So here’s the thing;
Everyone reading this will have at the very least a working understanding of games and the landscapes they inhabit and purport; be it Pokemon or a Plumber Pastiche of platforming, football with an ovoid and padding or pig-skin and silk shorts, even clearing crushed candy one collective at a time, each eyeball scanning the sentences on this screen will also have been witness to a pixel playtime or four.
And for the sake of argument lets pretend two of these nondescript mass-maker-uppers are made flesh and standing in a public spot, chatting about this and that and whatnot and such.
Now, if we assume these self-same said gamers were engaged in a conversation concerning the latest happenstance and happenings occurring in the world of game-based goodliness and a third person entered the verbal exchange – one who happens to be a blindly to all things gaming and Giratina – chances are there would be some confusion here and there concerning the finer points of gaming and the terminology used.
‘Hot coffee mod..?’
But even the briefest of explanations would be sufficient for the initiated to garner an understanding of the terms and what the bally hell these two gaming folk were flapping their craws about.
As much as we band together in times of knee-jerk reactions of headlines calling for the abortion of Rockstars latest release as yet another American school kid takes Grand-Pappy’s Broom-Handled Mouser to school instead of PB&J, defend our hobby as an art-form in and of itself with the ability to engage and emote as effectively as film or music, and point to causation seldom being a bedfellow of correlation, the world of gaming still finds itself portrayed as a Members Only club of exclusivity and inner sanctum shenanigans; and one that, crucially, is still looked as the giant child-only ball pit down the local Carvery.
I won’t bore you with the amount of calls for games to be censored or outright banned because of excessive this or blood-letting that; suffice it say the sentences ‘Mortal Kombat 2 ‘sweat’ on the Super Nintendo’ and ‘Australia have only recently got to enjoy the uncensored gibblety goodness of Left 4 Dead’ demonstrate ably just how long gaming has fought for the right to be seen as a medium for all ages of avatar antagonists, and also how very little has actually changed.
Well, sort of. You see, the term ‘gamer’ has become as ubiquitous as Sellotape or Blu-Tack; it represents an idea, a term used to define and align someone who stacks Tetriminos as being on a par with a C.O.D. camper. Mum regularly spends time with Bubble Witch when waiting for her virtual crops to grow, Dad sorting out the drug trade between the East Coast and Main Street as the stock market takes a graceful nose dive on the monitors behind him. Even Gran passes the time between pension payouts guiding a row of five pixels to a square dot on her 3210 version of Snake, and with even toasters seemingly able to download and play the latest Flappy Bird rip-off between bagels and brioche it’s an oddly unwarranted dichotomy that gaming has seen itself become, the lines defining a ‘gamer’ from ‘everyone else’ skewed in the general public’s eye.
Such it is, therefore, that when tragedy strikes and Rockstar are yet again hauled over the coals more often than not the news program reporting the story resorts to a heavily dumbed down, dollied-up representation of the facts in hand designed to parlay the facts in a manner all can understand. What feels like a tacit acknowledgement to begin with, however, further grates on the senses when the reporter dealing with the auto-cue on-screen distances themselves from any knowledge of what they speak. Comments such as ‘…my son likes Farmville I think…’ and ‘…I remember playing Space Invaders once…’ is on a par to those politicians who all coincidentally enough were immune to marijuana’s inhaled charms.
Though the majority may be well enough equipped to digest news about the latest World Of Warcraft failure in a no-nonsense ‘This is what happened and why it sucks balls’ approach as they are a story about flesh-eating bacteria, still we see facts turn into funs, presentations become pantomime, and the cold hard facts turned into sugar-coated spoiled chunks of flesh; the juiciest of cuts prepared with a coating of Simple-Speak, revealed alongside a selection of complimenting Whines, and topped off with a drizzling of proper reporting on the background of the killer mixed with an unhealthy dollop of sensationalist news-bites and opinion of those not involved.
