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Convenient Explanations

by January 30, 2007
The Evilest Game Ever... this week

The Evilest Game Ever... this week

It's only news if you interpret it just right...

You know what’s fun? Interpreting events the way that serves your own political, social, or moral ends. Take this Newsweek article for example, The Low Cost of (Guitar) Heroism. The author laments that, “If a teenager can easily become a make-believe guitar hero, does that mean he won't ever bother to master the real thing?” Yeah… didn’t see you say that when you accused Grand Theft Auto of inciting violence in children (you even banned it from your house). So, if you play a violent video game, you become more violent. More likely to run out there and sell drugs, kill hookers, and indiscriminately slaughter police officers. But if you play Guitar Hero II, you’re less likely to learn to play a guitar. You can’t have it both ways. Either video games inspire or demotivate. They can’t do both.

You don’t need to liken it to a deal with the devil for this game to be newsworthy. Instead, “reporters” feel the need to sensationalize everything. Why? Isn’t it sensational enough that real musicians are addicted to the game? Isn’t it sensational enough that with three new consoles out, people are still getting excited about a PS2 game? No, of course not. It has to be a symptom of the decline of our society. At least it does if you want it to be considered "newsworthy"... or should I say "Newsweekworthy".

This should be extremely familiar to loyal Audioholics readers. We constantly harp on the “reviews” of many of the sites out there. Just do a search on a mainstream (i.e. available at your local big box store) product. You’ll find a slew of “reviews” on different sites that are word for word the same. WORD FOR WORD. So either you have one VERY satisfied customer with a LOT of free time on their hands or it is a press release that’s being reprinted in review form. Not that this is exactly what is happening with the Newsweek editorial but lets look at it a little more closely.

The author can’t possibly believe what he is spouting. If he has two brain cells to rub together, he’d realized the hypocrisy in his statements. Therefore, he’s not really writing an editorial per se. His “opinion” is not meant to provoke thoughts but to incite, mislead, or confirm the beliefs of the general unthinking populace. That’s right, I said unthinking. How many people go through life spewing something their favorite broadcaster, writer, or personality has said without ever contemplating for a moment whether or not they actually believe (let alone understand) what they are saying? Too many to count I’m sure. And right now, it is en vogue to say that video games are evil. It’s been drilled into the populace’s head since Lieberman got on his high horse so many years ago. Therefore, whenever a game is popular, it is OK to point out how evil it is. The general populace will read that and say, “See, I knew them there video what’syamacallits were the tools of the devil!” and go about their little lives.

It takes courage to go against the general populace. Courage that Newsweek obviously doesn’t cultivate.

Now, let’s look at our press release “reviews”. When people are Googling a piece of equipment, they generally are looking to buy. They’ve heard about it, they are interested in it, and they are finally motivated to do a little research. Fist of all, thank God they are doing research. I’m so sick of impulse buyers coming to me and saying, “I bought X, Y, and Z and I don’t know what to do with them.” Well, 9 times out of 10, the salesman sold them the most expensive X, Y, and Z regardless of how well they’d work together. But since the salesman said they were “the best,” the impulse buyer doesn’t want to hear about taking them back. Just like the average googler isn’t really looking for critical reviews. They want their beliefs confirmed. They want to know that the equipment they are looking at is good. So a website reprinting a press release as a “review” is not only making money from the manufacturer (one guesses) and getting a higher reader count (and therefore able to sell more banners) but also providing the shopper with what they really want – confirmation that their beliefs are correct.

An editorial should be challenging, should be well thought out, and should look at an issue in greater depth. A review should attempt to describe an actual experience with a product, report the perceived strengths and weaknesses, and render some sort of judgment. Notice, I never once said that either of them had to be correct. Reviews and editorials are opinions. They should be backed up with as much fact and evidence as possible, but they are still just opinions. But they should be opinions that are meant to challenge their audience to think about a subject (or product) not pander to the hive mind. That’s what marketing people are for. And Lord knows we have enough of them.


About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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