Video games have been mainstream since the 1970s -- there is no logical reason for the media to treat them as new and scary in 2014 (not that there was much reason to treat them as such then, either). Yet, if you're a politician or pundit, ranting and raving about the evils of video games is still a surefire way to get everyone's attention.
And that, friends, is how you wind up with clumsily manufactured outrages like these.
#5. Mass Effect Was Blamed for a School Shooting
Old people have been blaming video games for real-world violence since the first pixelated gun appeared on a screen. You'd think we'd be past that by now, but social media and its obsession with overreaction and knee-jerk outrage have ushered in a whole new era in game blaming. This led to possibly the most tenuous connection between a real-world act of violence and its supposed video game influence we'll ever see.
Even worse than when they blamed the alphabet murders on Mario Teaches Typing.
It happened in 2012 after the horrible mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The perpetrator was a man named Adam Lanza, who killed himself post-rampage. Initially, his brother Ryan was mistakenly identified as the shooter, as Adam had stolen his brother's ID and had it on him when his body was discovered. The media eventually realized and admitted their error, but in the social media age, bullshit travels faster than the speed of light. That means that since Ryan had been accused of mass murder for more than 1/64 of a nanosecond, the virtual lynch mob had more than enough opportunity to seek his head.
But the Internet didn't simply settle on ruining the day of an innocent guy whose life had already been ruined. They dug into Ryan's profile and found that he had "liked" Mass Effect, a video game they were pretty sure had guns, probably. Never mind that said guns were laser blasters shot at aliens in goddamned outer space, and never mind that the average Facebook user clicks "like" on all sorts of random bullshit. For an angry mob out to blame anybody but the shooter for all the shooting, this was more than enough evidence. Dozens stormed Mass Effect's Facebook page and bombarded it with angry, threatening messages, repeatedly accusing its creators of aiding and abetting a child murderer.
BioWare, the company behind Mass Effect, did not respond to any messages, and they did not delete anything. We're not sure if this was an intentional strategy, or if they were just too confused to respond, but either way, it worked. Eventually the mob died down and moved on to other things -- like blaming the Sandy Hook shooting on video games. Again.
#4. U.K. Newspapers Blame Video Games for Rickets
Even though we're fairly certain it's no longer 1855, the old-timey skeletal disease known as rickets is making a comeback, in the U.K. at least. If you want in on the trend, simply refuse all calcium and vitamin D (especially the kind you get from the sun) until your bones turn soft and brittle and your legs start permanently bending in unnatural directions.
Michael L. Richardson
But always set in prime twerk position.
And apparently if you're a video gamer, you're halfway there, according to British newspapers citing a study from Newcastle University claiming they found a correlation between rickets and gaming. Since games are typically played indoors and rarely under a sunbeam, that means that gamers aren't getting enough natural light, and the logical next step is a pair of wobbly rubber legs. Such a correlation seemed suspicious, though, since more than a few people play video games in places besides the U.K., and yet no rickets rise has been reported anywhere else. Besides, it's England -- a typical sun-shiny day for them is a foggy fit of depression for most anyone else.
So the good people at Gamesbrief decided to contact the scientists behind the study, Timothy Cheetham and Simon Pearce. As it turns out, there was a very good reason that their blaming a 30-year-old technology for a centuries-old disorder made no sense: They never said it. That's right, nowhere in the study does it say that playing video games causes rickets. In fact, the word "games" does not appear in the goddamned thing even once. What does appear is a condemnation of sunscreen, an appeal for people to get more sunlight, and a suggestion to feed children cod liver oil.
Fish derivatives' nutritional content. That's the story the media's too scared to tell.
The absolute closest they come to referencing games comes from a blurb taken off a press release, and not the actual paper: "Kids tend to stay indoors more these days and play on their computers instead of enjoying the fresh air. This means their vitamin D levels are worse than in previous years." And that, readers, was all the newspapers needed to print the headline "Video Gaming Leads to Surge in Rickets."
#3. Portal 2 Is Criticized for Mocking Adopted Kids
At first glance, Portal 2 doesn't seem like it could possibly offend anybody. It's a science-oriented puzzle game with no blood or guts, and one character spends half of her time trapped inside a potato. The bad guys are computers and adorable little talking turrets. So you can imagine the shock of TV news viewers who heard the story of Neil Stapel and how the game deeply affected his family.
"My wife's side of the family are bipedal robots killed repeatedly for science."
He told cameras he was watching his adopted daughter play the game back in May of 2011 when the unthinkable happened. Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, one of the characters in the game uttered a crude slur aimed right at his adopted child:
According to Stapel, hearing a character in his daughter's favorite game utter "Fatty, adopted fatty, fatty fatty no parents" traumatized both of them. Granted, the child's insistence that she didn't even hear the line didn't mean she was a normal 10-year-old kid with a 10-year-old's attention span. No, according to Pops, it's because she was "not ready to talk about it" and had already locked her pain deep inside.
You could hydrate the sun with all them tears.
Sure, you might think that one person out of 7 billion seeing red over a silly one-liner from a game loaded with silly one-liners would mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things, but luckily for Stapel, the local news team he complained to had literally nothing else to talk about, so they turned his sob story into a full-blown investigative report.
"Thanks for watching. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to grab a bottle of scotch and stare at my journalism degree."
WBTV even contacted Sony about the supposed controversy, who told them to contact Valve, since they made the fucking game (this clearly meant that Sony was "passing the buck" and avoiding the issue). One parent hearing one line he didn't understand (the insult was uttered by the game's villain, an established idiot whose lame attempt at an insult was quickly shut down by one of the heroes) clearly meant that Valve had unleashed a torrent of anti-adoption sentiment that the good people at WBTV Channel 3 could only hope to contain.