Glenn Beck's Game Rant Wasn't Right, But it Wasn't Wrong, Either

Our industry is quick to focus on the obvious mistakes in Beck's comments, but we may not want to face a few truths, either...

The video game industry has fixed another mainstream media personality in its crosshairs, and perhaps rightfully so.

TV and radio host Glenn Beck has spoken out against the recently released Watch Dogs, saying the game essentially teaches people to hack into other people's lives (which really isn't accurate, of course), and then goes so far as to mention "crack cocaine" in the same breath with video games.

These are the reasons why Beck is now receiving a lashing at the hands of the gaming press and gamers everywhere. When Polygon first reported on Beck's comments, the headline was: "Glenn Beck Thinks Watch Dogs Teaches You How To Hack The Real World." That's a valid headline because it highlights the obvious fact that Beck is a little out of touch. At the very least, he clearly hasn't played the game in question.

But there's more to this story.

Beck's comments about our obsession with anti-heroes shouldn't be ignored because it's spot on

Many of us are quick to gloss over this part of Beck's speech, but here it is:

"Why must everyone be an anti-hero? Why must everyone break the law? Why can't we have a Superman? Why can't we have somebody who is doing the right thing, does the hard thing? Instead, everybody is an anti-hero."

He's right, you know. We are obsessed with the anti-hero; in fact, all of entertainment is fascinated with the idea of the gritty "down-to-earth" individual who breaks the law to be a noble rebel of sorts. This "fighting for the people" mentality has spread rapidly and it has become one of the only formulas we see today.

Where are the Supermans? We seem less and less interested in the capable people, those who strive to be better, those who achieve on a very high level, and more interested in those who, rather than striving to achieve, opt to simply throw a tantrum. Yes, in point of fact, that's what a lot of all this self-righteous rebellion is: A tantrum.

Now, as for the protagonist Aiden Pearce in Watch Dogs, there's a little more to his character, and Beck obviously misses that. He didn't play the game, remember. That much is painfully clear. He does, however, have a point when he says the anti-hero is all we really have, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

...but then he went and showed what a dinosaur he really is

If he had just left it there, and expounded more upon the concepts involving the anti-hero vs. hero conflict and how it reflects and affects society, I would've been all in. But sadly, Beck had to go and say something like this:

"The idea here is they are teaching you to hack and then become the ultimate voyeur in other people's lives--including their bedrooms--by hacking into their phones and everything. This game is teaching people to hack into whatever is docked in your bedroom. What the heck is wrong with us? What are we thinking? We are inviting this into our home and our lives. We are teaching our kids [hacking] for entertainment purposes."

Sigh.

No, no it doesn't teach hacking. I do agree that it glorifies hacking to a certain extent, and I've made mention of that in the past. However, there is a huge difference between glorifying and flat-out teaching. Watch Dogs won't help anyone hack anything, that's for damn sure.

But it got worse, because Beck continued:

"Yes, it's really hard to avoid [video games] … and then once you start, it's hard to put them down. Yeah, so is crack cocaine."

Sh**. There it is. We just can't get away from it, can we? Members of the media outside of gaming continue to honestly believe that video games are addictive.

Translation: Video games are dangerous and should be treated as such. The problem is that they have no statistics to back up their claims. There is evidence of legitimate game addiction, but all the evidence I've seen (via published studies) have involved MMOs. "EverCrack" was a fitting name, in some instances, and I do believe the MMO has addictive traits other games do not.

That being said, I can't believe we haven't moved past the idiotic and archaic "games are crack" argument. Okay, that's not the literal interpretation of Beck's comment but we get the gist. Beck does admit that gaming is still a young entertainment medium, and that we don't yet know what it does to our brains. He thinks games "re-wire" our brains somehow but again, there's no proof of that.

It's just disappointing. On the one hand, he made a very true and very important point. On the other, he totally shot himself in the foot by putting his cluelessness about video games on display.

Featured Columnist

A gaming journalism veteran of 14 years, a confirmed gamer for over 30 years, and a lover of fine literature and ridiculously sweet desserts.

