From the Sexbox and Mass Effect to World of Warcraft, Everquest and even face-to-face Dungeons and Dragons, the mainstream media hates your hobbies. They're turning you into suicidal addicts, mass-murderers, inappropriate touchers, criminals and terrorists, right?
Well, seeing that you don't seem to be any of those things, has it occurred to you to wonder just why such FUD keeps turning up over and over. No, it's not Luddism (well, it's mostly not Luddism as it's commonly thought of). For the most part, this is about money.
Games and the Internet are ultimately perceived as a threat to mainstream media's long-term profits and marketshare. Not so much necessarily now, but as today's younger gamers become the adult gamers of tomorrow (just as we did in our time) more and more of you will spend less and less time passively consuming the mainstream media.
We're going to use the term mainstream media a lot here. That's TV, radio, magazines and newspapers - however, while our brush is quite broad, not everyone deserves to be tarred with it.
One retiring Australian television executive once said that news and current affairs programs were only there to slap a veneer of respectability on a television channel. They were just there to hook your loyalties to the entertainment. In a speech at New York's We Media conference, former Vice-President Al Gore said, "Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to 'glue eyeballs to the screen' in order to build ratings and sell advertising."
When it comes to the mainstream media, particularly to television, you aren't the consumer - maybe you thought you were, but no. Sorry. You are the product. The advertiser is the consumer, and the programming is the means to sell you to them. Mainstream media doesn't want you spending hours drooling at underdressed Night Elves and completing quests in World of Warcraft or meeting friends and doing business in Second Life - they want you spending hours drooling at this season's 'reality' TV shows.
The Internet, MMOs, PC and console gaming all cuts into the basic marketshare equations of eyeballs and hours. Armed with a soundbite from television news, five minutes with Google will give you more information than the news program cares to deliver on the subject - along with more viewpoints. Even if you go to the online counterparts of those same TV news services, the fact remains that your eyeballs increasingly aren't on the TV anymore.
This seems to lead to a couple of basic tactics:
1) The brush-off - condescending and slightly patronizing presentation. Isn't it sad yet funny? This plays on people's desire for cultural and social normalcy, and capitalizes on ignorance.
2) The boom/bust of the hype cycle - build up the subject as something more/other than what it is, and later shoot it down for not living up to your manufactured hype. This more or less assumes that you're some kind of idiot, in addition to being ignorant.
3) FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Sex, violence, criminalization, addiction, and the inability to tell fantasy from reality. You hear about these every week. Murders are blamed on games (and very loudly) then later the connection is debunked and withdrawn - very much more quietly.
All tactics that newspaper and radio leveled against television itself back in the day when television was itself starting to cut into their markets. Now they, in turn are looking at your hobbies and pulling the same old tricks.
But, we're all above such shameless manipulation, aren't we? I mean, we already notice and pay attention when images in magazines, newspapers and TV are shot canted at an angle, intending to represent the subject as untrustworthy or not to be taken seriously. We all know that trick, right? That's been ingrained since the days of Flash Gordon and Batman back in the fifties and sixties.
Call them murder simulators, or fiendish addictions, or wastes of time, tell us how they destroy the lives of the innocent, peddle pornography, enable terrorism, reward the guilty and harm the children. Your hobby is a rival and the mainstream media is conducting an Invisible War (okay, pun intended) against it.
The mainstream media says they're protecting the children - but what they fail to mention is that they're trying to protect the children from you, the parents who have the right and the responsibility to make reasoned and informed entertainment and media decisions for your family. All by using combinations of condescending dismissiveness, mockery, and scare-mongering hoping to exploit you and your peers into making their choices for your children - and for yourself. The sort of peer pressure we try to teach our kids not to succumb to.
At the end of the day, this is about money. The fact is that you're voting with your wallet, and some media outlets would prefer to stuff the ballot box than campaign for your dollar with quality entertainment and quality material. The mainstream media isn't going to go away - but the parts of it that are warring with your hobbies might well run their war-chests dry as you increasingly turn away seeking more information, more interaction, and more quality and choice. They've betrayed your trust, and they've bet the farm on their campaigns.
You just have to decide where you are best-served putting your eyes and your dollars.