Macedonia: Traditional Media Demonize Gamers

Two influential Macedonian media outlets, Dnevnik daily and A1 TV, have recently published technophobic articles portraying the gamers as menace to society, using language bordering on hate speech.

This is not the first outbreak of technophobia in Macedonia (MKD). Traditional media have been portraying computer geeks as a threat in the past on many occasions. A case in point was the 2002 affair when many citizens complained about inflated phone bills, and titles such as “Citizens ripped off by computer geeks’ hot line talks” (MKD) blamed some generalized hackers, “burying” the possibility for mishap by the Telecom deep in the bowels of the text.

The latest technophobic trend includes articles with almost identical structure. They first advocate the thesis that gaming is a waste of youth's time, making them antisocial and aggressive, supported by anonymous statements by gamers or internet café owners, as well as psychologists or sociologists who confirm the thesis, even though they haven't actually made any empirical research about the issue. Use of stigmatizing terminology “suitable” for the demonized, marginalized groups in such articles is particularly worrisome.

For instance, the article “They leave their girlfriends and jobs to play” (MKD) equates gaming with “addiction” leading to “abandoned workplaces; stalled or ruined studies, and broken loves.” The most alarming thesis is that “violent games cause aggression,” for it portrays gamers as potential murderers who could snap at any time.

A similar story titled “Internet cafes are full of gamers” (MKD) incited numerous reactions on the Macedonian web, especially on the link sharing service Kajmak.ot (MKD). The article quotes a sociologist who seems to forget that children used to play “shoot them up” games such as “cowboys and Indians” or World War II-inspired “partisans and Germans” way before computer games were invented:

Experts warn that such games are dangerous. The aggression in front of the computer continues in the games outside the internet cafes, because when they exit into the real world, they are incapable of communicating in any other way.

“I had an opportunity to observe several internet cafes and a group of children who spent a lot of time there. They constantly played war games. They got so carried away, they even screamed, they were so immersed,” stated university professor Ilija Acevski.

“At that time I asked myself what the connection with reality was, when they faced real life after that. Will there be negative consequences? Of course!” said Acevski.

Placing a comment after the article on the A1 website, Darko Buldioski, one of the authors of the Komunikacii blog, wrote (MKD):

I still don't understand how the same old stories get repeated without any effort to dig a little deeper.

Such observations by this expert do not make him an expert. He should make his views public after conducting a scientific research on the subject, not an estimate at a glance.

In stories of this type, journalists continuously claim that “scientific research done worldwide justifies the fact that this way of communication represents addiction, an addiction which is the same as all types of vices.” Where are these scientific researches, why don't you show them to us…

Damjan Arsovski, the editor of the portal, also reacted by vivisecting the news with responses paragraph-by-paragraph in his article “Macedonian media are full of stupidities” (MKD):

“To spend 5, 6 or more hours per day on the computer playing games or surfing the net, to live in cyberspace in a spaceless time.” (sic)
– I spend 5-6 hours per day on the internet every day, and in this “unreal” world I communicate with my peers, with businesspeople, receive information from all over the world, work on my education…

But even he could not muster a comment to the qualification from the conclusion of the article:

Gamers are regular people. They are children, fathers, husbands, brothers, but behind the computer screens they have another face–to use geek speak–they most often become cyber beasts.

FOSS advocate Arangel Angov posted a link to a scan of similarly absurd article from an old American tabloid as his reaction.

Treating this subject in such a way can be correlated with the lack of will to explore the underlying reasons for the increasing number of crimes, which is one of the dominant topics in the Macedonian media. Experts do not even attempt to explain the psychological or sociological motives affecting the perpetrators of the violent incidents during the parliamentary elections in June. It seems it is far easier to attack the gamers, even though so far no gamer has been pointed out as perpetrator of an incident involving violence.

However, it must be noted that some positive portraits of gamers have appeared in the same media outlets in the past, but only in the context of participation of teams from Macedonia in world cybersports championships (MKD).


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