They Are Always That Good

Our little gaming blogosphere has been kicking around a fews of stories about Second Life recently, as reporters uncritically pass along press releases with large numbers and convenient narratives. These stories rarely (never?) connect the 2,000,000 “residents” and 36,000 actual subscribed accounts, and if you have read any, you are aware of the depth of understanding demonstrated about the online world and Second Life’s place and relative stature in it.

That depth of understanding is usually displayed in the standard freak show story. “After Bob started playing World of Warcraft 112 hours a week, his wife left him, he lost his job, and his cat died of starvation not thirty feet from his computer. Bob is a typical of many in his ‘guild.'” Or how about, “Two teenagers shot some people today, and one of the owns a PlayStation! When will the legislature protect us from these ‘gamers’?”

When you think about how accurately your hobby or industry is portrayed in the media, remember that they are equally competent on other issues. That same quality of journalism appears in reports on local crimes, global warming, complex legal rulings, sports scores, and what is the best diet to slim down this spring. Why is it that you can read a story about something you know first-hand, see the analysis wrong and three names misspelled, then turn the page and take their word on whether environmental conditions are improving in China?

: Zubon

7 thoughts on “They Are Always That Good”

  1. Very, very true. Reminds me of the current ‘debate’ over here in Germany – a few weeks ago, an armed teenager marched into his school and injured a lot of people. And the media was happy to report that the guy loved to play ‘killer-games’ like Counter-Strike. And the politicians… well, they were quick with press statements saying that not only such games should be forbidden, but the makers should be punished. In case anyone is interested, here is a statement from one of the makers of Crysis, one of the few (potentially) successful german games:

    However, I think the main problem mass media has about game(r)s is the lack of specialized journalists who know about the subject – I’d guess those who know games usually work at a gaming-related magazine/website, but not a daily newspaper. Still, your last point probably has some truth in it.

  2. actually, I’ve been losing more patience with our own MMO blogosphere than the actual media. There’s as much double, triple-talk going on by people for awhile over SL. And there’s still the elephant-in-the-room of professional bloggers, or gaming professionals versus amateurs gamers pushing up some issues, like how great SL is only last year. The lack of good information is flowing unfortunately in many directions.

  3. The main reason I tend to take seriously the more important types of coverage is that they’re more, well, important. The machinery of the media is geared toward covering social and political matters, but not so much the scientific or technological. They simply do not have the training necessary to understand the science, and tech stories, especially ones on games, are treated as “human interest,” even if the human interest is, “Oh, look, someone got shot in the head.” Human interest stories have the bare minimum necessary research, which sometimes means almost no fact checking. On the other hand, if they fuck up the name of China’s premier or get the GDP of Bolivia wrong, someone’s going to be all over their ass.

    Also, I think it’s important to understand that there are tiers to coverage. The local news is all about “if it bleeds, it leads” stories and sensationalism. National and cable news outlets are generally somewhat better, but they will, at least once or twice a month, pick up a local interest story and just run with that sucker, at which point they just drop to the level of local news. However, in their case, at least, if you’re dealing with something that’s of national interest, you can count on outlets like CNN and MSNBC to give good broad coverage.

