Video Games

Video Games Are Now a Dominant Entertainment Option. Why Is Gaming Still Treated Like a Subculture?

Why is a recreation that virtually all males (and a majority of females) do still seen as a problem?

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As Peter Suderman just noted, the summer's biggest entertainment blockbuster landed right as the season's wrapping up. It's not a movie, though. It's a video game. Grand Theft Auto V was released on Tuesday and sold $800 million in copies in a single day. Entertainment magazine Variety reports the figures and compares them to Hollywood's summer numbers:

The release of "GTAV" is certainly impressive, especially when compared to film releases.

The top three earners at the box office this year are Disney's "Iron Man 3," which generated $1.2 billion; Universal's "Despicable Me 2," at $840 million; and Warner Bros.' "Man of Steel," at $663 million.

"GTAV" boasted a budget just as lofty as most tentpoles, with Rockstar spending around $115 million to make the game and Take-Two another $150 million to market it throughout the year.

So in a single day, GTAV beat all but two summer movies' entire ticket sales. Of course, video games are about five times more expensive than movie tickets. These numbers don't even include Brazil and Japan yet, both of which are huge gaming markets.

These massive numbers are interesting in that arguably mark video games as a dominant (if not the dominant) entertainment medium, yet here in America it's still treated as this unusual, at times even obscure, subculture. The failure to grasp that video games are a central component of our entertainment industry becomes all the more obvious in media coverage of video game violence, particularly when it intersects with real-world violence as it did this week. Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis reportedly played lots of first-person shooters, so they must have been somehow responsible and not what appears to have been some very serious mental issues.

Fox News is catching flak for this image below pointing out that all these mass killers were big gamers:

Guys, Anders Breivik is 34 years old.
Fox News

This image came from a segment that actually aired on Sept. 10, days before Alexis' rampage. Media Matters critiqued Fox's sensationalized reporting, pointing out that investigators were ultimately unable to find evidence that Seung Hui Cho was a gamer at all, and that many of the games these killers played weren't realistic shooters but were instead fantasy role-playing games or strategy games. I would add that several of these mass killers weren't teens either, which makes the heading on the image rather strange.

Imagine such inaccuracies if the media were talking about a person's other entertainment options. Movie violence was dissected when James Holmes went on his shooting spree at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado. If the last movies Holmes saw were a romantic comedy, a fantasy adventure film and a cartoon, would all of that film consumption be thrown together as evidence of encouraging Holmes' violent behavior? And how would viewers react if Fox reported such a thing?

All the killers were male. Going back to 2008, a Pew poll showed that 99 percent of teen males play video games. 99 percent. Teen girls, by the way, clocked in a respectable 94 percent. The shooters turned out to be gamers because they were guys, and guys, by and large, are gamers of some sort, as GTAV's sales numbers show. And a certain percentage of guys are going to turn out dangerous and violent. Video games are incidental to dealing with this much larger problem.

Knowing how much video games are embedded in Western culture now, there are undoubtedly many gamers working at these news outlets that report about games so poorly who could try to correct this behavior. At some point, one has to assume that this type of poor reporting is deliberate and not a result of ignorance or misunderstanding.

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  1. Queue Nerdfest.

    NTTAWWT.

    My biggest problem with games now is they’re mostly crap: There hasn’t been a first person shooter that I’ve felt was worth the money since maybe Quake 3.

    1. Diagnosis: Old Age.

  2. They all drank milk as a child. Drinking milk as a child creates psychotic murderers.

    1. And I bet they watched th’ eeevul television too!

      Fox won the race to derpublicize this one.

    2. Since less than a dozen video gamers out of 10s of millions of gamers went on to be psychotic, murderous freaks, it must be the video games that cause the violence. QED

      What’s that? Four, of the 7 pictured, were nuts to begin with? Oh, then it’s definitely the games.

      1. The other angle too is that if you are an introvert type with social problems, characteristics many of these people all had, gaming is something you may be attracted to.

        If there is any correlation to being a heavy gamer, it might just be a proxy for something else.

