Tabloid muckracking, moral panic, and the mainstream media’s fuss over Fortnite coaching
With every huge online game, there’s an accompanying rush of mainstream fuss over it – it’s in the rules.
For example, Polygon has a piece covering apparent outrage on outlets like CNN, USA Today, and the WSJ over the idea that parents are paying for Fortnite coaches for their children. “The reaction to [the WSJ] story tells us more about our relationships to class, play and trends than it does about what these parents and kids might be doing wrong,” the publication points out.
“There’s a strong incentive to recycle parenting stories that have played out across sports and games, like chess and even cheerleading, to focus on the hot new thing. And yet, if you replaced Fortnite with private lessons for nearly any other activity, you would likely get a less emotionally charged response. You can get tutors in magic, you know. There’s no public outcry about parents who pay to help their kids get better at juggling.”
It’s not just the USA, either, and it’s far worse in the tabloids. Yesterday, Eurogamer exposed a Daily Mirror article from a journalist with an apparent penchant for blaming video games for society’s ills; he explicitly sought out and compensated the counselor of a family that claimed Fortnite literally made their son a “suicidal drug addict.” The ensuing article spans multiple pages and is just as ridiculous as it sounds. Even the Daily Mirror’s games writer said the Mirror’s front-page piece was “complete bollocks.” Ouch.
“There’s no evidence to suggest the Mirror’s Fortnite story was fabricated,” Eurogamer concedes in its excellent investigatory piece. “But when you pull back the curtain and discover how these types of articles are put together, when you understand how some mainstream journalism works, it’s hard not to wonder about the motivations of the parties involved. This kind of story also tarnishes the good work some reporters do in the mainstream media around video games” – not to mention trivializes suicide.