You know, I swore to myself never to write this post. This post on the boundless stupidity and ignorance of the media when it comes to video games and their supposed effect on 0.0000000….etc……..1% of all mankind. The common populist and propagandist strategy to blame anything for a society’s failure, just so the really hard questions must never be asked.
I swore never to sink so low as to even deem claims such as these with a reaction.
I have been known to make exceptions.
If you’re currently living in Europe (I don’t know how closely the US media follow the happenings in “teh old world”), there has been no way around reading and hearing about the recent, unimaginable tragedy that has befallen in Norway this last Friday, June 22nd. It is on every news channel all around the clock, in every regional newspaper and will be, I imagine, for a while to come. Understandably so, even though a cynic might add that more people die by violent crime on this planet every single day – people with no name and no face ever remembered in the news. But we won’t dwell on that here and it’s not really the point.
There’s no way to avoid the sad news and sadly, no way to escape the media of which the useless and ruthless majority is presently flocking to Oslo’s court like carrion birds, pressing for a picture or statement from one so unworthy of any further public spotlight. From the very beginning, they speculated, they published gross half-truths and adjusted them later (funny enough journalism knows no real accountability for spreading wrong facts). Worse: like a broken record they promptly recited the same old songs.
I shouldn’t be annoyed. I am certainly not surprised. What did surprise me in fact was a player’s post on WoW’s official, German boards* that I chanced on accidentally. After expressing his outrage about multiple news stations actually bringing up World of Warcraft as “one of the killer games” (along Call of Duty) which the psycho-shooter frequently played in his freetime, he left the following comment under point 1):
1. Die Bezeichnung “Killerspiel” wäre mal ein Fall für die Rechtsabteilung von Blizzard.
[English Translation:] 1. The term “killer game” would be a job for Blizzard’s legal department.
I have to say, I agree with him. Funny enough, many WoW players in that thread didn’t. Well, I’m fed up with WoW being called a “killer game” in the media. It’s ridiculous. Not just because WoW is actually heavily NPC-centric; it’s about freaking GNOMES and ELVES from pink fairy-tale lands fighting evil creatures in dungeons together. And yeah, you kill a lot of mobs all the time. You also pick a lot of flowers all the time, travel the world, spend hours auctioning shoes and dresses. There’s some PvP and the player is actually a powerful god-like figure, like for most games – but what serious person calls a fantasy MMO like this a violent killer game? What happened to online role-playing game?
Let’s forget of course that even if WoW actually was an FPS like CoD, it wouldn’t change a thing; in terms of culpability, intelligent people simply do not explain one individual’s readiness to brutally execute (and bomb) 76 people in real life with a love for popular video games. Really, my qualm is not with this (this goes without saying) for once – but: semantics. World of Warcraft, the killer game. Out of curiosity, what gave it away? “Warcraft”? So this is how far journalistic research reaches in the age of the internet.
I wonder: do Blizzard or other developers ever get touched by news such as this? They can afford to shrug it off with nonchalance, but I’d be vexed by this sort of continuous negative propaganda and false labels. And while I don’t know what the legal situation is in the USA, they’d be in their symbolic right (at least) to demand rectification for the defamation and stark misnaming of their product (as Activision would be for CoD’s case, also since the label “killer game” is not actually a genre, but a media slur). But who is eager to oppose the mass media, how would it be worth the effort? Should game developers in general react to such news, at least by commenting – or should they keep ignoring the underlying accusations? What’s your opinion?
I can’t decide what annoys me more; the shallow stereotypes or the constant slander against an entire genre I happen to love. A genre so full of beauty and wonder as fantasy MMOs, granting millions of player’s worldwide daily escape, a few hours of simple, harmless entertainment in the evening.
And they wonder why some people prefer online games to the real world. Oh, the irony.
For the record
This is in no way an attempt to dismiss or trivialize any part of the horror that took place in Norway. I’m not comparing wrongs here – but wrong is wrong. And a much bigger wrong doesn’t cancel out smaller wrongs. It’s wrong not to speak up on this, like I have seen some gamers suggest in forums lest it not distract from the actual event. I think it is exactly the right time to speak up against it. I think we must always speak up against it.
Every time a news station, a daily paper or a radio channel mentions video games in one sentence with mass murders, it concerns every single player out there and establishes an ever-so-delicate bond between individuals that have absolutely nothing in common. Every time they so much as hint at video games when such a human tragedy occurs somewhere, they plant a subtle seed in the heads of the public audience. And while I can do nothing about this, I will never accept it – not for myself and not on behalf of my fellow MMO players. That allusion is outrageous on a personal level, and detrimental to the social acceptance of online gaming worldwide. It’s hypocritical and suggestive journalism such as this which perpetuates the idea of gamers as social weirdos and outcasts, isolating those further who might already feel alone. I blame sensationalist media for countless acts like this – I blame them a great deal more than MMOs could ever be blamed for any crimes committed. People who live in glass houses.
*Edit: It appears that the topic I referred to on WoW’s boards has been deleted in the meantime.