  4. I will have to disagree with BitterCupOJoe about how the media handles coverage of multiple types of stories. I agree that they may be more under presure to get the facts straight but that doesn’t translate across the board. How the media handles any story is based on the one thing that the any of the outlets wants: Readers and watchers. They want your attention, be it negative or positive. It does not matter which to them. You are watching and reading what they want you to see, this includes what they want you to see the most, commercials. Printed or filmed this is what they want you to see. Take a look at a national news broadcast and see if you can’t figure out which sponser paid the most for advertising space. Depending on the company being promoted the story right before or after will be placed there to cement the name or type of product in your memory. This is not some conspiracy theory just marketing of course.
    The media caters to whomever they think will be the one to give them the most money or power and control over what they do. They want to be able to keep making money by showing stories that will keep them from being overregulated by government officials. I very much doubt that the facts from Iraq we see on CNN are in any way accurate. The stories continue to show how well we are doing there but it doesn’t jive with the plan to increase our forces there.
    We hear that the games we play make us violent. Violence has been in videogames particularly for at least a few decades. Where are the mass riots and killings and anarchy we hear MUST come to pass because we play these games? I don’t count the school shootings as the above simply for the fact that there is no evidence proving that the games they played lead directly to them being violent. The people had plenty of other issues making them go the route they chose.
    We hear violence is on the rise, well it should be. Our population is growing at an ever increasing pace. More people mean by definition more violence. As more people are born and live in proximity we will get friction. The only real cause of all the violence is that we are all selfish and can’t get a grip on that selfishness. It then manifests in a variety of ways, the most news worthy gets a spot on TV and some HEATED DEBATES in some dark room with serious faced old people talking about how things need to change. The changes most times result in a loss of privilidges for a segment of the perseeved trouble demographic.
    As much as we think we have control we do not. We are controlled by the information that is allowed to filter down to us be those above. What we see is catered to illiciting a reaction based on what ever the information holders wish AS a reaction. It doesn’t always work, humans make mistakes so it’s expected that a reaction won’t always be the one looked for. On the other hand governments and the media have been around as long as there have been organized groups of peoples living in proximity. Which means they are constanly improving their techniques of control. Again it is their perseaved right to preserve the status quo as long as possible. Stability is good for business most of the time and when wars are good for business we have a war or two.
    We are stuck as a people relying on others to give us the information they think we should know. With the way the world is we can’t ourselves find out the truths. So we place our futures into the hands of people doing a job for money with the knowledge that they need to please their bosses in order to keep getting paid. I hear words thrown about like integrity and balanced news, yet the bottom line is they get paid to tell us information we have no way of confirming. Yes there are several news stations and publications but who is to say they just don’t speak to each other. Oops rolling into conspiracy theories again. I am not in any way anti-government. I love my country. I just take everything I hear with a healthy grain of salt. It’s the salt I hate.

    My apologies for the long response. It Friday and I’m unusually verbose today. Excellent site you people have here.

  5. The average person still doesn’t know or care about gaming, including the media. They use sensationalism to attract an audience and try to water it down to a digestable sound bit. Since their aim is very low to begin with, their certainly not going to worry about accuracy. Being wrong in this case, is likely a victimless crime to them. We’re all strange and unusual in their eyes. I doubt they’re losing any sleep making us look any stranger.

  6. I feel the same way. Whenever I watch a news item about a subject I actually know about, it is so wrong it’s laughable. And the “journalists” rely on extremists or any nut that will get a headline. So if I can’t believe them on that, why believe them on anything?

    The journals Science and Nature let you pick you own peer reviewers! What the hell is that?

    Regarding Iraq: I don’t know what CNN that guy is watching, all I see is bad news. Reuters has been caught using faked photos to make the US look bad. AP is about to be embroiled in a huge scandal using a fake source for much of it’s propaganda. I mean news. Even Eason Jordan is hopping on that bandwagon, so AP must be in serious doodoo.

    There is no news, only propaganda by whoever owns the news company. God forbid anyone’s world view be challenged by facts.

    The most laughable headline of 2006 was probably “Warmest temperatures in 12,000 years!” no kidding! It’s called “the ice age ended about then and it’s been getting warmer since”. You could have had the exact same headline 500 years ago before any industry existed. (well technically we’re in an ice age just an interim warming period) But no! it’s all global warming caused by evil humans.

    Seriously I am old enough to remember when we were all supposed to freeze to death in the coming ice age; and there were all these plans to heat up the atmosphere. What if we implemented them? Where would we be now?

    Though global warming is much more attractive, because it lets socialists, the self flaggelating Opus Dei of the non christian West, blame themselves for all the world’s problems.

  7. “We hear violence is on the rise” the funny thing is violent crimes in the US has been decreasing since the 60s. But people say it’s increasing over and over and people believe it. But check FBI statistics and it’s pretty plain.

    Oh one more thing about Germans using guns to commit mass murder / suicide: I blame their “cowboy culture” and wide availability of guns!

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