Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Dara O'Briain, the media and video games.

Video gamers. What are they like eh? You....yes you.

The media have always struggled with videogames and how they should be portrayed. Most media outlets actually struggle to get any facts right, relying on "sources" for most of their stories....if those sources are from phone hacks or just made up bollocks, you can stick it in your news report AS FACT, because we all know...."no-one reveals their sources!".

But when it comes to videogames there is a problem.

On the whole, videogames and the people that play them are regarded as psychopathic violence loving weirdos. We would rather sit alone in our bedrooms with the lights out blowing peoples brians out with shotguns, murdering prostitutes and ram-raiding children's nurseries for 12 hours a night rather than interacting with "real" people, reading a book or sitting around getting into a political debate. We shun the outside world and escape into imaginary realms where anything and everything is possible. Not one of us has a girlfriend, and the thought of actually seeing a real life human breast is something that would cause the average gamer to explode in a pent-up jizz explosion.

Sometimes we don't do ourselves any favours. For gamers of a certain age, you'll remember the time when the rumours were doing the rounds about the "nude cheat" for the first Tomb Raider game. Yes you bloody do.....don't fib about it now that you're all "grown up!". Magazines and burgeoning game websites were awash with button presses, tips and methods so you could play the game as Lara Croft in the buff. And gamers were almost literally falling over themselves to do it. Now, why the hell you would want to see polygonal tits and some badly remdered low-res bush escapes me, but we couldn't get enough. And even now with the advent of "mature" titles like Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain, we are still doing the same. Gamers the world over tried to replicate a glitch in the game that allowed one of the main characters, Madison, to appear as nature intended.

So of course the media picks up on things like this, splashes it on web pages so they can point their holier-than-thou fingers and have a good old sneer at us geeky virgins. And you know, why shouldn't they? I mean, tits in a game....who wants to see those eh? Especially a game with "mature" themes. I want my mature stories told me in the most bland, as unrealistic as possible way, not with all aspects of human life that death, nudity, emotion or connection with a character.

But no. The only time you ever, EVER see a positive story regarding videogames in the national media is when some fat woman manages to stop eating for 5 minutes and jumps on Wii fit, with the result being some of that access blubber is lost by simply moving about a bit. It's also bigger news if that once huge sweaty mass turns out be to half attractive afterwards!

So it's always good when videogames get a good hearing. When someone comes out and says he's a proud videogamer. I'm not saying that they shout it from the hilltops and rush out to get a tattoo of Sonic the Hedgehog emblazoned in their arse.....just the little bit of delight when someone who's well respected in their field comes out and simply says "I play videogames".

Step forward Dara O'Briain.

Dara is a funny guy. I'll admit he's not in my top 5 comedians of all time, but he is consistently funny, and far funnier than that boz-eyed Russell Howard twat on Mock the week. But he's a gamer too, and when he combines his humour with the subject of videogames it's quite a show.

If you didn't see it, here's Dara as features in Charlie Brooker's "Gameswipe", discussing games and making a very good point about Gears of War.

A building with 3 hallways......EXACTLY! IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE!!!

Dara appeared in the BBC breakfast show earlier this week, where he gave a good showing (you should be able to find the Breakfast episode from Tuesday in Iplayer....I can't however). Dara made some valid points, although the host of BBC breakfast, Bill Turnbull, does his best to sneer at Dara whenever he has anything like a point about the argument. I can't embed it, but look at this link to see a snippet from the show.


Videogames? Art? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Coming from a man that's an amalgamation of every news presenter ever that rich. He's the art equivalent of a papier mache John Stapleton.

But this goes to highlight my point. Look at the biggest entertainment releases in recent years and they are games (discounting Avatar). Games sell umpteen trillions, and i'd probably hazard a guess that the vast majority of gamers are in the 25-35 yr old bracket. The Nintendo Wii has been selling at a weekly rate of millions, with even the Queen taking part in Wii sports competitions, probably, and it's still seen and portrayed as a childish, fruitless pursuit that stunts your brain and has as much social benefit as being a serial killer.

Even bastion of fair news reporting "Russia today" get's in on the act, when the recent terrorist bombing at an airport in Moscow was compared with the "No Russian" level in Activision's Modern Warfare 2!

Of course it was an easy comparison to make, a terrorist attack motivated by political means and an attack BY RUSSIANS in a "fictional" Russian airport. Devoid of context about the game, where the whole airport scene was a orchestrated as a prelude to war with the United States, it's just a mindless connection because the game features an airport. Of course they didn't report that side of the game, or indeed, like me on my first playthrough, you can get through all of the sections featuring civilians without firing a bullet whatsoever! But of course, you never let facts and context get in the way of a great story.

So the media, be that printed, online or televised, still has a long long way to go before it accepts that gaming is a hobby that millions enjoy. It still likes to paint gamers as sad, sexually redundant beings an inch away from becoming a serial killer. And you know what, I actually don't think we should try to convince them otherwise.

Celebs like Dara and Charlie Brooker are great. They are gamers through and through. They make no excuses for their hobby, and indeed shout their virtues from the hills. But I do believe that we as gamers should actually stop to try and convince the non-gaming public that "games are art". All it achieves is the same effect of shouting at a deaf dog as he's shitting in the corner. We as gamers should just carry on, indulging ourselves in the hobby that we love so well. We don't need to convince others to join us. If you like games, you bloody enjoy them, don't spend fruitless hours telling others why they really should play Shadow of the Colossus.

For more of Dara on games, pop over to Computer and Video games where they have some segments of a great little interview with Dara about gaming. He doesn't half make some great points.

So gamers. Enjoy your hobby. Tell people about it. Don't be embarrassed. Gaming is a more productive hobby than any other "normal" activities, such as watching Big Brother, X-Factor, or anything else that normal people consider to be socially acceptable. If you listen to them, you'll believe that sitting at your house with a few friends, a few drinks and a four-player session on Rock Band is more damaging than sitting hunched over your computer monitor at three in the morning, watching people sleep in the big brother house.

And I know which i'd rather be doing.

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