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Coverage Index

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

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Image credit: Eurogamer
Coverage Index The mass media can seem like the enemy - but it desperately wants to "get" games.

Published as part of our sister-site' widely-read weekly newsletter, the Editorial is a weekly dissection of one of the issues weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to newsletter subscribers.

It's tempting, on occasion, to lament the fact that most of the mass media simply doesn't "get" videogames. It's even more tempting to imply that videogames, as the world's newest major creative medium, are alone in this plight - after all, however badly they may have misstepped in the past, the media "gets" such things as movies, music and books now, doesn't it?

Actually, this latter part of the argument is a fallacy - at least to some degree. While most media outlets, for instance, have been hugely enamoured of recent movie release The Dark Knight, that hasn't stopped a number of broadcasters and journalists from pigeonholing it as a "children's film", due to being based on a comic book series. This, I probably don't need to remind you, is a film which has been praised most for its dark and unsettling portrayal of a masochistic psychopath who cuts his foes' faces into hideous Glasgow smiles - it may be rated 12A, but this is no Disney movie.

In other words, the media is still perfectly capable of getting things wrong about all sorts of creative products. Many broadcasters, writers and researchers simply don't understand the wide array of creative media which increasingly interact with one another to create our culture. Games may be the new kid on the block, but misunderstandings, poorly formed preconceptions and downright bias can skew coverage of everything from movies and music to theatre, literature and art - especially when they cross over with less well-understood media like comic books, games and the Internet.

As a result, the coverage of all sorts of media, including games, is frequently needlessly negative or ill-informed - and in some media, with television news and tabloid newspapers being especially guilty of this, that turns into sensationalist, manipulative nonsense with startling regularity. Combine the screaming headlines you get from that with the base-line ignorance of many more august publications (resulting in poor coverage or no coverage at all), and you end up with entire industries and media feeling hard done-by in terms of their treatment by the mass media.

However, it's my view that the games industry - in common with other similarly maligned sectors, such as comics - is too quick to leap to conspiracy theories about why their mainstream coverage is so negative. There are three core reasons for bad coverage - malice, laziness and simple ignorance. Many gamers and industry professionals alike would probably rank the influence of those reasons in that order, from greatest to least.

The anecdotal evidence is certainly strong. Only last week, BioShock creative lead Ken Levine told an audience at the Develop conference in Brighton that in the wake of the unveiling of BioShock's "Little Sister" characters, an American TV news crew had come to his house under false pretences in an attempt to film a slam piece about him and his wife. The willingness of the gutter press in Britain and America alike to create front page headlines about videogames in slow news weeks is well-recognised - and every bit as cynical and malicious as it looks.

It doesn't help that other new media has very well documented instances of deliberate and malicious ill-treatment at the hands of the tabloid press. One particularly shameful recent example is the ongoing campaign of Facebook scare stories being trotted out by British tabloid The Sun - a newspaper whose proprietor just happens to own Facebook's largest rival MySpace, a blatant conflict of interest which The Sun consistently forgets to mention.