Recently I watch a BBC programme on iPlayer focussed on fighting games and their history. I wasn’t aware of its existence until I saw it when searching for something else (Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle if you care – you should) so, happy that they have produced something I could relate to for once, I settled down for a viewing. I lasted less than ten minutes.
Firstly, it was featuring solely Radio 1 DJs and it being a long time since I have listened to the radio, I was aghast. These people can barely speak a coherent sentence, let alone comment with any credibility on a subject I love so much. The whole programme was purely anecdotal on what memories these people have of playing the various fighting games over the relatively few years they have been gaming. Maybe it got better, I couldn’t be bothered to find out.
It then occurred to me that gaming lacks any televisual presence whatsoever. YouTube and Twitch are full of very prominent gamers, some of whom – like PewDiePie – garner millions of views and subscribers, more than proving there’s a vast market for this. Charlie Brooker, almost ten years ago, produced a one off episode called Gameswipe, which was entertaining, yet felt more like an introduction to a series rather than a stand-alone special. I was personally upset that it was never continued, being a fan of Charlie Brooker and games, I felt it would have been essential viewing. In an interview with Digitalspy in 2013, Brooker stated that the BBC were reluctant to expand on the show.
Brooker also stated that there is the pervading stereotype that gaming is aimed solely at children, which both he, and anyone reading this site, will know is utter tosh. There are games marketed at children and then there are many marketed at adults in term of ratings and content. The indie market currently has a lot of games targeted towards gamers in from the 90s, ones that even if they were very young at the time, would now be in at least their late twenties.
As it currently stands, GTA 5 made the most money in a launch weekend of any media release ever. That shows the huge level of popularity that gaming has nowadays, made even more impressive by the fact that it is just one game of a particular type. People play games on consoles, computers and mobile devices these days – hell, even my own parents in their sixties, who have professed their dislike for games, have both spend countless hours huddled over a tablet with Angry Birds. Accept it, TV execs. There’s a market out here.
The counter argument is that TV as an entity, feels threatened by gaming and its culture as they draw audiences away
With many celebrities extolling their love for the medium whenever asked, a format for a show is a no-brainer. Simply have a smattering of reviews, previews and have a weekly guest talking about a particular game they love. Peter Serafinowicz, comedian and actor tweeted about Dark Souls so much that he was cast as an NPC in the sequel to the game, Dara O’ Briain has also made it very clear that gaming is his passion, with former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey touting much the same. That’s three week’s guests right there without doing any research whatsoever. The show would be cheap to produce, requiring only in-game footage and the use of studios that already exist and would likely garner large audiences.
The counter argument is that TV as an entity, feels threatened by gaming and its culture as they draw audiences away. If an average gamer plays for 15 hours per week (amount varies depending on source), then they are not watching TV programmes, at least not when scheduled anyway. Add to that many youngsters watching ‘Let’s play’ format videos on YouTube or streams on Twitch, then this can be understandable. TV is in a flux at the moment, needing to keep up with the fact that now many of us do not wish to be slaves to scheduling and will use catch up streaming services or simply miss the show.
The core gaming market is not the only potential viewers gaming TV has to offer though. Many parents would also potentially tune in, looking to be informed by sources about what games are available to purchase for Christmas/ birthday presents and can be educated in a responsible way that the perception of ‘being for kids’ is not true and some things are simply not suitable for little Johnny and Tabitha as gifts. If there is a genuine concern about the potential harm of games to children, then TV and the BBC in particular have a responsibility to provide informed and balanced coverage of this.
Sadly, BBC’s The Gamechangers, a dramatic interpretation of the production of GTA games by Rockstar, merely showed Dan Houser as being single-mindedly hell-bent on having tits in a game (which had been done already a fair few times) rather than as someone who had a hand in creating some of the landmarks in the genre that will be discussed in many years to come. This proved that there is no even-handedness in their approach and that it only serves to alienate the gaming market and provide conformation bias for those that have misconceptions about it. With the most recent example, presenting a Radio 1 DJ as a ‘gaming expert’ – I kid you not, the onscreen caption said this – and showing talking heads with people barely able to speak, this is unlikely to change anytime soon.