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Video: Here's what the mainstream media thinks of video games
November 29, 2013 | By Mike Rose

November 29, 2013 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Video

We often witness the old-school mainstream media questioning the values and morals of the video game industry, whether it be arguments geared towards violence in video games, in-app purchases aimed at deceiving children, or the point of playing games in general.

The above conversation between the UK's Channel 4 veteran reporter Jon Snow and writer Charlie Brooker appears to perfectly encapsulate how the older generation of mainstream media views video games, as Snow hurls loaded question after loaded question in Brooker's direction.

During a brief play on the PlayStation 4, Snow questions the "violence" in kids' game Lego Marvel Super Heroes, is taken aback by the "shudder" of the PlayStation 4 controller, and asks Brooker to explain what Twitter has in common with Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Fortunately, it's not all video game misunderstandings -- Brooker is afforded the time to describe the premise of the wonderful Papers, Please! to Snow, which appears to go down quite well.

Brooker's new show How Videogames Changed the World is due to show on Channel 4 in the UK tonight, followed up Indie Game: The Movie.

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Jennis Kartens
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"How many people does it take to eject the PS4 disk"

David Klingler
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"Good thing we're not live... Yeah that would be really embarrassing"

Hugo Cardoso
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That man is the personification of every silly headline ever written. According to him, gaming is pointless, encourages public urination, teaches kids how to psychologically handle killing someone and is a male only hobby.

Whenever I see those headlines I always wonder "Who thinks this?" and I guess now I know.

Rob Graeber
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I don't think the old guy was necessarily crazy, I suspect the older you get, the more your mindset tends to be "why should I do this, what's the purpose?"

The problem was that Brooker was having trouble articulating the idea that games aren't just for entertainment value. More like all games are inherently based on learning / experimenting with new concepts and ideas, which are sometimes useful, sometimes not.

The same way how baby animals "play" games together, they wrestle and pretend to stalk each other giving them a safe environment to practice their hunting skills.

Mark Velthuis
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Poor Brooker. Allmost every time he started to get to the core of his explenations, he was interupted and asked another question.

Justin Kwok
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"You know nothing, Jon Snow" :)

Kieran Wallace
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Wow, where to start with this. Dare I say that the older man had a deeper grasp of what was going on than the younger one? Dare I say that the older man's questions were not loaded in the slightest? I found them all very reasonable. On the contrary, I do not think Brooker could have done a worse job of defending video games than he did here.

Snow wanted to know why games are appealing. Instead of helping him play the game and find the joy of interacting with a virtual world, Brooker simply insults and ridicules Snow for not knowing how to play a game on a console that Brooker doesn't himself know how to open the disc tray on.

Snow was also concerned with violence in a children's game, and whether the act of killing someone interactively is more psychologically affecting than passively watching the act of killing in a TV show. This is a valid question, but rather than acknowledge its validity or cite research, Brooker responded by telling Snow that he (to paraphrase) 'just doesn't get video games' and 'these aren't for you'. That is the exact *opposite* of how we want to represent video games, is it not?

Brooker was overly emotional (as if he was afraid he can't defend his position) and resorted to panicked shouting and insults when he thought he was losing ground, while Snow listened and calmly observed like a true reporter. Why are video games so hard to defend if they're such a great artistic medium? Just let the experience speak for itself.

The lowest point may be when he accuses Snow of cherry-picking the games when he obviously had nothing to do with it, then he desperately tries to explain that not all games are violent ones for adults or silly ones for children and pulls out the example of an obscure indie title that virtually no one has played or would want to play (not to say that it's bad, mind you). "Papers, Please" is not representative of the industry: Call of Duty is, and Lego Whatever is. If we're not embarrassed about this, then we should feel no need to attack someone for questioning whether this is an appealing landscape of entertainment.

I thought we wanted games to be mainstream. Making snide remarks when an aged person is being open-minded and asking decent questions is exactly the reason why games are not mainstream, at least for the older generation. Here's how paragraph two in this story should read:

"The above conversation between the UK's Channel 4 veteran reporter Jon Snow and writer Charlie Brooker appears to perfectly encapsulate how the younger generation of popular culture views the older generation, as Brooker dodges critical questions and hurls insults in Snow's direction."

I'm disappointed by the ageism and elitism in evidence in that video. What a poor showing for the industry and for gamers.

Scott Lavigne
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I couldn't agree more. I wish this could have been set up better and had someone walk him through Journey some and also a puzzle game. Show him the beauty of interactive worlds and also the value in easy-to-pick-up, low commitment competition with yourself.

Michael Joseph
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Alan Moore recently gave his thoughts about the comic book industry...

Seems to me the same can be said for many cartoons, video games, tv and film.

