, basically over 99% of wars happened before the advent of computer gaming...but come on, other than that it was great right?! Oh, come on, The Great Depression wasn't all that bad, it really brought people together! And as for the Dark Ages?! Best time, ever! Or whatever other example you care to mention...yes, everything sure was great back then!

Okay, that was unfairly sarcastic, a lot of great stuff did happen prior to video games, arguably more great stuff than has happened since, there, I've given you a freebie...but here's the thing, the real reason why video games are looked down on as a form of entertainment....they're new. It really is that simple, they've been around for about 50 years now but they only really hit the mainstream about 30 years ago and even then it was only seen as a kids toy. It's a rapidly growing industry, in this console generation alone, between the three main console competitors (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the Wii) they've sold over a quarter of a billion machines and that's not including how many handhelds (such as the DS or 3DS) are sold or how many PCs were bought with the express intent of being used as a games machine, it's estimated that there's roughly half a billion people worldwide who play at least an hour daily...the market for it is growing.

You have to question the intent of the media's stories. There's the story that's being presented and then there's the story behind that story, why is the general media always so keen to press the issue of video game violence. Well, there are a few reasons that are pretty easy to discern. Firstly, there's the target audience. As I said before video games are basically a youth thing. I'm not saying that that is entirely the case, as it's blatantly not so, they've been embraced by a decent percentage of the older population, but what about the rest. To them, video gaming is strange and unusual, it's full of it's own terminology indecipherable to those without the key ("l2p noob" "360 triple collateral no scope!" "gank DR, thn bk 2 mid grp 4 rosh" "fucking lagswitching"), it's something they can't get into because it requires time and/or effort and (most importantly I would argue) it could cause a rift to open in their social circle ("Franks into those kiddy-games now, ain't ya Frank."). So they're not altogether enthused about video games in the first place, because it's not for them, but you know what is? Watching television, watching the news, ever notice how the news broadcasts on BBC are different to the ones on MTV? Or how Fox news is different from Al Jazeera? That's called media bias, what you are getting is ostensibly the news, but it is the news presented in a format specifically for a certain demographic. If your audience is older, you show video games/new music in a bad light. This is primarily done to achieve repeat custom, if a news show is similar to your world view odds are likely that you will return to it again and again, which is great for the advertisers. It's the same with newspapers, websites, everything, they are all pushing an agenda to get you in again and again. There is truth there, sure, but you have to question it.

Why do you have to question it...well, in video games case especially, it's because it's harmful to other media....it's simple if you think about it, if you're busy playing a video game then you can't be watching the television programs. You can't be seeing all those lovely advert breaks. You're not watching movies and seeing the product placement. Consider who owns all those businesses, Sony own Columbia Pictures and I think that's the only major crossover in the industry (please do point out if I'm wrong, I'm not entirely certain), every one else is in competition. It's slowly fading away as their services become ever more intermingled (see for example Xbox1's deal with the NFL, worried about choosing between Halo or NFL on Monday nights?! well, now you don't have to!) and interestingly enough this has happened before. When television was first introduced, it didn't really do well, it was looked down on (much as video games are now) both by the media and the media influenced public...television started making some headway in the early 50s though and then the movie companies caved when they realised that they could make money off of old movies through their re-release on television. The Movie companies (the biggest of which are today's media conglomerates) should really have seen this coming though, as that was exactly the same way they began (as the innovative, edgy, underdog against the might of Print published media). 

Which leads me back to my opening, where I said that man has always been at war...old ideas are always conflicting against new ones, until the new idea itself becomes accepted, and then old, and is then fighting against some new idea...because just as much as we are about fighting, we are about adapting and making things routine. What was unthinkable back then is now considered unremarkable and normal, it's not always a good thing, but it can be.

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