Journalistic Perceptions of Gaming

This morning I finally got around to writing that letter to On The Media (OTM) I’ve been meaning to write about. This week’s show had the first mention of a video game device/game that I recall on the show. The “Death Ray” segment had a commentator mentioning PS3’s Blu-ray playing abilities. I don’t find an issue with that mention. I do find it interesting they didn’t mention Microsoft’s investment in HD-DVD via the Xbox 360 add-on yet quoted Bill Gates on his position that on-line distribution is going to trump physical media.

As for the show in general, there is a void of reporting when it comes to interactive media under the realm of games. Taking a look at OTM’s mission statement:

On the Media explores how the media “sausage” is made, casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas, and examines threats to the freedom of information and expression in America and abroad.

In my view, not covering video/computer games is a huge piece of sausage they are missing. So, it’s concerned audience member time:

Dear On The Media:As a long time listener to the podcast version of the show, I turn to your program as a way to keep abreast with media topics across all forms of media from journalism to entertainment of a wide wash of forms. But for the years I’ve listened to the program, I simply can not recall when electronic gaming was mentioned besides this weekend’s (Jan 11 2008) broadcast with a passing reference to the Playstation 3 as a Blu-ray player by one of your guests.

I simply don’t understand the silence over the video game industry of any facet.

OTM offers a unique perspective on the topics you cover. Sometimes they are stories I’m already informed of, but you always manage to provide a perspective that other outlets simply don’t provide. What I am asking is to provide OTM’s perspective on the video game industry, console or personal computer. Not so much for me, but to further enrich the audience of OTM.

I understand this comment is a bit aimless as far as piece suggestions. My point is to ask that the staff of OTM take a look at the electronic games industry as part of your media coverage. I am free to offer a dialogue of topics to cover, but to help you folks learn how to fish when covering this sector.

Some disclosure. I work for an independent game studio in the San Francisco area, Telltale Games, but I’m speaking only for myself.

As always, thanks for making a quality program every week. My grievance is to help expand coverage of the media “sausage” to the huge chuck you’ve managed to miss over the years.

As I was writing this letter, I asked a friend of mine if she listens to OTM and her thoughts on the subject. Then she pointed me to this piece from NPR’s All Things Considered (and not related to OTM at all):

“Best-Selling Book Shows ‘Halo’ Game’s Wide Appeal”

In short, the report Chana Joffe-Walt filed was enforcing a stereotype that video games consist of Halo players who don’t read unless it’s a book about a video game. It’s… a frustrating piece to listen to. Rather than cursing NPR and moving on, I wrote another concerned audience letter to All Things Considered (I added the links for your reference):

Dear ATC:

On Jan 8th 2008, Chana Joffe-Walt filed a report entitled “Best-Selling Book Shows ‘Halo’ Game’s Wide Appeal” which covered Joseph Staten’s novel based off the Halo series. What I am bringing issue to the piece was the passive and sometimes direct implication that a certain population of individuals who play one specific title implies all audiences who play games are illiterate. As a game developer, writer, and recipient of a Bachelor of Fine Arts in New Media, this is a false stereotype.

As an NPR listener, I’ve listened to a few pieces from ATC that were solid reporting. Of particular note, Heather Chaplin’s report “Video Games Get Dash of Indie-Bred Maturity” is a prime example of reporting I come to expect from NPR and proves that NPR can report on the industry I work for in a fair and insightful way for the entire NPR audience.

At the end of the day, I would like for Channa and the editing staff to listen to Heather’s report. Particularly at the end where she notes the early impressions of Film were a technological toy and later found how to express the tool as a form of art. I an my fellow colleagues are working very hard to keep pushing this technology further into art. Chana’s report snuffed our efforts by emphasizing the stereotype that games are simply toys for children, even when attempting to cover a novel.

We’ll see how that goes. Maybe this will add one or two more radio mentions of me [the first one on PRI’s The World: Video game rating systems worldwide (5:00)]. What I do hope is that this will help motivate both of these programs to learn how to fish for good stories in the game industry.