It's not just Jon Snow who can't take games seriously

Others in the media and beyond still pigeonhole gaming as a teenage quirk

Click to follow
The Independent Online

“These are not for you,” says Charlie Brooker, after 15 exasperating minutes of attempting to show veteran Channel 4 broadcaster Jon Snow the beauty of games - but failing more times than if it was a face-off against a top-level boss in some fiendishly difficult 8-bit game of yesteryear.

Games have moved on. We live in an era where the launch of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are covered in mainstream news. When millions of people are buying them and queuing up at midnight, they could hardly be ignored.

But coverage is often skewed in such a way that it attempts to put a distance between those involved in the industry and those who are discussing it. Some in the media delight in announcing how little they know about gaming. After all, games are for kids right? Although, as Snow also asked in his interview with Brooker,: "What are kids?"

If kids are aged around 30 with a disposable income that enables them to snap up games now rolling into stores at £60 a pop, then they're high-flying youngsters, that’s for sure. This, as it happens, is the profile of the average gamer today which is why discussions about 18-rated games such as Grand Theft Auto V being unsuitable for children are daft. They’re simply not aimed at kids.

Gaming is a pastime that transcends watching television, as it engages the brain in a way that few other forms of entertainment can - combining visuals and sound with the need for physical and mental skills. Today the industry is worth over £1bn to UK GDP.

But nevertheless us gamers are treated, on Channel 4 News, to a broadcaster debating whether children are better off going out and enjoying themselves in other ways, and whether adults should know better than to stay inside playing games. Snow admitted he had never played a game himself, not even Pong, so to expect him to somehow appreciate a pastime that has gripped the globe since the late 1970s and which -  in more recent years - has become the globe's most financially successful entertainment product was folly. They only had 15 minutes.

Furthermore, quite why gaming needs to defend itself is curious. Gaming may be mainstream - the Wii places controllers at the mercy of grandma - but there is still a reluctance to treat them square-on in the way film and music are treated. Snow wouldn't have pulled the film industry apart like he tried to do with gaming last night, nor would he ask what the point of film was. "Why does there have to be a point?" asked Brooker. And he had a point with that one.

The industry itself doesn't always help, sometimes casting itself as the underdog unnecessarily. Brooker, with space to elaborate, might have pointed out that 46 per cent of online gamers are women. Given that 700 million play online that is some figure. Gaming is not quite the macho, male hobby many think it is.

In some quarters, however, an alienating geek culture still pervades. I know people afraid of picking up a controller who love to play on smartphones. They wouldn’t see themselves as gamers, though, and they would also be horrified if someone labelled them so. It’s broadcasts like that on Channel 4 News last night which help form those kinds of opinions. We can only hope they change one day soon.