© Mikal Marquez via Flickr

How to Alienate an Audience: CNN Money and the Gaming Community

Last month CNN Money posted an interview of former Microsoft CEO Robbie Bach along with an article titled: “Videogames aren’t just for antisocial nerds!” Though both pieces do offer some insight into the gaming industry, Bach mainly appeared to be plugging his new book, and portraying a lopsided vision and a misunderstanding of the average American Gamer. These posts attracted criticism for being short-sighted—but the real story is the resolute misunderstanding and alienation of an audience.

According to a study conducted by the Entertainment Software Association, the average video game player in America is 35. Furthermore, women aged 18 and older comprise 33% of the game playing population. The perhaps “stereotypical” notion of a gamer — boys 18 and younger — make up only 15% of the US gaming population. Probably more surprising to CNN is the fact that the most ardent female video game players are an average of 43 years old. Now, most people are not old-fashioned enough to believe that ‘antisocial nerds’ is pejorative only to 14- to– 25-year-old males, but it still comes across as pedantic. Now, having said all that, the piece is featured in CNN Money and focuses on stock prices and company earnings. But what’s most confusing is that the article didn’t mention major competitor Sony and their Playstation 4; the system that some say won the so-called ‘console war.’

With modern journalism comes wide variety in depth and quality of articles — sometimes the need for content belittles the quality.  Yet, in failing to understand the demographics of gamers in America, CNN is losing ground with an already distrusting audience. After the first Democratic Debate hosted on CNN, a seeming majority of viewers thought that Bernie Sanders ostensibly ‘won’ the debate. CNN, however, purported that Hillary Clinton was the winner. Soon after, a graph circulated the internet showing Clinton’s campaign financiers, and many concluded that CNN’s differing consensus was an ‘inside job’ of sorts.

While we have already established that the ‘average gamer’ in America does not look like one would expect, let’s delve deeper into why the mistakes of misinformation are potentially damaging. The gaming community is, generally speaking, well versed in using technology and finding information on their own. Reddit has a huge gaming community and the open-source nature of distributing information leaves many gamers with little loyalty for established news organizations. In a sense, CNN’s failure to accurately portray both the financial and demographic basics of the gaming industry is proof to many that they’ve earned the ambivalence or ire they’re regarded with.

This article is not meant to take down the would-be villainous and corporate news giant. But at the same time, according to ESA’s report, 59% of parents whose children are gamers play computer and video games with their children weekly. If potentially 6 out of 10 American parents are gamers, and game because “it’s fun for the whole family” (top reason to play for 85% of respondents in the ESA’s study), CNN was right on the scent of newsworthiness. Simultaneously, however, they’ve missed the mark and fumbled the chase. Perhaps the whole incident is best summarized by the fact that a former CEO was talking about how video games are revolutionizing American media — to sell a book.

Mikey Shaw

Mikey Shaw is not panicking about going bald. He lives in Seattle, WA, and uses his Journalism degree to pursue freelance writing and advertising. As a third culture kid raised in Europe, Mikey is fascinated by new frontiers, alternative points of view and unusual sodas. You can find him on Twitter @revshawesome or somewhere calmly browsing the hat department.

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Image Credits © Mikal Marquez via Flickr