Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cliff Harris: The Infantilisation of Gaming Journalism



As is plainly stated in this blog's "Mission Statement", I have been endeavoring to show that gaming isn't kid stuff anymore - if it ever was.  Gaming has matured as a hobby quite nicely, as a matter of fact.  Today, we gamers have access to all sorts of mature games, from hardcore military simulators like the Arma franchise, to thoughtful political sims like Positech Games' Democracy 3.   But if that is so, why is the industry as a whole being treated in such a juvenile manner by its own video game journalists and other industry insiders?

That is the question be asked by Positech's own Cliff Harris in a recent posting on his developer blog....

In an entry entitled "The infantilisation of gaming journalism", Cliff Harris makes this interesting point:

"I’m 45 years old. I have a bald spot, own slippers and have a pension. I play games, and so do a LOT of people my age, and a bit younger. Pretty much everywhere, everyone treats me like an adult. When I read a book or magazine, it treats me like an adult, ditto for most websites I visit, or events I go to. Except when any of those involve games. When it’s games related, suddenly I am targeted as though I’m a horny and stupid 13 year old boy who wants to shout a lot and say ‘f***'’ because mom isn’t watching. This hasn’t been something that appeals to me for about THIRTY YEARS.

"As a quite committed, serious gamer, I can ignore a lot of that and still enjoy what is my hobby as well as my job, but it *must* turn away a lot of people my age and in their thirties. I am EMBARRASSED at a lot of gaming coverage, whether it’s in a magazine, or online, and especially in video. Lets not even mention TV. I would have assumed that the situation would have got better over the years, as more people into gaming like me grew up, but if anything, the youtube obsession has made it much, much worse."

I hate to say it, but he is entirely correct.   I confess that at times I, your very own evangelist of gaming to the older set, often wants to just throw his hands up in frustration and walk away from the hobby.  I mean, when you have a major company like Ubisoft having one of their E3 presenters showing up like this:



...you know the industry has a serious maturity problem.  Could you imagine any other company having its presenter show up with a #girlwood t-shirt?  IBM?  BMW?  Goldman Sachs?  Er, no.  Because they want their products to be taken seriously.

Cliff Harris makes the same point:

"Lets face facts, gaming will NEVER be taken seriously until it sheds this infantile image. Tax-breaks for the gaming industry? how do you make that argument to a politician my age (or older) when a quick search online for interviews with game developers shows them being quizzed by embarrassing kidults in bandanas holding skateboards saying DUDE and FUCK at every opportunity? You think that appeals to anyone who is in their forties? It’s not just journalists. even the head people at gaming divisions for Microsoft and Sony have the tendency to start saying stupid dumb things and doing high fives on stage the minute they talk about games."

What is worse is that even when we have some gaming jurnos attempt a foray into more mature waters, they actually make things worse by doing so in the most immature way possible.  For example, of late we have had a number of gaming sites dabbling in politics.  This is fine; as this blog has shown, gaming and politics often go together in a surprisingly sophisticated way.  Sadly, though, most of these sites botch the attempt by dabbling in the most juvenile politics possible, as I have shown (so long ago) here.

Will the industry ever find a way to put on its big boy pants?

What is so strange about this is that even though the hobby is suffused in such jejune mush, the truth of the matter is that gaming, as a whole, is actually rather mature.  For example, according to a 2014 survey done by the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a video game player is now 31 years old, with the average age of the video game purchaser being 35.  And if you dig into the facts a little deeper, the picture is even more interesting:



39% is over 36 years old, with only 29% being under 18.  Bet you never expected that!

If that is the case, why doesn't the industry reflect that reality in its attitudes and presentations?  It is almost as if the industry is deliberately attempting to drive the most mature gamers from its ranks. Hmm...I could say something cynical here about it being easier to sell the deed to the Brooklyn Bridge to kids, but I won't.

Interestingly, even mega-retailer Walmart realized that the hottest video games often are purchased and played by more mature gamers, and adjusted their marketing appropriately.   Remember this commercial for Black Ops?



So, yeah, Mr. Harris is quite correct in his observations and annoyances.  Here's hoping that things improve soon.  But after seeing this year's E3, and the recent infatuation with militant feminism and other kiddish political cause celebres by some well-meaning but misguided gaming pundits, I am not hopeful.

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