Sometimes the news media goes above and beyond in tarnishing the well-earned disdain many people have for the industry. And Crikey likes to recognise that effort with a coveted Wankley Award. And today, we’re handing out a rare collective award to the tabloid media’s obsession with the damage being done to our children by their obsession with a video game.
With upwards of 125 million players around the world, Fortnite, a cartoonish, multiplayer, online shoot-em-up, is the video game du jour, and it’s been rattling commentators across the media for months now.
The UK’s Mirror reported this week that a nine-year-old girl had wet herself because she was too addicted to stop playing to use the toilet. That was, predictably, widely picked up and reported around the world, including in Australia.
Yesterday, Nine’s Today program jumped on board, with guest psychologist Sandy Rea quoting “unequivocal research” showing that violent games increased aggressiveness, angry thoughts and aggressive behaviour.
Today, Daily Telegraph columnist Louise Roberts, in her piece about “outrage” over pictures of Prince George playing with a toy gun, she refers to Fortnite as “spreading like an anger plague through teens in Australia”.
Last week, Fairfax’s Madonna King was stepping up the panic about the game, concerned about how addictive the game was and quoting Canadian game-addiction expert Cam Adair. “This is the teenage boy’s version of the topless selfie, that parents of girls worry about,” she wrote. “But it might even be worse because of the sheer volume of those playing it and its competitive lure, particularly to boys.”
Concern about Fortnite has been bubbling away for months. Seven’s Sunrise has had two goes at covering it, sharing concern about children chatting to strangers online through it, and in April covering it as a “new obsession” for teenagers.
Rea’s claim that there was a lot of evidence linking aggressive behaviour to video games, is disputed. There is also plenty of research that has not found a link between video games and violent behaviour. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest there are social and developmental benefits to playing video games that require team work, like Fortnite does.
The moral panic over video games is nothing new — in the US, mass shootings are often linked by lawmakers and commentators to playing video games, and the media periodically gets itself into a tizz over popular games. See: Doom, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto.