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Irresponsible Journalism Strikes Again

GTA AOIf there's one thing we can rely on the local news media to do, it's get the details about video games downright wrong.  The latest offender comes to us from KUTV in Salt Lake City, UT.  According to GamePolitics, the local investigative reporter, Bill Gephardt, filed a report about the Hot Coffee incident regarding Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and managed to completely bungle the details surrounding the controversy.  Here's a text snippet from the news report.

The government reprimands makers of a popular video game. Bill Gephardt says there's a loophole in this kid’s game that allows players to see porn. Oops!  The Federal Trade Commission says that the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has a tricky back door area and with the click of the code word 'hot coffee' players can view nudity and play sex games.

Shall we count the errors?  Let's see... GTA isn't a kids game since it's rated M, it's not a loophole so much as a third-party modification, there is no "hot coffee" codeword on which to click (and how do you click a codeword?), and the nudity isn't so much bare skin as blocky textured polygons.  I'll give him the "sex games" part of the quote, but even that is debatable.  I'll even overlook the fact that this story is a year old at this point, yet it is presented as breaking news.  These errors are a symptom of a larger problem in the media.

Mr. Gephardt is not the first mainstream journalist to misreport the facts when it comes to video games and he certainly won't be the last.  I always find it frustrating when the news media botches a report such as this, as the actual correct facts on the Hot Coffee incident are readily available in many different online places.  Add in some fact checking and maybe even some fresh quotes from the people and companies involved and we have a real news report.  Instead video games continue to be lumped together as kids' toys with all games targeted at children and only children.  The latter is an easier story to write, of course, even if it is wildly incorrect.

Parroting stale and incorrect information for the sake of needlessly alarming parents for ratings is outright irresponsible.  My fear is that this kind of reporting will continue until knowledgeable gamers outnumber those who either fear or don't understand that scary box hooked to the TV.  I take solace in the fact that eventually the first gaming generation will control society, thereby hopefully bringing an end to this kind of bad game-related journalism.  Until then there's always KUTV's feedback page.