GamePolitics came in for a bit of journalistic criticism the other day from Destructoid.
In a critique on game blog content, editor Jim Sterling writes:
One of the main arguments here is that we bloggers serve only to perpetuate the "games cause violence" mentality already held by many anti-videogame lobbyists out there… sometimes blogs go out of their way to essentially do FOX News’ job for it, making their own weak videogame connections so that the mainstream press doesn’t have to.
GamePolitics is guilty of this on a number of occasions… One example is GP’s "16-Year Old GTA IV Gamer Charged with Grisly S&M Murder of NYC Newsman" article. The story is that an emotionally disturbed individual responded to a dirty sex ad and killed a man. GP, however, does what a sensationalist news channel would do and focuses squarely on the unrelated and minor fact that he liked videogames. The original news post that he sources only briefly lists games among the killer’s hobbies — it does not blame games, nor have games been implicated in any way. GP made that implication, and helped perpetuate it, without any input from other media.
Jim is referring to this GP story from March 25th. George Weber, a radio reporter from New York, was allegedly murdering by John Katehis, a dysfunctional 16-year-old whom the 47-year-old Weber solicited via Craigslist for a sleazy drugs-and-rough-sex encounter that went badly awry.
I should point out that GamePolitics is far more involved with issues of video games and violence than most blogs because that supposed connection drives much of the political debate around games. That being the case, whenever there is a violent incident and games come in for a mention, we report it.
In the case at hand, GP didn’t invent the fact that the accused is a 16-year-old fan of violent video games. That information was reported by the mainstream media. I did do some extra digging – which I see as my job as a journalist – and found additional details on Katehis, including a picture of him holding up his copy of GTA IV.
Nowhere in the story do I write that GTA or any other game motivated the brutal murder. Nor did I, as Sterling writes, "focus squarely on the unrelated and minor fact that [Katehis] liked video games." Is the video game angle front and center in the story? Of course. If Katehis was not a gamer there would be no reason to mention the story on GamePolitics. But we also cited Katehis’s MySpace profile which seems to illustrate that he has other issues:
I enjoy long conversations, drinking, bike riding, hanging out, roof hopping, hanging off trains, any type of Parkour exercise. Extreme violence (chaos, anarchy, etc.) Video Games, Violent Movies and listening to my ipod… I like to do crazy and wild things. I am like an adrenaline junkie. I’m a big risk taker and like to live life on the edge…
The story concludes with my comment:
There are just so many dysfunctional pieces to this story, but video games will certainly be blamed in some quarters.
That line goes a long way to explaining this article and others like it. Whatever role you or I may think violent games played in the crime, there are others who will make such linkage. I prefer to get out in front and report the facts, not chase them later. And while the crime itself is lurid and sensational, GP’s coverage was strictly factual.
Perhaps Sterling’s criticism highlights an essential difference between GamePolitics and some other game news outlets. Here, my first commitment is to reporting the story, wherever it leads. I do not see my role as either promoting video games or shielding them from potentially bad news. That said, I enjoy Destructoid and have great respect for Jim Sterling. This response is not written in anger, but in the hope that it will spark debate on the topic.
Back atcha, Jim.
UPDATE: This must be "I love GamePolitics, but…" Day