One wonders what Steve ‘Slug’ Russell – inventor of Space War – must think these days when he looks at the morning papers. The industry he’s commonly credited for starting is nowadays blamed for all sorts of society’s ills.
From the headlines over the last few years, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world’s full of kids murdering each other, having become so desensitised to violence that they can’t comprehend that a claw-hammer in the back of the head or bullets through classmates isn’t really a socially responsible way of dealing with angst. In my day, we used to listen to the Sister of Mercy. A generation before, they’d read Catcher In the Rye, a book so boring you end up killing beatles for kicks.
Hang on: also according to the papers, they’re all massive lard-arses, fused to their sofas through years of inactivity. If they’re all so fat, how come they’re so dangerous? Again, when I was younger, the chubby ones were quite rightly ridiculed. They looked funny, were easy to bully and had small penises.
The media don’t know what to make of us. Or, more importantly, they want to create a crisis. We buy more papers when there’s stuff to worry about. So when something as important as the Byron Review comes along, did we really expect a fair go?
We all know kids shouldn’t play 18-rated videogames, in the same way that we know kids shouldn’t drink, sniff glue or watch The X Factor. But that didn’t stop some papers illustrating their Byron Review pieces with images of kids posed playing Grand Theft Auto. Given we’re so concerned about our children playing games they’re not supposed to, shouldn’t these papers be reported to the Social Services? When they run pieces on under-age sex, they don’t accompany this with two children performing blowjobs, do they?
Other papers pulled out stock photos. Kids posing with game controllers, captions reading: ‘Harmful: A Government-commissioned report says that games can desensitise children to violence.’ The picture’s literally from last century; the kid’s playing Mario Kart 64. An absolute despicable shocker of a game, we all agree. After all, Gamespot only gave it 6.4 out of 10.
Of course, of course: it was The Mail that wheeled out the big guns to highly gaming’s perils. Sorry, “big guns” is harsh – she’s lost a lot of weight, to be fair. Anne Diamond, who once suggested that the fall of the Berlin Wall was good because it meant the East Germans could down use better shops, was asked to appraise a random selection of video games in order to warn middle England of the terrible perils.
Seemingly avoiding picking titles from the celebrated historical study Game On! From Pong To Oblivion – The 50 Greatest Videogames Of All Time – Google it – Diamond instead headed down to a local underground game store, which specialises, clearly, in selling only violent games.
So instead of Ocarina of Time or Final Fantasy VII, she picked up chart-toppers such as Scarface (2006) and Dead or Alive 4 (2005) – if nothing good came out of the Byron Review, publishers of those games will no doubt thank Tanya Byron for the extra revenue. Her reviews were punctuated by comments from her under-age kids, highlighting the fact she’s part of the problem. Next week: Anne Diamond gets her children pissed and writes about it! The week after, she shows them some porn! The week after, they play computer games and fuck each other to death.
Being shot in Call of Duty 4, Diamond claimed, felt “pretty real.” Her penultimate line in her Resident Evil 4 appraisal was: “When I played, I was stabbed to death with pitchforks amid fountains of my own blood.” If only, if only.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Diamond has blurred the line between fantasy and reality – she presented a TV show with a puppet rat, for a start. For all the journalistic merit, The Mail may as well have invited God himself to review a random selection of videogames, before hopping online to slag off n00bs on Xbox Live.
So what has this media storm in a teacup proved? Nothing, really. The video games industry is wholly responsible; the newspapers enjoyed inflating the Byron Report findings. Headlines fade and will be forgotten until the next scapegoat arrives. It’s the cycle of life, unless you’re that goat handpicked by Sony to promote God of War 3.