Games, Journalism and Culture: Games aren’t niche, so don’t make it look like they are (ASSESS)

This is the second and final of two pieces in my Games, Journalism and Culture series, focusing on how games are represented across the breadth of journalistic output. This particular piece also explores the importance of other media.

The debate of whether games are art may have a future, but there is no debate when considering whether games are a financial powerhouse. They are. The Motion Picture Association of America reports that the box office revenue for films worldwide was $34.7 billion in 2012, whereas the projection for video games, which reside nearly exclusively in the home, was $78.5 billion (including mobile) according to Reuters. Video gaming clearly isn’t a niche medium, yet it is treated as if it is.

The media needs to hold itself to account for making the medium appear niche. The U.K.  launches of the PlayStation 4 and XBOX One, momentous on financial and cultural levels, found themselves on the none of the front covers of the U.K.’s four traditional high-quality newspapers: The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph or The Times. Indeed, the Financial Times did have PlayStation and XBOX on the cover of their November 29 issue, but only because of a feature looking at them in relation to media devices like Apple TV.

Sadly, when high profile figures speak about games, the stereotype of games as ‘bad’ or ‘trivial’ sometimes rears its head. The Telegraph reported how Prince William stated, regarding the PlayStation 4 “It’s very addictive….I’d like to get one but I’m not sure how my wife would feel about it.” (via PlayStation Universe). The implication is that games are a sort of guilty pleasure. David Cameron has also admitted to playing games (BBC), and whilst it might be positive for him to reveal playing games, it would have been better if he had revealed he dabbled in the likes of Papers, Please instead of Angry Birds. The problem with Angry Birds that it is merely games as entertainment. Whilst games being presented as appreciated by mainstream figures is positive, David Cameron’s revelation may have further enshrined the idea that they are trivial, and not aiding them in becoming further widespread.

The games industry can, surprisingly, be represented poorly by games journalists, even without apparent negative intention. The reference to the ‘gaming community’ is also problematic, something that an article by Simon Park for New Statesman brought to light for me, pointing out that its use unintentionally suggests there is an archetypal gamer, when this is likely less true than ever. Wider culture isn’t helping either, with the blockbuster film Gamer being a generic action film, and reaffirming the image of games as being violent and childish. If only mainstream films portrayed the breadth and depth of games.

A major problem is the link between video games and celebrity, as we just don’t have any who have taken the world stage. Nolan North is, according to The Guardian, “the nearest thing the games industry has to a bona fide leading man.” Sure, he may be well know by by gamers, but how well known is he by the wider world? I think we all know the answer to that question, and as such, it needs tackling. The gaming industry needs high quality television shows, prestigious events, powerful orators. It needs to appear to be cultured, mature and mainstream. For the most part, we lack these. There are few T.V. shows worldwide dedicated to gaming. Some major gaming events have found themselves tainted by immaturity, which PSU shows with the case of VGX. Celebrities from other cultural forms regularly turn up to launch events. All of hese things make the industry weaker.

GamingByte has produced a helpful compilation of cringeworthy moments at VGX 

It wouldn’t take much for the games industry to gain more credibility, though the representation of gaming isn’t purely in the hands of gamers, games journalists, and the rest of the games industry. However, all gamers can do their bit. Treat our passion, our industry as mature and respectable, appreciate that it is made up of a diverse range of people. If we respect ourselves, others will.

What are your thoughts? Let me know below!

The next post will land on Monday, December 16. From that date onward, I will not be posting on Wednesdays. New blog posts will appear on Mondays and Fridays at the usual time of 6 P.M.  

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