Published May. 30th 2014
  • VCBraska
    I think Beck is showing a clear example of what non gamers and much of older American society is really thinking about us, our lives, and our viewpoint on the world. Our art is truly a reflection of are atmosphere most true to case in our paranoid state exhibited in Watch Dogs. It is for good reason too, this is getting close to the world we live in. That's more of what Watch Dogs taught me. Pearce in this case is a perfect hero as he does what the rest of us can't. He stops the bad guys, here it's ctOS and it's associated personalities. There's not a reason to talk about his other fearmongering. It's just idiotic.
  • Death Metal Hero
    Contributor
    I was always a fan of anti-heroes...even more so when I began reading Spawn. The problem is that having a protagonist that is flawed is a much better choice than a protagonist who is "perfect" like Superman, but then again Superman isnt all too perfect. I guess it's easier for writers to make an anti-hero because their flaws can be more open to the readers eyes.
  • Chris_1580
    I think our fascination with the anti-hero is quite understandable. Few of us trust our legal system. We are constantly inundated with stories where there was punishment but not justice. We hear of police abusing their power, raids gone bad, innocent people convicted, guilty criminals getting off on technicalities or deals, and lowly criminals given excessive sentences. Of course we prefer a hero who doesn't adhere to our flawed and ultimately unjust laws.
  • Michael Hartman
    Good article. The overuse of the "anti-hero" is definitely a creative issue in video games, tv, movies, etc.

    One issue I took with the article was the out of nowhere throwing MMOs under the bus with Beck.

    Either video games are addictive or not. You can't single out MMOs. All games use the same type of psychological schemes to encourage people to play more.

    Social/facebook/mobile games are by far the most significant users of such tactics - not MMOs.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    I absolutely agree. Ya some games encourage more play and therefore have a bit more potential for "addiction", but you can't single out one genre as a culprit, nearly all genres have found a way.
  • Terminatahx
    Beck with his nonsense yet again. This guy is consistently out of touch on a range of issues; from religion, to AMerican and world history, to entertainment. Do you really think Beck likes movies, music and gaming?

    I think we like games because it allows us to be "things" we can't be in real life; a badazz commando; a spy; a titan/Mech pilot; a villian; and yes, a hero. Beck has a problem with "hero" because his standards of what a hero should be is out of touch. There are a ton of games where you can be a good guy. They just don't line up with Becks definition.
  • Lacey_6683
    Contributor
    Well, why can't people like both hero and superhero games?
  • Dave_1042
    The rise of the anti-hero is directly linked with how people perceive the law. These aren't the old days anymore where the cops would help old ladies cross the street and make sure the drunk gets home safely to his wife and kids. You're as likely to get shot by a cop because your cell phone kind of looked like a gun to him as you are to get an expensive ticket that you can't afford in the current economy because he felt you might be going too fast.

    The anti-hero is popular because the laws are all warped and bent to feed the mouths of the rich and punish the poor and weak. Because 1 guy can steal billions of dollars from millions of middle class people and get a slap on the wrist, but millions of poor people get to spend the rest of their lives in jail because of 100 dollars worth of drugs.

    Glenn Beck isn't wrong in that the anti-hero is a popular trend. But as long as justice is only for the rich and powerful, and the middle class and poor are being destroyed, the anti-hero is where we all must place our faith, because the police and the law are the ones who do us the most harm.

    Also, I'd like to point out that Rome fell because of lead aquaducts... Not... whatever you were suggesting. ;p
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    "You're as likely to get shot by a cop because your cell phone kind of looked like a gun to him as you are to get an expensive ticket that you can't afford in the current economy because he felt you might be going too fast."

    That's blatantly incorrect, obviously. This says cops are mistakenly shooting people as often as they're handing out speeding tickets, which is ridiculous.

    Rome died because of incompetence and sloth that permeated every aspect of society, which directly lead to breakdown in operation and general functioning.

    The "poor and the weak" are the poor and the weak because that's who they are. Not because some random faceless corporation made them that way. What, Wal-Mart? McDonalds? We made them what they are today; we wanted cheap and fast and not necessarily good. In fact, we opted to go for cheap, fast and downright terrible. The masses are what created the people you so despise; they didn't just magically ascend to some throne via luck and bad behavior.

    The only part you're right about is the middle, regarding the drugs. Why we're paying tax dollars to keep potheads in jail for years is beyond me. Either start legalizing or start inflicting harsher punishment because what we're doing now isn't working.

    Much like Beck's rant, you have one good point in a mess of errors. ;)
  • Ulkyr
    Contributor
    Why does anyone even care what Glenn Beck said as he was some sort of relevant public figure? Need I remind you, that even the mass production industry of lies and fairy tales, that is FOX News fired Glenn Beck. When even FOX News thinks you are too far out there, you really need to see a therapist. Just let that mouth breathing lunatic rant on. Paying attention to his rants and antics is his food, he is, for all intents and purposes, the original troll. Hell, he was a troll before trolling was even a thing. Don't feed him and people like him the attention they crave and they will die off.
  • Federico Senence
    Featured Contributor
    I wonder how much of his statement was an effort to degrade a game that might touch a bit too much on current events. With recent news of NSA hacks and Big Brother watching everyone, Watch Dogs might of touched on a sensitive subject and Beck may just be a tool to try and fog over the truth. After all, every major media outlet is owned by only a few different companies.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    You bring up a very good point here in fact.
  • Alskari
    I think an important factor left out of this is Hollywood's shift away from social commentary. There are plenty of activist movies, but they usually end up so myopic that only a small segment of the population can relate to them.
  • Truthbomb
    Anti-hero versus the regular hero frequency is a litmus test of our society. The more we see the anti-hero the more oppressive, and controlling and cruel and callous, and selfish the reigning social structure will be. This is a natural popular culture reaction to the sort of callous, selfishness we see in government in general (especially american politics).