Maria Jayne
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"What's it gonna do for me, to get into video games"

That right there is an issue, when you fail to understand what a medium for entertainment is, I can't see how you could convince anyone of its benefits.

Short answer would have been, what does a book, movie, tv show or piece of music do for you? Now imagine a medium that encompasses all of that at once.

Michael Joseph
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Indeed. But why is it that non gamers will not or cannot easily accept the equivalency? The industry is responsible for a big part of that. For too long the industry has only been concerned with providing "fun" and catering to a narrow demographic.

And there are many long time industry veterans who don't accept the equivalency either. Fact is, the games industry is full of people who read books, watch tv, watch films... but don't play games.

What do video games offer the TV viewer who tunes in to watch programs like Charlie Rose, Nova, Masterpiece Theater and television broadcasts of plays, opera and classical music? And that's just one segment of viewer. But even as we get closer to more mainstream audiences like science fiction viewers, what do games offer them? Empire building and destruction or yet another fight for survival to save the human race? Science fiction games are nothing like the offerings on TV and film let alone novels.

The mainstream part of the industry and it's members frankly have very little confidence in it's ability to expand the market by expanding the diversity of it's offerings. Instead it tries to expand the market by making simpler, more addictive products, baiting new comers through their social connections, and focusing on retention.

Luis Guimaraes
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Not only emcompasses all of that, but has something none of those have.

Static media with the exception of Music (which IMO also an amazing thing of its own) represent facets of Intelligent Life in Form, but only in Form. Games represent most of those and many more facets in Function and (if not completelly abstract) in Form too.

The question "what can it do for me?" is the easiest to answer: everything static media can do, and everything it can't.

The easiest example of all (which is not everything by any stretch of the imagination): one thing is being told by Confucius that "our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall", other thing is experiecing that first hand and coming to that understanding from inside oneself. For the record, Confucius also said "I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."

Video-Games are superior.

Michael Joseph
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If games are superior, then they must be so superior that they feel no need to actually prove it.

Luis Guimaraes
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Actually it's the opposite: Video-Games don't know they are superior, and the need they feel is to prove being equal instead.

That's why they keep trying to mimic static media and desperately and miserably beg their approval in their limited terms, using pretentiousness, euphemisms and regressive thinking. It's akin to a hawk trying to catch a rabbit running after it on foot for not knowing it can fly. That's how Video-Games shifted from exponential to logarithmic evolution.

I don't know about others, but I won't live forever, and I plan to see and do awesome things in our art form while I'm still here. There's no time to waste.

Tasley Porter
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I think this is spot on, except I don't think it's because games don't *know* they are superior. I think the risk that comes with certainty is that you have to demonstrate it and to do that you typically have to do unpopular things. It's the adolescent fleeing from the responsibility they know awaits them in adulthood by retreating into childishness to prove they aren't yet adults. Gaming does this in every way it can, but I think the industry at large is too afraid of change to use the medium to it's full potential.

It's sort of stuck in the capitalist thinking of "milk every penny". If you make too large a leap now, you miss out on all the cash you can reap by drip feeding content.

Dane MacMahon
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Games seek validation because people seek validation. Human nature. It's not enough that you like gaming, everyone you know has to approve of it and the media has to treat it as completely valid, else you feel unfulfilled.

Well, a lot of people think that, anyway. And about a lot more than just art.

Tasley Porter
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I think you're right, validation is part of the equation there. I think the greater portion of it is greed (and not necessarily the developers, but the publishers/corporate decision makers), though.

Games today are seeking validation from *the world*. A successful game isn't truly defined by selling it to 10 million people; a developer is successful if they sell to just 500k people (even less in many cases). This unrealistic goal setting has created a situation where it's increasingly easy for games to "fail" (especially MMOs under this criteria) and only a few are counted as "successful". That's just greed, not validation seeking.

Nick Harris
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Try convincing someone who is illiterate to go through all the effort to learn the alphabet, syntax, semantics and grammar, then introduce them to fiction with a necessarily restricted vocabulary that doesn't bore them to tears in the arduous process towards gaining the basic competency to be capable of reading a Classic Novel and from there explore the medium and settle on a genre that fires their imagination.

Try convincing someone who has never operated a gamepad, or identified with a virtual avatar, to make the effort to become sufficiently habituated with a set of complex controls that a character can be connected with to the extent that consequence is felt on an emotional level. Commonality exists with traditional media in terms of Character and Consequence in theory, but exploitative juvenilia still dominate the market, just as 'What the Butler saw' Mutoscope made the earliest form of Cinema into a tacky peep-show holding no promise of the evolution and future subtleties of the established mainstream medium it later became.

