Activist Gamers are Massively Effective

Okay. I’ve used the "Massively Effective" line before, this is the last time… maybe.

A few days ago now, a print media author by the name of Cooper Lawrence appeared on Fox News and had a go at Mass Effect. Ms Lawrence claimed that the game was full of pornography and full frontal nudity. Hmmm. I played it through and didn’t see any of that. What was I doing wrong?!

The game community reacted to the show with predictable outrage. After all, the game does not contain any of the content that Cooper Lawrence claimed was there. At worst, the player was rewarded with a sex scene that even the FCC would have been hard pressed to find anything wrong.

It turned out later that she was told by some anonymous third party that the game contained obscene material. She actually hadn’t played it at all.

cultofperfection What happened next was terribly interesting. A large number of gamers headed over to Amazon where Ms Lawrence’s latest book is on sale and voted it down, leaving comments describing the book as a bunch of tripe (my paraphrase.) At this point Ms Lawrence retracted her statement saying:

I recognize that I mis-spoke. I really regret saying that, and now that I’ve seen the game and seen the sex scenes it’s kind of a joke.

Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said it’s like pornography," she added. "But it’s not like pornography. I’ve seen episodes of ‘Lost’ that are more sexually explicit.

I’ll bet she regrets making those comments. After all those comments have probably cost her a lot of money. I don’t think that I’m alone in using the Amazon rating system to decide if I’ll buy a book. Even if I’m interested in a book description, lots of bad ratings stop me from going ahead and buying. Currently, Ms Lawrence’s book The Cult of Perfection is rated at one star. She ain’t gonna sell many of those.

So why is this interesting?

Gamers, until now, have been a pretty easy target. Old media like Fox News doesn’t care about them because the average gamer isn’t in their demographic. So Uncle Rupert’s TV network can afford to do some muck raking to rake in the ratings. He’s not going to lose any viewers.

While gamers have expressed their outrage at the unfair treatment they have received from old media, busybodies, and ever-so-outraged-in-an-election-year politicians determined to ‘think of the children’ I’m not sure I’ve seen gamer activism like this before.

helenlovejoy It also coincides with a recent report about a US parents group called the Parents Television Council who are very, very upset that the Entertainment Software Association will be making political donations. They’re upset that the ESA will be ‘buying clout.’

Okay. I’m not a huge fan that lets special interests bribe donate to politicians in order to curry favor, but let’s face it, that’s exactly what these parents groups have been doing for years.

This particular group, as I understand it, represents a fairly small percentage of the American population, but makes the largest proportion of complaints to the FCC each year. They’re noisy, and it appears that they don’t want anyone horning in on their racket. Sorry about the pun… no, not really.

Maybe they do realize actually how big the gamer community is. Recent reports have World of Warcraft passing ten million subscribers, and the WoW numbers are a drop in the bucket when it comes to everyone who plays computer games. Maybe, just maybe, the Parents Television Council realizes how noisy millions of gamers could become.

That’s an awful lot of people to get offside.

Gamers have been treated pretty poorly by the traditional media, politicians, and groups with agendas for years. Maybe now the tide is turning. Cooper Lawrence and her book may be the first casualty in the new wave of gamer activism.

She won’t be the last.