  3. The damn kids these days! GET OFF MY LAWN!

  4. Of their 7 “teen killers” hopped up on video games, at least 4 weren’t teenagers at all:

    Loughner
    Brevik
    Holmes
    Cho

    1. Much like the correlation between porn and rape, I believe games give you a chance to act out your fantasy without hurting a single person.

      I mean, unless your feelings get hurt by being called a fag.

      1. I mean, unless your feelings get hurt by being called a fag.

        That’s why they invented single player.

        1. Didn’t single player come first and multiplayer was invented so immature people could sling slurs at each other over the internet during play?

          1. What we need is single-player healthcare.

          2. Didn’t single player come first and multiplayer was invented so immature people could sling slurs at each other over the internet during play?

            For me, defeating a computer is nothing like crushing your opponent until he no longer has the will to live… or play… whatever.

            1. You sound Korean

        2. I’ve found the best way to respond to being called a fag in a video game is to start openly flirting with them. It pisses them off to no end, and once they run into someone who doesn’t consider being called a fag to be insulting, they have no idea how to deal with it.

  5. I recall reading something that indicated that games had either already overcome the movie market or were close to doing so.

    1. I said this on the other threwad, so sorry for reposting, but –

      Movies cost $15 and last 2 hours.
      Games cost $10-60 and often last for hundreds, possibly thousands, of play hours. Advantage: games

      1. It’s an obvious point, but it’s one worth noting, because I’m not sure everyone gets it. Also, considering that entertainment time is only so many hours a week (even for kids), movies and games compete to some degree.

        I don’t think gaming is going to kill movies anytime soon, but it’s got to be having some effect on the dollars spent on movies.

        1. I think that TV shows (or their internet based successors) are going to kill movies more than video games. Movies keep getting worse as TV gets better. But I don’t like playing video games very much, so that might just be my preference.

          1. This is a good point. The massive success of AMC’s programming will embolden others to take risks with original programming.

          2. Major network shows are getting worse. Cable and internet shows are getting better.

      2. That is exactly the justification I use for buying a game now and then. Sure, I’m likely dropping $120 on BF4 today, but I’ll likely play at bare minimum, 250hrs, making it about $.50/hr. Even the ridiculously cheap theater in town ($1.50 on Tuesdays), can’t match that. And I’ll likely put in much more than 250 hours in BF4. Also, it’s something I can do with friends, while actually being interactive, unlike movies that are fairly non-social.

        1. And you can do it at home in your underwear, no need to get dressed and then drive across towm.

          You can also do it on your own schedule, got 30 minutes to spare, fire up the game. Up at 2 am with insomnia, fire up the game.

          With a movie, it starts at a set time and runs for a fixed duration and if those times don’t fit into your schedule then too damn bad

  6. If Fox’s logic were sound, South Korea and Japan would be waist-deep in mass killers.

    SSRI link between Big Pharma and suicide/homicide will never be publicized. After all, how could it be that hopping up a bunch of already deranged people on mind-altering drugs could potentially make them more unstable?

    Nope, it’s those evil motherfuckers at Rockstar doing it.

    1. You know, that’s an interesting question. It does seem like a decent number of these have been treated for some sort of psychological problem. Could the treatment have somehow contributed to their psychotic breaks?

      1. Pro L, There are many in the Lew Rockwell camp who believe that psychotropic drugs have a direct correlation to these mass shootings involving the individuals above

        1. And those are just about as silly as the people who link video games to the killings. SSRIs are very commonly prescribed and the vast majority of people who use them don’t murder anyone. There are plenty of problems with that kind of drug, but I doubt that is one of them.

          1. I’m not blaming them or suggesting anything. The correlation likely lies in the people being mentally ill in the first place, not in the treatment. But it’s worth digging into.

          2. SSRI’s don’t make you suicidal, but they may get you undepressed enough to act on pre-existing suicidal inclinations.

    2. Nope, it’s those evil motherfuckers at Rockstar doing it.

      There’s also the fact that games are easy to pick on because of how prolific they’ve become, and parents don’t really understand or want to understand them.

      Sure, when 85% of the population has played video games, it’s easy to say “OMG VIDYA GAYME VIOLENCE!!!”

