Sunday, 27 July 2014

The BBC Explains - Three Minutes Of Condescension And Bias

One of the biggest problems which video games face outside gaming communities is the adamant refusal to see them as a legitimate media. We've seen this many times before, between being scapegoated for killings to being openly mocked by critics of other "legitimate" forms of media. Now it's happened again, this time with the BBC putting a negative spin on and e-sports. The video covering the subject lasts only three-and-a-half minutes and does contain a few relevant points of information, but on the whole it does a very bad job at truly informing the public about what the scene is like. Or, for that matter, even doing so in an unbiased manner.

Just to start with, the video really does very little to truly explain the e-sports scene as it tries to outline exactly what Twitch is. It never so much as stops and outright explains "Okay, here his how this works and here is what it is" on any kind of basic level to really introduce audiences to the idea of them. When you truly sit down and analyse it, the video spends more time trying to dodge truly detailed explanations and instead puts up a facade of doing so with interviews and statistics. It expresses how lucrative the business is, yes, but the actual information presented pales when you compare it to a short response video like this one

Compare the first minute of each (once they start on the subject matter) and the difference in how informative they are is staggering. The BBC fails to draw parallels which could make unfamiliar viewers appreciate the scene, fails to presents non-gameplay related showsas having degree of professionalism, and fails to even offer a wide variety of examples to support its points in terms of shows, games or the figures involved. The bare basic facts and information is fine at first glance and it seems to be covering all the basics, but when you really start to analyse what is being said and how it is bring presented, the failings of the BBC's video becomes apparent. By the one-minute-thirty-second mark, the only thing the video has really established is that Twitch is big and, streaming draws in a lot of people; then backs this with a few basic statistics which can be found at the top of Twitch's wikipedia page.

This is to say nothing of the general attitude and language involved. Most articles generally go for far more subtle methods of trying to push the viewer into following a certain opinion, whereas here's the condescending attitude is clear from the very start. It talks down to people involved in Twtich and e-sports, uses example figures which do not show the scene in the best light, and does all but outright insult anyone who is actively a part of the scene. Well, actually that one's not entirely true. The gaming community as a whole is slapped across the face from the very start as the segment opens with this line:

"Who would want to watch teenagers just clicking away, playing their video games, all night?"

This really sets the tone for the whole piece and sadly it's not just an introduction supposed to grab attention only to quickly be discarded. The language involved goes the extra mile to find ways to downplay any official status e-sports might have or any kind of legitimacy. While the terms "big business" and mentions of the scale of Twitch are brought up several times, this is only on the financial and popular side of things. 

The journalist covering constantly refers to all those involved as "young" "teenagers" and at no point tries to present any adult involvement in the scene. It really stops just short of calling all those involved children. The only active streamer they interview is a student himself, who constantly stumbles over his words and speaks over a blurry pixelated webcam, and it tries to force a low opinion of the subject on the viewer; almost presenting this form of gaming as little more than a fad or something similar to an online social network. Even when he does move onto the more established tournament scene and competitive gaming, he describes it only as "semi-professional" as a sport and the tone of his voice tries to enforce how astounding the numbers and money it draws in are. This starts from earlier in the video, but the sentiment is clear - It's trying to push the idea of how ridiculous the scene supposedly is and rob it of any serious standing.

Video games as a whole are often put into low regard, viewed as toys rather than something comparable with film, music or television, and it serves as a media scapegoat whenever needed. We have seen this many times over with the constant arguments over whether video games are a legitimate art form, being barred from tackling subject matter which film, television and music can happily approach (2010's Medal of Honour comes to mind) and countless over occasions. Now a major news network spends time to actually look into a core part of gaming, poorly represents it, and takes the time to undermine e-sports while it's at it.

The reason I brought up this brief analysis was to really emphasise just how badly this report failed in basic research and properly covering video games. Despite Totalbiscuit's claim that this would be "preaching to the choir", a number of threads discussing this video put down the negative impact to that single opening line. Usually with members trying to claim it's otherwise informative and well done, such as here, and it's just that the introduction put things in a bad light. I am no professional on this subject, and there are people who could bring up far more failings about the report, but even to me this is a near slanderous failing on the part of the BBC.

What makes this truly disappointing is that we have seen far more even handed and less bias articles in the past. Just compare the BBC article to this one, which treats the subject with far more respect and better explains its benefits to the general public. The BBC should be ashamed that they let their standards slip on this subject so badly and that they could produce a work which seems more at home with Fox News than anywhere else. If we are going to see any major pushes to help improve this medium, such shoddy and disgracefully researched work should not be tolerated in any way.


  1. I never knew about this until this article, that video is disgraceful, most of it is "Why is this so popular? I think it's stupid and you should too!"

    You're absolutely right when you say this is something straight off of FOX News, I can't help but wonder why they made the segment in the first place, jealousy comes to mind, but that's such an often used scapegoat I don't want to pin it on that, the only other reason I can think of is if they just really dislike video games and the internet in general.

    At least they're getting tons of flak from it, though how much do you want to bet they won't learn a thing and if they did make a response it would consist of them saying "Well we seemed to have upset a bunch of uptight teenagers by making fun of their games and we are so "sorry" that we brought their obsession to light."

    1. The unfortunate thing is that the BBC is probably smart enough to take the route of just up and ignoring this. Addressing it would just bring the argument legitimacy and give their failing greater publicity, and openly apologising is unlikely as they have not been heavily criticized enough over this decision. For all the hits that video is getting, it's a drop in the ocean for them.