Why do we read stories in the news?
For many of us, it’s to gain a better understanding about the world in which we live. For others, it’s to see what’s new with something that might interest us or maybe even learn something new about an intriguing topic.
Whatever the case, the stories we take in have the great potential to influence the way we see many things in life – our hobbies, our environments and even our fellow men and women. That’s a great deal of power at the fingertips of those who write these stories for us to consume. The power of influence.
That is why it bothers me so much to see stories such as this one: A recent article about the Anders Breivik – the Norwegian who murdered 77 people that – with its headline and introductory paragraphs – suggests the video games he played for more than seven hours per day (primarily World of Warcraft) were primary factors in why he murdered 77 people.
Now, for those of you who read further than the first couple of paragraphs (which is very few of most news consumers reading online), you will notice that the story is actually about Breivik’s mental capacity and how it appears that it does not support the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality.
But that’s not the problem I have. The problem I have is that an article about one thing would be teased as an article about another – at the detriment of the credibility to the gaming community.
As a journalist myself, it’s insulting that a writer would try to indicate that video games would be a symptom of someone murdering another person. This is likely done for the shock value to get people reading and nothing more.
I play plenty of video games myself. I play most of the war-based shooters, as well as other games that include violent sequences. I can tell you very positively that I don’t get sudden urges to go out and murder people, let alone engage in violence against other people. And I doubt the millions upon millions of WoW subscribers/players do either.
What bothers me the most about this story? The fact that most people who have no idea what the gaming community is like, will read this story (or, more than likely, the first couple of paragraphs and the headline) and believe that video games are the problem with this man. Nevermind his extremist agenda or his likely mental deficiency – it’s the violent video games that are to blame.
Some of you may read that and scoff at the notion, but believe me – people are that blind and impressionable. They will read something and – because they have no real knowledge of it themselves – they will see precisely what the article intends them to see: A controversy that doesn’t exist.
But that’s the point, isn’t it? Because without people reading these stories, and not taking the time to educate themselves on the subject and the information as it actually exists, there wouldn’t be the outrage to perpetuate this sensationalist journalism.
Unfortunately, the only thing many of us can do is sit back and defend our interest in the medium that we enjoy so much and hope that eventually, some of us will have the opportunity to spark change within the journalistic ranks. Until then, I suspect this is just the latest of what will be a long history of bad journalism that targets gaming.