All that is needed is a couple of Nunchuks which hide away their extra functions from a neophyte until they have mastered the subset of articulacy required by Wii Sports and are ready to learn a little more in order to take on Mario, then Zelda, then the full sophistication of Metroid. Clickable thumbsticks won't frighten away technophobes if they aren't aware of their existence, triggers fall comfortably under the forefingers of each hand and suit racing games well for ages 3 and up, the bumpers can be split (so that you have LB, Back on the left nunchuk and Start, RB on the right), and you can even relocate the face buttons to cavities beneath each grip (to be operated by the ring and little fingers of each hand). Anyone in need of a D-Pad should invest in an arcade stick, or a dance mat, or a Wii Balance board. An extremely shallow learning curve and consistent controls between games is required to ensure that more players mature from the shallow thrills of Boxing and progress to adventures (even if no twitch reflexes end up being required of them, as hardcore gamers with superior reflexes, hand-eye coordination and situational awareness discover all of the advantages of no longer being forced to temporarily take your thumbs off of the sticks).

Controls-Consequences-Character corresponds to Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics and although we could attract a broader, mature, audience by shunning exploitative trash in favour of richer themes and the careful examination of subtle interpersonal relationships involving multilayered characters that weren't mere branded ciphers to slap on the box and sell as plushies, the main barrier to the
ancient form of the romance-adventure becoming as popular as Soap Operas is the inaccessibility of the experience, given how many lack articulacy with the control interface. Short of full VR with datagloves and omnidirectional treadmill (which would undoubtedly frighten some people and be seen as anti-social), something akin to the Razer Hydra might be the best option for immersion.

Chris Clogg
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It's really interesting to see this... I too have seen many examples (in my life) that are centered around 'gaming looks like a waste of time, good only for kids'. I think it's just that they're scared to try it, or that they don't see anything in the medium that interests them (contrast that with books and movies that cater to every demographic).

It does make me a bit sad to know how many people are missing out on awesome immersive virtual experiences, because of stigmas or technical barriers to entry.

Tasley Porter
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I think the take away question for a community like this should be "how are we inviting diverse groups into games?" Snow's observations are valid. The shooter, to him, seemed designed for men (because where were the women, as he stated). The kids game seemed hardly designed for a child and he noted the absence of women there. He noted both games core mechanic was violence. Of course, not all games are like this, but a guy like him, if he's ever going to look for a game to play, will start with the industry's best sellers and those games will seem just the same: designed for teenage boys with violent gameplay whose primary marketed value is "fun". His questions were exactly the point in my opinion.

Snow may know nothing about games, but there are still some important things we can learn from this exchange.

Hasan Almaci
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Jon Snow knows nothing.

Alexander Womack
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What is the purpose? Play is it's own purpose, always... I cannot see through Snow's eyes, but I can say what I see when I play a game... I see hope. I see everything we dread and all we dare. I see the ultimate and ephemeral, our shared dreaming which has been sought in every medium and act in human history. Endless mountains of dreams that will at last be realized in truth as cannot be told in verse,verb or score.

Robert Green
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What I found most remarkable about this is that he freely confesses at the start to have never played a single video game in his entire life, yet he doesn't seem to think that should stop him from making several broad judgements about the entire medium. If you take a step back and imagine it happening around any other medium, you could see just how farcical it is. I have to imagine that this is a result both of gaming's relative youth and the way it was marketed to children starting in the NES days, and that in another decade I'd assume that anyone who still doesn't play games in some form should at least have a lot more exposure to them.

Maria Jayne
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I think perhaps Mr Snow was in part playing devils advocate, he had to interview someone defending a games artistic and entertainment merit, so he was being deliberately argumentative to incite a response.

It's about compelling viewing, when you strongly agree/disagree with someone, you are more engaged with the conversation, because you are hoping for someone to raise your points and refute the opposition.

Kelly Kleider
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He didn't take any of it seriously, so yes, he was playing at being the devil's advocate. He admitted ignorance and then proceeded to make a stream of inane comments.
Brooker did a reasonable job of advocating while using language that Snow could understand. The tragedy is that Snow thought he was cutting-edge because he had a twitter account.

