New Media – The Stuff The Old Media Doesn’t Get

It’s a time-honored tradition, handed down from generation to generation.  Our parents had to deal with this, as did our grandparents, and great-grandparents.  The specifics change, but it’s the same story time and again…

<Insert Media Here> is corrupting the youth of today!

What do I mean by media?  Well, how about tv, movies, radio, comic books, books, video games, board games, music, plays? The list could go on and on.  There’s always something that folks want to point their finger at and blame for all the ills of society.

These days, it’s video games.

The worst part of it is how people who oppose new media the most vocally are usually those who have never actually experienced whatever they’re protesting.  Take for example the following video clip from Fox News discussing the Xbox 360 game Mass Effect.  It’s an RPG (role playing game) where you take on the role of a military commander to try and stop some really dudes from ruining the galaxy.

There are a couple of problems with the assertions made by the anchor and the expert:

  1. You can play as either a male or a female character.
    As the male, you have relationship possibilities with a female crew member, and an alien crew member.  As a female, you have the possibility with a male crew member and that same alien crew member.
  2. There is no graphic sex in the video game.
    As Geoff correctly states in the clip, there is nothing more than a shot of a bare butt, and a very brief glimpse of the side of a breast.
  3. You can not control the sex scene, dictating what happens.
    If you choose to have sex at a certain point in the game, a brief and highly obscured scripted sequence takes place automatically.  You basically hit the "go" button and the scene which is less than 2 minutes goes without any option of control for the player.
  4. It is not a forced choice in the game
    In the 30-40 hours of gameplay, you actually never have to make that choice.  If you don’t do a certain conversation path through most of the game, it won’t even be an option.  It’s possible that you’d never even know it was in the game.

The problems with the news clip just pile up, one on top of another.  You have the anchor woman, and the expert, Cooper Lawrence.  Two people who have never played the game being discussed, and who appear to generally be ignorant of video games in general.  Opposing them is one Geoff Keighley, someone who’s been around games journalism for many years now.  He knows his stuff, he plays these games.

When Geoff points out that these claimed extreme sex acts are complete fabrications, both the anchor and the expert blow him off and ignore him.  When Geoff asks Cooper if she’s actually played the game, she laughs at him and responds that she hasn’t in an incredibly condescending tone.  She then quotes a study that says young boys can not distinguish between video game violence and real violence.  A point that’s actually secondary and unrelated to the core issue of the news bit: explicit sex in Mass Effect.

Geoff, just as he’s starting to refute their claims one by one is hushed and brushed off the air for a brief session with a panel.  Now, no one on this panel is identified, and there’s nothing to show they have any credibility when commenting on video games.  In fact, two of the panelists show they actually have no clue about video games period.

One talks about some game he got for his 6 year old daughter, how he doesn’t even know how to get out of the first room.  Another asks wistfully what happened to PacMan, Pinball and Atari.  No one on the panel appears to have even played a game in well over 20 years.

The overall message of the clip: Mass Effect = Sex Game.  Games like this dangerous to kids.  Conclusion unclear.

I have no idea what they were trying to accomplish aside from spreading falsehoods about the game, and ignore the one person on the segment who had actually played the game at all.

It seems like a hobby for alarmists to target video games as the great evil.  You have Jack Thompson blaming video games for most of the youth violence in the last decade or so, ignoring that there’s no actual clear tie between someone playing a violent video game and them shooting their classmate.  Or that in some cases the shooters never actually played a video game period (VA Tech shooter).  These facts rarely move the fanatics though.

I wish that media outlets would for once actually try and educate their viewers, rather than shock or scare them with "facts" that sound good and support an opinion they want to push.