Videogames: The Easy Target / 6th of August 2014
Last month UK based newspaper The Sun published a double spread article that carried the headline ‘Gaming as addictive as heroin’. Alongside it were these three bullet points to help reinforce their headline; “Five thousand calls to one clinic for help, Call of Duty linked to three suicides, Dopamine levels increase in brain”. As well as this, it provides a graphic indicating the difference between the activity of a normal brain, to that of a brain exposed to violent videogames. And if this isn’t enough to convince you of the dangers videogames pose then maybe the two case studies highlighted, and flanking the body of the article will. One tells us of a woman who spends £100 each week on apps such as Candy Crush, the other of a young man who invests twelve hours each day playing League of Legends.
Assuming you’re still reading this and haven’t already checked yourself into rehab, or are now throwing your child’s console from the nearest rooftop, then I can assume that you’re at least somewhat rational. I know it’s nothing new for a mainstream media outlet to sensationalise the negative effects videogames may have, or that The Sun is banking on headlines like these to convince readers before they’ve even looked at the articles they precede. But that doesn’t stop it from becoming both tiresome and insulting when the largest circulating daily newspaper in the country I reside in likens me, and the subject I’m most passionate about, to a habitual drug user.
Thankfully eurogamer.net has already examined the validity of these claims and sought a more in-depth explanation from the very same specialist who contributed to the original article, which you may find here. Yet despite this debunking, the manipulation of facts in an attempt to stigmatise, still manages to infuriate me. I’m not trying to play my tiny violin and compare calling videogame fans the equivalent of heroin addicts to racial or religious persecution, but had the implication been applied to a more widely accepted past-time such as football, would mainstream news publications still get away with it? If for example, football fandom was compared to drug addiction, backed up with claims that it encourages individuals to neglect familial obligations by spending time at matches, that it leads fans to socialise exclusively with other fans, and that it is responsible for inciting violent behaviour, would it be given any such credence? I doubt it. Though it would only take a quick Google search to provide you with all the necessary medical and statistical quotes to run such an article, seldom are they ever seen within mainstream publications.
And rightly so, videogames may be my first passion but sports aren’t too far behind. I don’t believe that football fandom is addictive, no more than I believe videogames are. But the point remains, I have to defend my passion for videogames, and have had to do so for years. Having been brought up by parents who held somewhat more traditional views in regards to videogames meant that I grew up trying to convince people of their merits, and now I’m faced with even more spurious claims, this time, made by one of the largest print media publications in the country. Evidently, whilst videogames might have grown to become one of the top three entertainment industries on the planet (alongside music and film), social attitudes towards both them, and the people who play them, have progressed little over the last twenty years or so.
Normally videogames publications attempt an objective and reasoned response, as eurogamer.net did after this most recent attack, putting the statistical information under greater scrutiny and providing a more extensive explanation of the raw data. But I’m tired of being on the defensive, and insulted by the claim of such a tenuous comparison. With that in mind I’d like to advise anyone and everyone I can that any interaction with The Sun newspaper is detrimental to your wellbeing and has a negative impact on both your intelligence, morality and social life. And I can provide evidence for this more definitive than any claims made within its pages. Previous stories run by The Sun include unfounded allegations against asylum seekers stealing, and eating swans. Claiming a rise in nationwide HIV cases was attributed to immigrants. As well as condemnation of a fast food chain, for failure to inform customers that poultry had been slaughtered in accordance with Muslim practices. Clearly The Sun flaunts prejudicial and xenophobic accusations on a consistent basis, and as a result it’s more likely to make you an intolerable and unpleasant person, should you happen to regularly read its nonsense. It may not be as addictive as heroin, but it’s just as destructive to modern society.
There, I’ve just cherry picked three stories run by The Sun that highlight its practices and attributed those to the negative aspects of modern society. It’s no more a lie than the quotes used within the ‘Gaming as Addictive as Heroin’ article. Those stories were genuinely featured within The Sun and by using them I could argue they nudge people towards abhorrent views. Like The Sun I’ve taken isolated incidents, ignored any contradictory information, and thrown in a whole heap of conjecture. It’s the same basic formula and they’ve got it nailed down. I’m sure the writers within The Sun would take offence to being called hate mongers, and I would doubt the idea that they’re purposely running stories to encourage such opinions. But that old adage of using these sorts of articles because they’re ‘what sell’ doesn’t hold any water with me. The Sun is an established news outlet that has been running for fifty years, and should they chose to find truly newsworthy material then their circulation would hardly decline any more swiftly than what print media already has done in the face of digital competition.
The simple truth is that articles such as these are targeting whatever they can because it’s the easiest option available to them. The Sun is taking advantage of negative preconceptions held by their readers simply because they lack the imagination to think what should be brought to the attention of their audience. Instead they hide behind a belief that they are simply giving people what they want, though in actual fact this belief is no more acceptable than the outdated, and often offensive opinions spouted by pensioners, and the only reason that they’re tolerated is because we know they won’t be around for much longer. Something The Sun, and any other publications, willing to take such shortcuts should be wary of.