Why They Fear These Evil Games: Titchmarsh on ITV

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.

If you live in the UK, you’ve probably noticed by now the Blogosphere and twitterverse have been buzzing since Friday tea-time around ITV, The Alan Titchmarsh show and Julie erm…Peasgood.


The theme of the discussion was set to start off with the video-game BAFTAs with host Titchmarsh reading the list of BAFTA nominees, followed with the phrase “but recently has come under fire due to the violent nature of”. From the get-go, the show developed into a witch-hunt. Computer and Video Game editor Tim Ingham, the rational man tried to talk about the age-ratings system. Kelvin MacKenzie, a Murdoch-associate was mostly useless:until he continued his journalistic career disaster by invoking the name of news trend ‘Jon Venables’ as a murderer inspired by violent games. However “Sexpert/actress” Julie Peasgood was the head, witch-hunting, stringing along the other guests and frenzied audience with her emotive pleas.

titchmarsh“Think of the children”.

Which sounds made up, very made up. Something a hack writer creating a moral panic brewer might write. Weirdest of all: Peasgood directly addressing Ingham,

“Tim, How do you defend a shoot-out in an airport? (which happens in one of the games that’s up for an award) How do you defend being there, shooting innocent civilians…..in your videogame?”
The clip made it’s way around Youtube and you can watch it here though I suspect you really shouldn’t bother.
One of my favourite blog entries is at No Soap Radio Polka.
Uk Resistance locates  “Holby Clitty” and “Blow-Job Eyes” as sub-headings in Peasgood’s Sex book and one contact created an inspired ‘Peasgood Game’
The ITV forums registered complaints and I suspect a few emails reached their offices too.

By Sunday afternoon a new twist to the story came to light, one popularly attributed to computerandvideogames.com. Peasgood, chief arsonist of the aforementioned mob, turns out to have provided voice acting work for Martian Gothic: Unification (2000) A Resident Evil-type game, it featured flesh-eating zombies, gun-fights and… “group hysteria”. Peasgood voiced the bit-part character of Judith Halloway, sending Earth a final message from her doomed crew, “Stay alone, stay alive.” So that settles it then, games are very dangerous. Bad Ju-Ju.

(Two images missing from rest of the article)

This is the problem with the ‘effects’ (or ‘hypodermic’) model of media. It assumes that people can be and their thoughts are not their own. The effects model states that power lies with the message and the audience is passive. By making an example of the power of suggestibility leading to this type of action (in this instance, Peasgood), a recommendation is made for this form of thought leading to a specific behaviour.

It seems to me that television as a technology, transmitting one-way replicates the form found in “the effects theory” Julie subscribes to. If anything, video-game players with their bigger reliance on the form’s interactivity, seem further removed from likely negative influence. They’re more clearly focused on “the uses model” with it’s attributes of diversion, surveillance, personal identity and personal relationships.

ban these evil games

It’s the same old same old moral panic that comes around time and again. Pac-Man told me to be obese yadda yadda yadda. Mario told me to abandon granny on the roof and join the Fascist Party yadda yadda.

One of the really worrying aspects of the effects model within a moral panic is that they can lead to what has been called a “Deviancy Amplification Spiral”.The well-known controversy surrounding the game Manhunt in 2004 led to exaggerated media reporting (Leblanc) generating outrage and opposition. The game was banned resulting in a greater need to obtain a copy. The media “profiling” transformed gamers’ searching to define their own and group behaviour. This style of reporting attracted additional ‘deviant’ individuals, and enhanced a sense of deviant identity. A spiral of deviance and moral indignation.

In the coverage that followed, Peter Chapman of Sixth Axis, one of Europe’s largest gaming websites, posted an open letter to ITV. His closing paragraphs seem to accuse ITV of resurrecting the stereotyped image of the gamer before reminding them of the multi-billion dollar properties of the industry. In fact, he is speaking figuratively and responding to rhetoric with rhetoric. Peasgood, Tichmarsh, MacKenzie and their audience are those snarminals of the ‘reality’ television era. They aren’t quite equipped to adjust to the multi-way signal of the web age, which the same week gave us Nestle’s attempt to gag Greenpeace via YouTube. (They appeared to have learned nothing from Trafigura’s similar chemical and communications errors) It seems almost too easy to pick them off. They’re to be pitied, really. Like Jan Moir, safe in the knowledge of themselves, that they are right and they are the only way things are. Of course, the internet  showcases a wealth of talent free to view should executives wish to look higher.

With grateful thanks to Dr. Tom Tyler of The Westminster Institute.

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