British TV is a mixed bag; it on one hand has pre-fabricated and heavily edited ‘reality’ shows dominating the ratings, yet on the other it presents interesting and insightful dramas and documentaries that don’t make the first bit of commercial sense due to the UK’s ancient PSB laws.
Thankfully this means shows like LIFE and Planet Earth get made, though not all of our documentaries are quite so good. BBC’s Panorama made headlines last week when it revealed some evidence of corruption within the FIFA organisation and was subsequently blamed for England’s catastrophic performance in the 2018 World Cup bid - which was a scapegoat that the 2022 USA bid unfortunately doesn’t have - though my full thoughts on this belong on another genre of blog.
Last night’s Panorama focused upon the addiction of videogames, and despite a sliver of hope that the BBC wouldn't succumb to the stupidity of its competitors, like the fuckwits over at ITV or the Murdoch-controlled tits at the Daily Mail, I’m afraid to report that the documentary was as ill-informed, biased and idiotic as many of the other pieces of mainstream commentary on the games industry out there.
The show quite fairly presented a great number of facts about the games sector, demonstrating its significance by claiming that 24million Britons play games, over 50% of households have a console and that more money is spent on games than either films or music in the UK. It also was reasonable in that it accepted there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever of video games modifying the behaviour of players any more than other mediums, or that video games were medically addictive.
For some reason, from the data-supported platform of reason, the show meanders off to examine anecdotal evidence from dorky youths who admittedly have problems with the amount of time they spend playing World of Warcraft. The baffled mothers try in vain to shift the blame elsewhere, which sets our plucky journalist off to discover the dangers and perils of gaming addiction for himself.
After being set back by straight-talking EIDOS and UKIE representatives, Panorama then tries to draw parallels with problems in Korea and the new legislation slated to improve the UK’s broadband network. The incredibly tragic story of the mentally-unsound and depressed Korean parents that neglected their baby to play an MMO, resulting in the death of the child, is used quite unjustly to emotionally tie gaming addiction to such tragedy. The parents were obviously unsuitable and also prone to such neglecting behaviour, and games were simply the proxy that facilitated the act.
I am not going to claim that games aren’t addictive, as anyone who has played Football Manager or Peggle will agree. I am however, confident in the idea that games are not medically addictive, or at least any more than TV or chatrooms are. Even if I am wrong, which I could well be, what can possibly be done about it? The documentary ‘concludes’ with the notion that as they have failed to find evidence of medical addiction for gaming, and that more research needs to be done. It then appears to directly blame the games industry for not funding such research and seems to place the blame for addiction squarely at the feet of game developers, and proposes that they deal with the problem of addiction without actually suggesting what should be done. At no stage are any parents incriminated or even implied as responsible for or complicit in the addiction of these child gamers.
Once again, we have a case of the mainstream media (and parents) failing to acknowledge that Parents are the ones responsible for their children’s gaming habits. Even if games are found to be particularly medically addictive, and even if legislation is passed to provide warnings on the boxes of games to caution parents on the risks of game addiction (would this only appear on good games I wonder?) then the parents will still have to monitor their child’s game behaviour.
While there were a few great aspects to this documentary, this platform is inappropriate to fully dissect the show, so please just take my word that I take on board (and agree) with some of the issues raised in the show. As this article is in danger of rambling on forever, as there are so many factors to discuss, I’ll try to conclude as succinctly as possible.
Although Panorama has clearly done its research, which is refreshing in the plethora of shit that the UK media regularly conjures up, it completely fails to draw appropriate conclusions. It favours the anecdotal pro-addiction evidence over the data-supported positive gaming ideology and presents a wild dichotomy, in which solitary, sad and addictive gamers exists on one side and cool, sporty kids with girlfriends exist on the other. The show is even so short-sighted in that it does not realise its own hypocrisy when it repeatedly portrays drinking culture as a viable, even desirable alternative to gaming. In one instance, it didactically promotes ‘getting smashed’ as a productive and positive progression from an ex-gaming addict. It also does not succeed in properly distinguishing between MMOs and other games, for some reason applying weak anecdotal evidence concerning MMOs to also apply for all forms of gaming.
Sadly, it is yet another mainstream media gaming piece that despite initial and shallow promise and polish, comprehensively fails to properly assess the topic it covers, instead drawing stupid and invalid conclusions, misplacing blame and offering no solutions to the problems it claims it highlights.