Just weeks after leveraging an idle courtroom comment involving Counter-Strike to sensationalise an otherwise straight-forward case of burglary, today (Friday 26 November) again saw The Daily Telegraph parade its rudimentary knowledge of video games with a page four story of this morning's edition claiming EA's Need for Speed as the catalyst for a series of motor vehicle accidents.
Ignoring the fact that this morning's issue marks the third day this week in which the Telegraph has glorified its front page with pictures from an accident involving Provisional drivers -- something itself that provokes considerable debate -- yet another computer game has become lynch mob fodder for misinformed parents and otherwise concerned persons the country wide. In this case, it's EA's Need for Speed.
Running along the top of the double-page spread, which starts of page four, is the question 'Was the triple teenage fatality triggered by a computer game that encourages players to drive insanely fast?', apparently referring to the three accidents the paper has report over the course of the week. The evidence? According to the article in which an image of the game is shown and, in fact, the only news story in which the game itself is mentioned in print beside the question running along the top: 'Moments before stepping into the high-powered, high-speed car in which he and his pregnant girlfriend died, Carl Homer had been playing the computer racing game Need For Speed, friends said yesterday.'
The friend, one Stephen Deas, comments in the article that on the night of the accident, himself and Homer had been playing a recently purchased copy of Need for Speed -- most likely NFS Underground 2 -- however the exact game is not specified.
Not surprisingly, the Telegraph does not explain why Deas himself wasn't seized with a desire for octane, a 'need for speed'. Surely if you're going to show one side of the coin, you should show the other?
Add to this that Carl Homer was not a 20-year old teenager on his Provisional license; no, Homer was 33. Also of interest is a comment from Homer's brother, in which he shows his lack of comprehension over the accident: '[Mark, Homer's brother] said it was out of character for his brother to take the risk of getting into such a car with someone not well known, especially with his pregnant partner.'
It is beyond any likely-hood that a computer game could, in the space of a night, spur Homer to drive in a totally unsafe manner. It just doesn't happen in reality.
Of note, the Telegraph also makes mention of the fact that 14 Provisional drivers have died in fatal accidents over the past 12 months. But what the Telegraph fails to mention is that this number makes up just 2.6% of all motor accident fatalities in this period (of which there are 537), according to recent RTA statistics.
While the Telegraph is free to report what it wants, how it wants, we're completely baffled by the dedication with which the newspaper is currently pursuing the concept of 'computer games and the people they kill'.
It's stale, it's old, and it's unfairly crucifying a game, its publisher and its developer. But, most importantly, it belittles what is really just a series of tragic events.