Coverage Index • Page 2

The mass media can seem like the enemy - but it desperately wants to "get" games.

In the face of that evidence, who could doubt that the mass media has a malicious agenda? Scare stories sell more papers and get more viewers for your news broadcasts - and of course, if your proprietor has no business interest in the games industry, it's open season on anything and everything!

Yet, in years of dealing with the mass media in Britain and elsewhere in various different ways, I've found that kind of malice to be extremely rare. On the contrary, far from having a strong appetite for reckless fear-mongering, most of those people who find themselves covering the games market - writers, broadcasters, and researchers alike - simply don't have any hands-on experience of the medium, don't understand it very well, and don't have the time (or, less excusably, the inclination) to research it in-depth. Worse again are those who believe that they understand the gaming medium - but whose understanding is rooted firmly in the 80s and early 90s, thus pigeon-holing the medium as 'overgrown toys for overgrown children'.

The good news? Change is coming. It is coming slowly, but relentlessly, as a generation which understands videogames makes its way into decision-making positions at media outlets - assisted in no small way by the gradual infiltration of casual and mass-market games into the older staff who have previously had little exposure to the medium.

Meanwhile, the business decision-makers are waking up to a sobering reality - an increasingly large swathe of their audience knows videogames very well, which makes ill-informed coverage look absolutely terrible. Not only that, a badly researched, poorly pitched piece on videogames (or a total lack of any videogames coverage at all) could even lead some parts of the audience to question the overall quality of a media source. In a market which trades on confidence and competence, it's bad business to have dreadful reporting of a widespread, popular medium.

Change can be assisted, however, from the games industry's side of the fence. Loud outrage at particularly awful pieces of reporting will, of course, continue, and can often be a positive thing - Cooper Lawrence's utterly baseless comments about sexual content in Mass Effect, made on FOX News last year and subsequently retracted with a somewhat grovelling apology, is a perfect example.

However, in dealing with the mainstream press in general, a more gentle approach will yield greater results. PR and marketing firms already try very hard to explain and promote games to mainstream media outlets - but the medium as a whole, too, needs to be explained. More importantly, the commercial and cultural importance of the medium needs to be impressed upon those who make coverage decisions - and when they do come around to giving better, more extensive coverage to the games market, that must be supported readily and whole-heartedly.

The dream, of course, is of a day when games enjoy equal billing with other forms of entertainment and culture across the world's broadcast and print media. Progress towards this ideal may seem slow, but it's inexorable. With a little gentle prodding and a lot of support from the industry, that day may come sooner than most people dare to hope.

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