Fox News Spreads MMOG FUD

Sometimes it’s easy to get me wound up.

I was just minding my business, browsing online and came across a Fox News article referenced by MMORPG.com that despite the softish title Online Game Meetings Sometimes End Tragically, but Phenomenon Remains Rare, is pretty hardline anti game.

After softening the reader up with a short list of neer-do-wells, who also just happen to play MMOGs, in the opening paragraphs of the article, we are given the following paragraph.

Massively multiplayer online games — or MMOGs, as they’re called — can foster more vulnerability than there might be on other virtual meeting spaces such as dating and social networking sites, where participants are inclined to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior from the start.

Here we see that Fox News is suggesting that Massively Multiplayer Online Games are more vulnerable to online predatory behaviour than dating sites or social networks. Social networks like Myspace perhaps. Funny. I seem to remember a whole slew of news stories over the last few years about how Myspace was a haven for pedophiles and cyberstalkers. Aside from a mention about that poor girl who suicided after being cyber stalked by an adult neighbour on Myspace, there wasn’t terribly much in this article on the Myspace pedophile connection.

Hmmm. Isn’t Myspace owned by News Corporation? And doesn’t News Corporation own Fox News?

Must be just a coincidence.

As an aside: You know I read so often the laments by critics of the new media, which includes blogs and other forms of citizen journalism, that it isn’t valid because of it’s inherent biases. These critics include mainstream journalists who work for organisations like Fox News. Even though there is truth in these criticisms, in light of this Fox News article, I’d recommend that these self appointed guardians of journalistic integrity take a good long hard look at themselves and their ‘old media’ industries. Maybe they should get their own houses in order before they point their fingers at others faults.

Of course there are some quotes from the usual ‘concerned citizens group’. In this case the group is called WHOA. It’s one of these wonderful acronyms where the acronym is created before the wording, and means Working to Halt Online Abuse. It could just as easily mean Whinging to Harm Others Activities.

WHOA is headed by someone who was a victim of cyber-stalking. Without attempting to minimise the harm that real cyber-stalking does, it’s clear that anyone who had been the victim of some form of crime or assault begins to see that offence happening everywhere. Even when it isn’t, or is only happening minimally. I feel bad for people who are victims of crime, noone deserves to be a victim. It’s often traumatic, but doesn’t really make for a clear perspective on the issues.

Another quote from the article from a University of Baltimore Criminologist:

Still, the majority of close encounters of the gaming kind don’t end badly, according to criminologists.

“The issue of suicide and murder is an anomaly,” Ross said. “Yes, there are people on these games who have evil intent. … But it’s highly unusual. That’s what makes it so fascinating.”

So… there’s this whole article talking about how much worse MMOGs are than social networks, yet it’s highly unusual for real evil deeds to occur.

Maybe that’s because we online gamers actually know there are bad guys in the games we play. Have you ever been ganked, ninja’d, or otherwise griefed by another player?

Has your account been hacked and had all your gear sold off, or have you known it to happen to another player?

Have you ever really read the official forums?

It’s pretty easy to tell there are jerks online. Maybe. Just maybe, online games are safer than social networks like Myspace because they show you the real nature of people early and often. Maybe doing an instance or running a raid with the same people week after week gives you a little insight into their character. A persons true colours usually come out under stress, and there’s not a lot more stressful to some players than a high level raid going wrong.

It’s actually pretty obvious that some of the so called experts quoted in this article haven’t ever spent a substantial amount of time playing these games and interacting with other players.

Articles like this Fox News article love to pull facts out of their backsides in order to spread a little fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Make people afraid, it’s how the modern news media operates. If people are scared they come back and that gives higher ratings or whatever. The fact that the FUD is about games is a bonus.

In anycase, it’s why I’ve given up watching the nightly news. If I want opinion, I’ll read a blog. At least blogs are generally honest about their commentary being opinion.

Now having worked myself up, I’ll wipe the foam from my mouth and quickly look at the other side of the equation.

There are bad people in the world. In fact there are very bad people in the world. So bad in fact, that their activities cross the border into criminal.

There are doctors, lawyers, politicians, dentists, computer programmers, kindergarten teachers, school crossing guards, and people in every other occupation under the sun, whom if you really knew you’d cross the street if you saw them coming. In some cases you’d run screaming from the area. Some of these bad people play Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Some set up profiles on Myspace.

The fact is everywhere you go, you may run into someone who doesn’t have your welfare in mind. That’s life. It’s been the way of things since the dawn of time, which I think was a few years before the invention of the internet.

The key is to be careful and use common sense in all our relationships.

Does that make sense?