Disclaimer: I might be a rarity among the gaming community but I actually have no dislike or like for the game "Gone Home". I consider it a very average and mediocre piece of work. This title was chosen to be used as an example for this article strictly due to the unusual ages of the main romantic interests within the game. This is neither meant to be an attack on the game or its developers. Thank you. All screenshots of the game are my own.
When did it first start? When did gaming journalism stop being about informing gamers about the newest and latest video games, and start being about "political" controversy? Was it always like this? Were the console wars between "Sega" and "Nintendo" the start of a political slant in gaming? Was it when stories became more complex and could be discussed in further detail? Was it always about pissing off your readers or making the group you cared about cheering you on? Was it always so divisive?
I was considering writing an article today about the game "Gone Home", and how it may or may not be promoting pedophilia using a clickbait title "Does Gone Home Promote Pedophilia?", using some (flimsy) evidence found within the game that suggests that the 17 year old girl "Samantha" and her older love interest "Lonnie" could be promoting pedophilia. While such a thing may sound lacking any controversy, age of consent issues within the United States regarding sexual relationships with those under the age of 18 while being 18 often leads to legal issues. Many people also refer to this as pedophilia or the promotion of pedophilia in these specific circumstances.
It Seems the Older of the Two Lovers Is A Bit of a Rebel
I wanted to provoke people initially to get their attention. Halfway through the article, I intended to drop the facade and tell everyone the real reason I was writing such a deliberately inflammatory piece. Though in the opinion of some this might have been a justified article, this wasn't the intent. Rather a piece like this would be to show what passes for video game journalism these days: Highly political thought pieces on video games where accusations run high, but actual evidence runs low.
So why consider a topic title like this in the first place? Well for a few reasons, but a big one being a thought experiment towards asking a question on how most gaming journalism outlets might react to an 18 or 19 year old boy being in a romantic relationship with a 16 or 17 year old girl in a video game? What would be the response? Would it be a massive controversy? Or would it be seen as a simple romance story by most gaming outlets? Honestly, outside of "Gone Home", I can not think of a single video game that has any characters who are suggested to be under the age of 18 who are also in a romantic relationship with a character over the age of 18, outside of maybe a forced relationship perpetrated by a villain within the story. Though even then I would have trouble thinking of what game or games that might be in, and I am certain it would be a very short list, and most likely not any recent games.
You Can't Join the Military Under the Age of 18 Without Parental Consent
So back to the main point. How did gaming journalism get political? Well, the answer becomes clear: someone decided to be controversial. Politics are not so much about what is true or what is false, it's about the controversy. Well, that and games journalists who decided to research the topic they are choosing to write about was less important than the average internet game theory. You know, like the one where you will find Mew in the original Pokemon games under a truck, that you can only get to by getting surf and strength before getting the Cut HM from the Captain? Yeah, when those people decide to go into a topic we get articles like "Metroid’s Samus Aran is a Transgender Woman. Deal With It.". Where if you perform a little more research into the topic you would have discovered that Samus was injected with Chozo DNA, and would be better described as part Chozo, or Trans-Chozo at best.
Here is the thing: writing about politics within gaming and the gaming community has a lot of merits. Gaming journalism was always going to enter into some form of political point of view of some kind. Also controversies are exciting, interesting and grab a lot of attention. Normal gaming journalism is boring and lacking. People want it, but at the same time they don't want it. It's why a video of a cat being cute can get a ridiculous number of hits, and something important to society can go entirely ignored. If it's interesting, people have an interest in it, but a lot of these gaming journalists have taken to lying or simply not researching circumstances behind the controversy. Misleading people has become second nature for many of these outlets, and it has lead to a great deal of distrust building between gamers and journalists. This leads to an influx of politics. And, seeing as how politics are viewed as a divide, controversy does just that.
In Games We Trust
If gaming journalism is going to continue to be political, it must also come from a place of honesty, and intent to be truthful. Doing anything else will create a distrusting audience. And when your audience doesn't trust you, you lose all reputation.