Media Bias aka “Why MMOs aren’t evil”

You know what I mean. Whether it’s a story about some idiot that played WoW for three days straight and died of exhaustion or a kid that failed all his classes because he spent all his time on some game or another, the media loves to hate games. MMORPGs fall victim of this most of all, being portrayed as the last bastion of losers and failures. This, of course, isn’t true. Many very successful people play WoW and its children, myself included (minus the “successful” part). And yet it gets to play the villain. Why?

Let’s use another media punching-bag to explain. I’m assuming that everyone who reads this has either been to, seen, or heard of some kind of geek convention. This includes sci-fi cons, comicons, anything. If you have, then you probably know the stereotype, that every person there is basically a fat, 40-year-old man dressed up as Sailor Moon.

Yes, there is always a grain in truth in every stereotype, otherwise they wouldn’t exist. Yes, there are people who do this. But we, as the people who might actually go to such things, understand that such people are in the minority. A large majority come in “classy” costumes, if not in street clothes. But the key point here is that we understand that not everyone is like that.

The media, however, sees this stereotype not only as accurate, but pervasive. If you’ve ever seen a news station cover any kind of con then you’ve seen Mr. Sailor Moon guy. I don’t know how they do it, but somehow those media hounds can find the single least representative person in the place and put him on camera for all to see. Images flash through my mind of a reporter and camera crew barreling through crowds, pushing hundreds of “normal” people out of the way, hunting down Mr. Potbelly-in-a-tanktop. Why? Is it because it makes for good ratings?

Well, yes, but  that’s not the main point. The problem is that the “media” is not part of our culture. I was fast-forwarding through the commentary after a basketball game (they overran Leverage on my TiVo recording. Again.) and suddenly saw pictures of conventioneers flash on the screen. Hitting play, I made it just in time to hear the commentator say that, paraphrasing here, anyone who goes to a comicon is a “loser”. “Losers, all of them”. That royally pissed me off. I truly wanted to shove pictures of the people who paint their tubby bodies the colors of the basketball team in his face and scream “At least WE have storylines in our nonsense”! But that’s the problem, Mr. Hypocrite didn’t know any better. He’s never been to a con in his entire sports-loving (said with much venom) life.

Look at the guys who paint themselves. Why are they considered “wacky” while nuts at conventions are considered “weird”? It’s because the painters are so disseminated in the media that they’ve lost all worth. Of course, it’s also because “they’re just showing team spirit”, which is a bunch of… that’s for another day.

But you must see what I’m saying. People don’t understand con-goers because they’ve never been one themselves. And frankly, unless you attend one personally you will never understand what they really are.

That brings us to MMORPGs. Think about what someone on the “outside” might see when you play a MMO, or any game really.

It’s just a lady/lad staring at moving pictures for hours upon hours at a time. Even worse, when you can’t attend events (like going out drinking for the 18th night in a row) because you’re doing this crazy thing called “raiding”. What a loser. Did you know that he actually thinks of those people online as friends? Even when he’s never actually seen them! Crazy nut. Get a life.

Of course, that entire paragraph was utter bullshit. But how would they know any better? Their whole interaction with gaming is limited to “casual” games, if not cut down to nothing at all. They simply don’t understand it because they’ve never experienced it. They don’t realize what a community lies in these games. They don’t understand that you can get to know people that you’ve never physically met. It’s an entire paradigm shift for them, the idea that people now live in the electronic world.

I think that this is the point where many would make a statement about the uneducated being tabula rasa and it’s our duty to educate them, or some other nonsense, but I’m not. It really is futile. If you never play the game, never read the comics, never attend the cons, then you will never want to try to understand it. In the end we’re still where we are, in the minority. And yet, it’s a happy minority. If I ever became a body-painting, stats-memorizing, backwards-hat-wearing, cheerleader-chasing moron, I fully license any of you to put two in the back of my head.

Okay, so I didn’t say that MMOs aren’t evil in essence, because they kind of are. I’ll do something on that later. But this was more about the media anyways. Extrapolate as you please.

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