This morning, a flurry of people sent me a link to a story about a four-year-old Saudi boy who shot his father in the head because he refused to buy a PlayStation 3 for his son. Every iteration of this story focuses on the ‘PlayStation’ part of the story and not the part where a father left a loaded firearm unattended in the presence of his four year old son while he was undressing. The PlayStation appears to be a bit of color added to the story, but the headline and lede alone would make you think otherwise.
The AFP reports, “An angry four-year-old Saudi boy shot and killed his father for refusing to buy him a PlayStation, Saudi media reported on Monday,” in an article headlined ‘Saudi boy, 4, ‘kills father over PlayStation.” Games are so bad for you that even wanting one will turn your child into a murderer.
Here’s a question for you: is it worth mentioning in this story that the Saudi government has a long history of being anti-media in general but specifically anti-gaming? So much so, in fact that an incredibly active black market and piracy subculture has grown out around its strict censorship of import games from the US and Asia? Does that sort of bias tinge the official reportage on this story, which has been dutifully picked up and regurgitated elsewhere as more ‘game are bad’ grist for the mill? And while we’re at it, why is this a drum that people still continue to beat when even the Internet trash heap that is the Forbes blog is willing to show you that the argument is statistically invalid?
Juxtapose this with the coverage of the Anders Breivik trial. John Walker at Rock Paper Shotgun has been writing about how the press has framed the Norwegian spree killer’s statements about gaming versus other topics. Like the AFP story above, anti-gaming sentiment is reported as fact, even when several other pieces of the accused killer’s testimony are written off as the ravings of a madman, with The Times going as far as reporting, “Breivik played video games for a year to train for deadly attacks” in direct contradiction with his journals, which cite his time playing World of Warcraft as a respite from the arduous work of planning his rampage.
What prompts sensationalist coverage like this? Is it the lazy reporting promoted by an online news industry that prizes hits and comments and shares and reblogs too highly? Is it the sort of ‘fucking gamers‘ reaction Imran Khan writes about in the context of the Mass Effect backlash?
If this Saudi father would have come home with a PS3 for his four year old son, would the shooting have been attributed to the violent influence of having received the console? If there was no gaming connection, how newsworthy would this shooting have been?
I don’t know. Tell me in the comments, maybe?