Heng Yoeung
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Mr. Snow may be ignorant about videogames, but if you think about his point of view, where his concerns arise from, you really can't fault him. His generation is one that grew up without videogames, apparently. His is probably about putting food on the table, helping sick people, researching and discovering new forms of renewable energy, and a host of other social issues which games, frankly, do not address. Bottom line is, videogames are entertainment. Are videogames a form of art. Maybe, maybe not; it's arguable. Assuming that it is, let's see what insights videogames have shown us about the human condition, something which all good art tends to do. Mario? Hmmm. Halo? Hmmm. World of Warcraft? Hmmm. In a word, not a whole lot. Let's now take another medium and consider what insights have come from them. Paradise Lost? The fall of man. Is this something to think about? Most will probably say "yes". What about Schindler's List or even the Star Wars saga? Do or do not, there is no try. I think that's pretty deep if you ask me. Of course, I am citing just one snippet from the movie. My point, though, is that there's something artistic about that. What about the statue of David? Well, beauty of form by way of proportion or in a word, God's perfection. Again, not quite like Battletoads, is it? There is no shame in admitting that videogames is child's play. It is what it is. The world, however, is not about child's play. There are legitimate issues to think about. How do you, for example, respond to a nuclear reactor meltdown? How do you genetically engineer something without that thing going virulent? I would love to spend all day doing nothing but play videogames, But, again, who's got the time? There was another Gama article about being true to yourself. Videogames are time wasters. This is not to say that they are bad. It is saying, however, that adults generally have larger issues to think about.

Alexander Symington
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One of the scenarios in the first SimCity is precisely premised on the question of 'how do you respond to a nuclear reactor meltdown?' This situation actually demonstrates how videogames can support a level of thematic discussion that arguably goes beyond other forms of fiction: SimCity focuses on and can teach the player how to think about the topic in a broad and systemic way, rather than merely touching on it in through the more simplified and dramatised anecdotes that would be likely to form the basis of a film.

But theme aside, if marvelling at mere beauty of form in sculpture is a legitimate adult passtime, I don't see why the similarly impressive craftsmanship of space in the best Mario titles should be any less valuable.

Matthew Bentley
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I'm actually on Snow's side. Most videogames are pointless, repetitive, only teetering on joyfulness and largely engrossed with ego-boosts via virtual 'achievements' which, when taken into real world context, are meaningless. I would rather read a book than play most videogames - at least that strengthens the imagination. At least a movie doesn't require large amounts of mental energy on fruitless action.
There are games that don't fit this mold but they are few and far between. And quite frankly I felt Snow's investigation should've been taken more seriously and to a person of greater intellectual dexterity than Charlie, as those are meaningful questions that need to be answered. It's not that videogames are incapable of greatness, it's that most - 92%, to throw a purely guess-based random number out there - aren't. Braid and others have shown that they can - but they are hideously outnumbered, a thousand to one.

Bart de Groot
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The exact same thing can be said about books or movies. Some are good and some are really bad. Whether you watch or read it, is a choice you make on your own.

They are all media types, using a certain way of sending a message to the user. Games do it in an interactive form.

Snow and Brooker are both biased and this is an endless discussion. Some interesting questions were asked, but in the end it seems quite pointless. Neither side is going to acknowledge each other. It's a generation gap issue.

Luis Guimaraes
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I think this kind of thing needs to be done more and with different consoles and gaming devices. Conan does an act where he plays a game with a partner on his show from time to time, and each time he does it, he seems to understand games more.

The real problem with games is getting people who don't play them to understand the mechanics of using them. That is where the Booker struggled to make his point.

Heng Yoeung
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Yes, there are software titles out there which educate like the SimCity games. In general, however, those titles cannot be considered games. (It's interesting Booker actually thinks Twitter is a game. Surely, this is a stretch. If that were the case, just about anything you do can be considered a game of some sort.) Back to topic, sure, SimCity teaches how to react to a hypothetical Nuclear Meltdown, but is that knowledge and skill going to mitigate a real world situation? I highly doubt it, it's not even going to be close. Point is, titles which educate cannot really be classified in the same category as videogames, which are entertainment, bottom line. For example, suppose you pick up one of the very realistic flight sims out there and become really good at it. Last I heard, Microprose's Falcon was decent. Do you think you can now go and face a Russian MiG in the real world.? Good luck with that. You'll be shot down before you blink.

>>But theme aside, if marvelling at mere beauty of form in sculpture is a legitimate adult passtime, I don't see why the similarly impressive craftsmanship of space in the best Mario titles should be any less valuable.

I am not sure what you mean by the "craftsmanship of space". I can understand the craftsmanship of Mario in general, but that is not comparable to the statue of David. The statue elicits an introspection and contemplation of what is beautiful. Mario elicits accomplishment and entertaining. They are not quite the same experience. The difference I like the difference between learning philosophy and making a ton of money. Money will make you rich. Philosophy will make you rich as well. However, they are not quite the same thing are they? I prefer philosophy and living the good life than money. Every time. Similarly, I'd rather marvel at the statue of David than become adept at a Mario game. So, then, you say, well, this is just preference. Sure. But, again, this is a preference which many would consider worthwhile. No?