Mainstream Media Still Don’t Quite Get Video Games

On 60 Minutes and ‘The New World Of Computer Gaming’

On Sunday night, Channel 9’s 60 Minutes ran a story detailing the ‘rise and rise of e-gaming (sic)’ in Australia featuring two prominent Twitch streamers — Loserfruit and xMinks— in addition to three of the members of the professional ESL team ‘Renegades’ and ESL Australia Head Nick Vanzetti.

Earlier in the week, a preview video of the upcoming feature popped up online. Many Australian gaming personalities, from streamers to esports professionals and commentators, held their breath in anticipation. Of course, the Australian gaming scene has a pretty chequered history with more ‘mainstream’ news outlets, and the preview did seem to lean into the amount of money that these personalities were pulling in a little too much, but it wasn’t taking the ‘Video Games Are Harming Our Children’ stance we’ve come to know in recent memory.

So there was hope.

Maybe this would be a story that did wonders for the esports scene here. Maybe it would highlight the aspect of community that the industry fosters, the spectacle of the sport, the amazing hard-working people that make up the scene.

Maybe.

Corded controller? Check. Elastic smile? Check. Polo shirt? Check. Yes, this picture is from 2012.

Corded controller? Check. Elastic smile? Check. Polo shirt? Check. Yes, this picture is from 2012.
(60 Minutes broadcast)

The header card for the story featured a ridiculously over-excited human male holding a game controller fronted by the text GAME ON. It’s unimaginative, a stock photo you’ve seen before, a recreation of the go-to image when you google “Person Playing Video Game”. An image that was created back when video games were something your grandparents scoffed at.

Look, the segment didn’t get off to the best start.

There was still promise early, with Stefanovic giving a brief overview of the burgeoning esports scene and chatting to three members of Renegades. There seems to be a genuine interest and joy in the journalist’s expression, he is interested in this world, yet straight away, the tone is one of condescension — lines like “make-believe”, “sun-starved blokes” and “it doesn’t seem to be a healthy occupation” seemingly telling the audience that video games are still Really Weird and mostly for guys that live in their parents basement — but HEY, THEY MAKE A LOT OF MONEY NOW!

First though, Stefanovic ensured the audience knew video games have come a long way since Donkey Kong and Sonic. This isn’t news, of course, but he isn’t wrong.“This is the new world of computer gaming” he proclaims, over shots of cheering crowds in packed esports stadiums. After introducing the Renegades, Stefanovic probes the three about their training schedules and how they explain what they do as a job. The boys give measured answers but seem a little taken aback when he point-blank asks how much money they’re earning.

“Enough” replies Karlo Pivac, one of the Renegades.

Stefanovic probes “What’s enough?”.

Pivac reveals he’s just bought a property.

“Wow”, replies Stefanovic, his brow furrowing in surprise, as if the entire world is crumbling around him in that very moment (and probably trying very hard not to mention avocados).

Later, Stefanovic jumps into a game of Counter-Strike with the Renegades and just can’t quite focus his cross-hair on an enemy head. That’s a perfect analogy for this segment. It doesn’t know where to aim and it doesn’t really know how to hold the gun, either.

Stefanovic tries his hand at CS: GO

Stefanovic tries his hand at CS: GO
(60 Minutes broadcast)

But esports isn’t the only way to make money in the Lucrative Business that is video games. Walking through an empty arcade with Twitch streamer Loserfruit, Stefanovic asks “Is this still where the youngsters come?” Clearly not, but Loserfruit offers up a reluctant “suuuure”, prolonging the ‘u’ just enough to let Peter know that’s quite obviously a stupid question.

If the Imagine Dragons soundtrack isn’t enough to show that 60 Minutes is in over its head with this kind of content, then Stefanovic proudly proclaiming that “female gamers are becoming much more common” surely does. It’s a little embarrassing, actually, considering how easy it is to find the statistics (hint: Wikipedia has a ton of sourced data) that consistently demonstrate the even split between male and female gamers. I mean, isn’t that what’s been reported on every single year since 2010? It’s just lazy reporting to fall back on this now-ancient cliche.

Stefanovic then sits down with Loserfruit and xMinks for a conversation about streaming that amounts to little more than the talk you have with a bank teller about to offer you a loan — “How much money do you make?” and “What’s the biggest donation you’ve received?” It offers little in the way of their personal achievements, hard work or how they’ve generated such strong followings. That would be the interesting angle to take, of course, but it’s hardly touched on. When Loserfruit is asked about the size of donations she’s received, she seems uncomfortable responding. xMinks is put in a similar situation and tries to brush it off letting Stefanovic know she makes more than she did when she worked in a pharmacy.

Then the segment takes a turn towards the online trolls that plague online content creators, because of course it does. Loserfruit valiantly fights off that line of questioning and doesn’t seem at ease discussing it, before Vanzetti appears on screen and fields a question about regulating violence in the esports realm.

Stefanovic frames this with the leading line: “Another downside is the constant link between violent video games and violent behaviour” which we continue to see is non-existent, or at the very least, limited

It’s the same tired line of questioning we’ve seen again and again and, to 60 Minutes credit, they spend little time dwelling on this angle, once Vanzetti slogs this back over Stefanovic’s head:

If we’re talking about violence (in esports), we can talk about celebrating a crunch tackle in the NRL or in football, but we don’t have a problem with that. It’s more about the sport and the ability to watch two teams competing against each other using strategy, communication, skill to overcome an opponent.

Bravo, Nick.

Stefanovic (left) and Vanzetti (right) overlook IEM Sydney

Stefanovic (left) and Vanzetti (right) overlook IEM Sydney
(60 Minutes broadcast)

The trouble with the report is that it was so confused about what it wanted to be and what it wanted to report on — did it want to profile the rise of esports in Australia? Did it want to fixate on how much money video game professionals and streamers make? Did it want to show the ‘dark side’ of streaming like its preview article suggested? Did it want to talk about the link between violence and violent video games? It tried to do all of those things, at one point or another, and just played out like a confused, uneducated mess.

And that’s telling. The big channels know that video games are now a huge business opportunity— Vanzetti confirmed as much for Stefanovic point-blank during their interview, and just yesterday Channel 7 announced screenPLAY, a new video game and eSports show. In their haste to capitalise on this lucrative market, I have no doubt we will begin to see more and more of this type of reporting from the mainstream media as gaming segues from obscure to cultural cornerstone. It will get better as the people that report on it begin to understand it more and more.

So take the report with a grain of salt and remember: The core audience for 60 Minutes isn’t 15–35 year olds. It isn’t people that consume hours of esports content online each week, or people that watch their favourite streamers play their favourite game every night. It isn’t those of us who have Chromecasts and Apple TVs. It certainly isn’t the kind of audience that gets up at 3am to watch a conference from the other side of the world about the latest video games. It’s generations that grew up in the arcades and have Sonic and Donkey Kong as their reference point.

60 Minutes is never going to be the resource for esports journalism and we shouldn’t want it to be. There’s so many fantastic publications and websites that you can turn to if you want that kind of reporting. But we should want the mainstream media to be honest, we should want it to be unbiased or condescending or downright out-of-touch. We should want it to check facts, do their research and edit together packages that strengthen the view on playing video games professionally, or streaming them from your bedroom. We should want it to be better!

We just can’t expect it to be.

Or rather, we just can’t expect it to be, yet.

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