      Of course, I could make the same exact argument correlating masturbation. 100% of mass shooters have jacked off!

      1. It’s the eating and sleeping that does it to them.

    3. South Korea and Japan would be waist-deep in mass killers.

      Fox News hates America…or at least views American youths as inferior to foreign youths.

  7. parents don’t really understand or want to understand them.

    For maybe five more years. A decade at most. We’re almost to the point where many parents (and possibly most fathers) played violent video games themselves when they were younger (and for many, still play them).

    1. Wolfenstein was cartoony of course, but plenty violent. Doom topped that quite easily. I played both, and am a father of 3 teen/nearing teens. Nothing they’ve played compares to the violence of Doom.

      I expect most fathers these days have played violent video games, at least a little.

      1. The family that deathmatches together, stays together.

      2. Someone writing about GTA said he found GTA III to be more uncomfortable than GTA II because it was less gory and that made the killing feel more realistic.

        1. How does anyone know how much gore there would be from a gun fight?

          I am thinking aside from a few service men who actually had to walk through their kills or police forensic teams the numbers are pretty damn low.

          I have hunted though….the gore from that seems low I guess….but then again the gore from it is relatively low because blood tends not to stand out as much in nature as it does on the street or inside a building also after you shoot an animal you tend to have to clean it…at which point the gore from the bullet wound gets drowned out of your mind.

          1. True. I have butchered a cow in winter. That’s pretty gory.

  8. Video Games Are Now a Dominant Entertainment Option. Why Is Gaming Still Treated Like a Subculture?

    The type of person who is attracted to working in the industry tends to be with some notable exceptions an introvert who is motivated to craft things, software engines, design, what have you, it’s a mind set focused on a product, not on celebrity. The last thing a typical developer wants is to be a rock star. Other media attracts a more extroverted temperament where the focus is on performance.

    This reflects on how games are treated in social media, as there is little in the way of personality to sell the story when reporting on the medium. Coverage of politics, sports, movies, television, and music is celebrity driven, and that aspect is minimized for games.

    1. Games are still treated as subculture becasue the people writing about games were no gamers, and neither were their editors.

      As gamers and former gamers rise in stature within the cultural king making community games will be elevated to a cultural norm.

      We’ve seen it before – jazz, rock & roll, comics – I mean even Rush was indcuted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year and they had been treated as lower than subculture since 1973.

      1. Games are still treated as subculture becasue the people writing about games were no gamers, and neither were their editors.

        COMPUTERS ARE FOR WORD PROCESSORS, STOP WASTING TIME AND GIVE ME MY COPY

  9. I finally relented and ordered a PS3 last week. Well, pre-ordered a GTA V/PS3 bundle. Now it looks like UPS is shuffling its damn feet and won’t get it to me until Monday. Which suuuuucks, because I’m house sitting this weekend and GTA V would be nice to have.

    On topic: that 99% statistic is crazy, but then it makes sense. Especially if we’re including browser and cell phone games.

    1. I never buy first month any software product. Let the rest of you be the post-beta testers to iron out the kinks and fix the bugs, and buy at a higher price.

      1. Then you buy during Steam Summer Sale, and walk away with 4 games for the price of one.

        1. Exactly right. Also Indie Bundles are worth checking out.

      2. That’s definitely my preferred position on PC games, and even more so on multiplayer PC games. But GTA is incredibly polished and doesn’t have the issues that Diablo 3, Call of Duty, or Battlefield has. If this was a Bethesda game (TES, Fallout) I could agree with you – their single payer games, while amazing and comprising of thousands of hours of my gaming over the years, are notoriously buggy, with crashing and freezing. In 15 hours of GTA V on xbox 360 I’ve had no crashes or even a hint of tech problems.

        Then again the online mode for GTA isn’t part of the release (not that I picked up GTA for the multiplayer).

      3. “I never buy first month any software product. Let the rest of you be the post-beta testers to iron out the kinks and fix the bugs, and buy at a higher price.”

        Speaking of which, anyone buy Total War: Rome II yet?

        The price tag and the reported bugginess has kept me on the sidelines.

