The mainstream media can be rather inconsistent in its treatment of esports, and that is nothing new. For years now, the BBC has waged a war on gamers based entirely on some weird prejudice within the corporation, beginning with a clearly fake and dishonest episode of Panorama and running all the way through to today, as documented by Richard Lewis, among others.
Now, for many in England, that is a real blow, as the BBC was held up as a bastion of good reporting for years. In fairness, the illness that has infected their news department is not spreading to all the arms yet, but there has been a drop in overall quality. The same cannot be said for the gutter press, the likes of the Daily Mail and the Sun of course, a paper that has always existed at the bottom of the barrel.
Originally published in the Mail by Emily Kent Smith, and then purloined by the Sun's Ellie Cambridge (what is that phrase about honour among thieves?), the piece that was in the online edition today, titled ‘Boy, 10, addicted to World of Warcraft needs bowel surgery after parents let him play for 8-hour binges without going to the toilet’ is a masterful example. In it, the paper tries to present World of Warcraft, an online MMORPG, as the reason this young child eventually developed a bowel problem, and then tie this into the ongoing hysteria they, the BBC and others are perpetuating around ‘games addiction’.
Before we go further, it's worth pointing out that Smith has previous, with many bylines to her name that show she is not only ignorant of the topic, but prejudiced against gamers. That the Mail encourage this is not surprising, but it may be time to stop giving writer a pass on the basis that everyone needs a job. That logic holds no water in a civilised world.
What makes the Mail and the Sun’s actions particularly egregious here is the hypocrisy. Happy to slate gamers as addicts and present the fearful position that these evil products are a risk to your child, the Sun simultaneously encourages many other such vices, including today’s article and tweet about a drink promotion at Lidl, which the Sun believes is ‘perfect for summer’ as it allows you to drink strong, cheap alcohol.
On a similar note, the Mail are quite happy to celebrate the creative ways people have found to smuggle alcohol into various venues, which is not only contributing to the drinking issue, but also robbing business people of their profits. Again, we can only assume that compared to the millions of pounds of damage done by alcohol each week, the threat of 'evil gaming' is just too great to ignore for the 'journalists' there.
Fabricated figures, no research
Obviously there is a ream of research to show the huge negative impact of bargain drinks, and in terms of damage done alcohol is the cause of more violence, abuse, injury and death than games will be if they exist for the rest of time. Furthermore, only recently the sale of cheap alcohol was banned in Scotland due to the damage it does, which already puts it streets ahead of the ‘gaming is dangerous’ position in the evidence stakes, as if that were not already long-decided.
As we mentioned, this comes just on the back of the BBC fabricating a figure in an article about gaming addiction and then standing by it, rather than admit their error, and when the corporation is being supported in such lies it is harder in some ways to censure the Sun. While some of the mainstream press has embraced gaming, there are certain institutions like the Sun and the Beeb that have not, and we believe we know why.
As many esports vetarans have pointed out, we in the scene don’t need mainstream approval anymore. When Sky came around a decade or so ago, there was nothing to hold up as an alternative to their plan, but today we as a scene can reject even the biggest companies and make them a minor part at best, as many games developers have found. The same goes for the media, where readers are given a choice between obvious liars that don’t follow the scene (Sun, BBC), or native writers than have esports in their heart.
This is why some institutions attack, and will continue to attack esports, and in some ways the calls to boycott them are nothing more than common sense. Esports does not need the Mail, Sun or the Beeb, and they set to gain much from associating with our scene, so maybe it’s time to start treating them with the contempt they treat us. There is no doubt they deserve it.