Aside from the implied bias to something not fully understood and therefore to be mistrusted by default, there are two over-riding problems with this;
- By using cutesy avatars gamboling their way through a brightly lit, bigly spelled landscape of gaming understanding and Toad to explain to non-gamers why they should be affronted they are inadvertently cementing the perception of games and gaming being for kids only an’ all that. I get they present the information in the simplest way possible so even the dough-heads can stumble their way through it with the fewest of bruises; not everyone can know everything, that’s why God gave us Wikipedia (yes She did!).
But these soft edged approaches don’t just dumb-down the facts; they blur what they are trying to say, what the facts actually are. It’d be like trying to explain the concept behind Freddy Krueger to non-flambéed-psychopathic-paedophile-favourers with sock puppets and a Court Doll. Of course it’s going to come across as horrific and raise questions of ‘What sick mind considers this entertainment?’ in the same way GTA regularly does; you’ve completely restricted the delivery and tone of the information itself, distorted it through Dough-Vision and left it to garner the shock and despisment of a mis-informed audience.
Any knowledge gleaned from information disgorged from a platform of the frivolous and immature will be treated as such, clarity sacrificed for the sake of the Simples, watering down what’s important to make it easily digestible to all and about as nourishing as the after-taste of bile and bowel-movement suggests.
- Gamers will feel insulted, affronted, misrepresented and more in what is clearly a huge tea-bagging to the progress gaming has made in the past thirty plus years, commercially and socially.
Don’t dumb it down; deliver the news like it would be if it was concerning anything else ‘the public’ may not be wholly au fait with, be it stock market or shares or She-Wee sales. If internet servers have exploded in South Korea after the latest Warcraft upgrade allowed players to import their Deviant Art drawings as playable characters then deliver those facts as same; with a straight face give a brief explanation behind the game and what it is, a passing nod to the similarities to other MMORPG titles such as the well-known Warcraft series (f’rinstance) allowing a ‘…like that but in space…’ comparison. The rest is as easy as throwing up stock photo’s of big grey cabinets, smiley looking foreign sorts, and unicorns festooned with gaily lit pink dildo’s riding on the back of Cthullu and we could be on to the weather and ‘feel good story at the end’ without making it feel like they’ve bitch-slapped an industry that grosses more than any other medium – including music and film – and is virtually the only recession/tidal wave/apocalypse-proof money-maker going.
Though there are games where censoring sees a somewhat altered release in certain territories around the world (Germany are particularly strict on just what can and cannot be blown to a moist blood cloud of smithereens) for the most part we’re living in an age of almost-anything-goes, the internet providing a source for those seeking unsnipped copies of Bullet Nutter 4 (The Migraine Monologues) via eBay or Amazon or ports of a pirate penchant at a push. And whilst I would never condone resorting to piracy to placate your palette it does raise such interesting counter-arguments as; ‘If this game made Timmy stove his class-mates heads in why can I not find similar reports of head-caving activity for all the millions of illegal downloads this game has got..?’
Equality in gaming isn’t just about girls and bewbs and other nuggets of not-right for the easily incensed; it’s about how it is treated. Trying to explain something that wasn’t made for the audience listening -and could well be aimed at a completely different demographic – is a hard task, true enough.
To be taken seriously as a credible art-form within and of itself that stands with equal merit to contemporaries within the field of the arts and entertainment is all that’s being asked here; a slight shifting in the general perception of ersatz realities borne from a digital womb being just as noteworthy as any other. Bright, physics based finger-flippers such as Candy Crush may not seem as ‘legit’ as something like Gone With The Wind; but with both able to evoke an emotive response from its target audience – and gaming asking more from its participants by affording them engagement beyond simply sitting there and letting the magic wash over their furrowed brows of considered concentrations the platform I stand upon has far more solidity to its foundations of fairness than most.
But all this dumbing down and Early Learning Centre summaries smacks of an equally unknowing presenter delivering spoon-fed lines of litigious loquacity because the auto-cue told him to and oohlookittheshineysandbright!!!!