  10. investigators were ultimately unable to find evidence that Seung Hui Cho was a gamer at all

    But he was Korean, and everyone knows Koreans love them some Starcraft.

  11. The killers all played video games, huh?
    Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

  12. Knowing how much video games are embedded in Western culture now, there are undoubtedly many gamers working at these news outlets that report about games so poorly who could try to correct this behavior.

    True to a certain extent, but you need to take into account the age of producers, publishers, editors, etc. who make most of the decisions about what gets covered and how. I strongly suspect that within the next 10 to 15 years you’ll see a significant change in coverage of gaming as the Baby Boomers start retiring in large numbers and you also get more Gen Y’ers into middle management positions in media outlets. (A substantial percentage of Gen X’ers gamed as kids, but got out of gaming before the modern long-form narrative style of games really took off, so while I would expect them to be less hostile to video games in general than Boomers, a lot of them still lack firsthand experience with narrative games, which is really what I think is at issue here, not pure arcade-style shooters, puzzle games, etc.)

    1. “A substantial percentage of Gen X’ers gamed as kids, but got out of gaming before the modern long-form narrative style of games really took off”

      This is statistically untrue. The average gamer age is somewhere around the mid-30s. Gen Xers are still big gamers.

    2. What the hell Gen X’ers are you talking about? I did not game as a kid. Video arcade games came out when I was in junior high. In high school, we all owned Ataris. Most of my computer upgrade purchases were to be able to play the latest and greatest games. I am partial to MMORPGs so I’ve played UO, DAOC, EQ, WoW, LoTRO; I’m currently playing Guild Wars 2. And I’m a damn Gen X GIRL! The list of games my husband and his friends have played is mind boggling.

    3. Gen Xers did not “game” we went to the arcade and/or we owned an Atari.

  13. If games like GTA provide any lessons on how to be a criminal, it’s that going around shooting random people attracts police. The characters have to respect certain social norms with regards to the law and criminal organizations in order to avoid attention.

    1. If GTA has taught me anything, it’s that the police don’t mind if you blow a red light going 155mph, so long as you don’t scratch their cruiser.

      1. A scenario where it is impossible to not get caught without committing a single violation in your stolen car full of drugs could be challenging.

        1. That should be if you commit a single violation.

          1. Try driving legal in any GTA game.

            Worse then watching grass grow….

            Also you will probably get hit more often then if you just blow through all lights and swerve around into oncoming traffic to pass and use the side walk as a second lane.

    2. I never played GTA for the story. I just wanted to behead random hookers and crash into parked cars while driving a firetruck.

      1. It’s more fun if you get the RPG.

      2. I don’t think you can behead anyone in any GTA game ever made.

        I am calling BULLSHIT!

        1. Dude, I played some version (don’t remember which) at my BIL’s house one Thanksgiving. There was definitely a sword and a shot gun and a firetruck. Also some hack that my oldest used to drive his car on water.

  14. So lets take a look at how the game news media covers game news…..

    *Reads 100 articles on Kotaku and Polygon about how games are sexist and misogynist and tools of the patriarchy used to oppress women.

    Yeah apparently Fox news is right in that games are corrupting our youth. they just got the vector wrong. Princess Penelope is a horrible role model for young girls and is creating a culture of rape.

  15. Scott Shackford said “a certain percentage of guys are going to turn out dangerous and violent.” Doesn’t that show an ignorance that people who act dangerously and violently make a choice. Specifically, a choice to attack and kill humans? Without any reason of justice or self defence?

  16. I can pretty much agree with this. Video games have become a source of entertainment especially in the new netflix generation.. the old personal connection has gone.. in our days collecting stamps or toys was the best experience, now it has just reduced to a screen and a console.. and the worst is that my kids who used to collect shopkins toys have moved on to playing shopkins games online.. Though kids love it but they are really missing out on something much more personal…

    1. I can pretty much agree with this. Video games have become a source of entertainment especially in the new netflix generation.. the old personal connection has gone.. in our days collecting stamps or toys was the best experience, now it has just reduced to a screen and a console.. and the worst is that my kids who used to collect shopkins toys have moved on to playing shopkins games online Though kids love it but they are really missing out on something much more personal…

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