    To Glenn Beck, I'd say, when the establishment finally becomes less supportive of people like him (white, privileged, male, intolerant, ignorant, and perfectly happy with war and killing) and stop marginalizing the masses in favour of the 1%.

    I think we'll see a balancing shift toward superman heroes again once the establishment ceases to be so sociopathically selfish and disrespectful to the 99%. Superman represent the establishment, and why would we root for the establishment when it behaves so despicably?
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Yes, it is a litmus test of society.

    We see anti-heroes when laziness and the acceptance - and even idolization - of mediocrity under the guise of "social equality" strikes. It's a festering disease that cripples a civilization from within; it's what killed off Rome; it's what's killing us now.

    The middle part of your statement, which is racist and ignorant in and of itself, is a perfect example of why the "1%" run things. It has absolutely nothing to do with oppression; rather, it has everything to do with the 99% complaining, whining, leeching off the achievers, pretending it's their right to leech, and then wondering why every last welfare program on earth is strained to capacity, and why more assistance programs aren't helping (as it only further encourages sloth).

    Here's a truism: The only truly selfish individuals are those who don't seek to better themselves on a daily basis. The ones who scream about supporting the downtrodden when they themselves seek to be supported by others. Thing is, that 1% can only support the 99% for so long, my friend. At some point, someone somewhere is actually going to have to take it upon themselves to accomplish something...without the aid of others.

    You can't enslave the achievers of the world to support those who seek to steal their entire lives from others. That can't work. And as one of our founding fathers said: "You can't make a poor man rich by making a rich man poor." But by all means, keep thinking you can, and continue to follow the downward spiral. You want to favor the masses? Watch where it gets you. The only "despicable behavior" comes from those who honestly believe the minority could - and in fact should - support the majority.

    Beck is an idiot when it comes to certain things. That's obvious. I'm not defending him, in point of fact; I'm merely responding to an ideology that has resulted in the rapid decline of Western civilization.
  • Darklurkr23
    yea if beck wnts super hero games there's plenty of them. problem is they usually suck XD
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Glenn Beck is a prime example of the people who should keep their mouth shut. He makes one good point out of all the idiotic statements he makes.
  • Federico Senence
    Featured Contributor
    That's the beauty of being a talking head like Beck. If you spew enough crap, occasionally something of a diamond might come out.....occasionally. Too many of these media personalities just try and jump the band wagon on something they know little about. One of his writers probably saw the trailer for the game and wrote him a few pages of why this game is "so bad!"

    They need to do better homework.
  • PoloniumFist
    Anti-heroes are far easier to identify with.. that said, Aiden Pearce is the most boring character in recent history. He's a bored and boring version of Batman.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    He's right, games do re-wire your brain. As in my brain is lightning fast, split second, no hesitation decisions moment to moment. I can run circles around non-gamers when it comes to reaction time and quick thinking. I need to go find the study done on this. They found quick problem solving in gamers over non-gamers. I want people like Glenn Beck to actually look at studies with real conclusive results, because there are way more of these with positive conclusions on video games rather than bad.

    Also, how about before you go on TV and brain wash a few more easily fear-mongered people, you find a study that actually supports your ridiculous claims Glenn.

    Let the war on fun continue!
  • Katy Hollingsworth
    Former Staff Editor
    I hate superhero games. I think a lot of the anti-hero games have some relation to the current atmosphere in the States, and in some places abroad.

    I wouldn't say the American economy is a glowing example of economical equality; a lot of people feel like 'the man' is crapping over the 99%. I think a lot of these themes stem from the rising fad of rising up against oppression and making 'the man' pay.

    Addiction can be thrown at any hobby or interest, especially by those who don't understand it. Someone could very easily say the same about football fans--some watch every single aired game and play fantasy football. It consumes hours upon hours of their lives. No one calls that an addiction, but it's the same behavior found in gamers, golf fans, baseball fans, etc.

    People are just stupid, and they're only getting stupider.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Well, just to be clear, he was referring to the standard hero. He didn't mean superheros literally. :)

    And as far as I'm concerned, if people simply stopped whining about "the man" and accepted the fact that "the man" only achieved such a position by achieving, maybe we could all start achieving again.

    As for the last comment, that's spot-on, of course. :)

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