Let’s start with this:
“Joining us now for a fair and balanced debate, Brian Ambrozy…”
That’s how I was introduced recently on Fox & Friends, a morning talk show on the Fox News Channel.
Let’s rewind a bit. CB Droege broke the story about the NEA making grants available for game developers. A cool story, and a long time coming. It made headlines around the web and is worthy of discussion. Apparently Fox agreed and asked me to come onto Fox & Friends to discuss and debate the merits of these grants with “Truth for America” radio host Neal Asbury.
I knew this would be a great opportunity for Icrontic to get some exposure, but more importantly, I knew immediately what their agenda was. After I did some cursory research into Asbury and the show itself, I knew damn well that they simply wanted to shout at their audience falsehoods about tax increases for video gaming. I knew immediately that the words “Call of Duty” would be mentioned in this piece, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with the discussion.
Initially, Fox told me that the piece would be five minutes, and that I would have at least two minutes of talk time. I thought that sounded fair as I began to prepare my points. I posted a thread on Reddit to see what other gamers thought about the issue and to get some advice on talking points.
My friend Ryan Meray gave me the best advice of all: Go watch a few Jon Stewart clips to see how they feel about Fox & Friends. The night before I went on, I saw the clip of Jon breaking down Gretchen Carlson, and it reminded me of one very important point: These are people just like you and I.
I had a bit of anxiety the night before the appearance; the limo was picking me up at my house at 5:45 in the morning, so as I laid in bed, my mind kept mulling over all the suggestions I got from friends, Redditors, and Jon Stewart’s piece. I distilled it down to a key point: video games are art—I believe that and can speak passionately about that, so I should be okay. Anything they threw at me beyond that was pointless and I would use logic and passion to defend my position.
As it happens, the entire morning was a rush. The studio was in Ann Arbor, Michigan because that was the closest studio Fox could find with a satellite uplink. The studio consisted of one man, a small room with a camera and lights and some satellite equipment, and myself. And some good coffee. He sat me down, lit me, powdered my face, mic’ed me, and put my earpiece in.
A technician came on over the earpiece and explained how it would go down. Another producer came on and verified the pronunciation of my last name. She said I sounded good and she’d let me know as we were about to go on.
If you listen to the original clip, as it aired, the moment they start playing the Call of Duty clip, you hear a woman’s voice say “Kind of get to know them…” That was the producer I was talking to, and apparently she was caught off guard as much as I was. We were live, without any prep. That’s why I look so pissed off when the camera starts rolling. So somebody jumped the gun at the studio, and we were live without being prepared.
When the host said “Should the video game ‘Call of Duty’ get Federal funding?” I knew immediately that my course was set. There would be no intelligent discourse. There would be no valid discussion, or valid points. They opened with a complete and utter falsehood right from the top. It calmed me immensely, because I knew I had truth on my side.
The “interview” speaks for itself. If it seems truncated, that’s because it was. If Neal Asbury seems overblown and completely off-topic, it’s because he was. You could tell his entire argument revolved around ping-pong, and that he had nothing more to contribute than that. It was actually somewhat insulting that he had so little regard for this topic, and of the “arts” he so claims to “love”, that he didn’t even bother preparing any actual on-topic material. Ping-pong, indeed.
Bereft of anything intelligent to contribute, he immediately fell back to the “Obama raising taxes” and veiled rapture hints (“Maybe there is no tomorrow”…?) There was no point in having me on at all, other than to be able to claim they had “fair and balanced” coverage.
When I realized that I wasn’t talking to anyone who cared about anything I had to say, I felt that I was there only to speak to you guys and gals: Intelligent, rational gamers who understand what this is really all about. I got my jabs in (“I’m talking to people who are entertainers..”) so I’m okay.
The real story
The debate will be forgotten in a few days as my fifteen minutes of internet fame fades away. That’s the way these things go. There is, however, a bigger story here.
People have been talking about Fox and its clear conservative and right-wing leanings for years now. However, it’s hard for many people to relate to what that actually means. We are in the middle of a media generation gap; Fox & Friends is not watched by you guys. This is a Saturday morning show watched by millions of older people who have no connection with us and who don’t even know these conversations are taking place. At the same time, people from our world and our generation only know how Fox is anecdotally.
This story connected with us, as a culture, and really drove the point home; now it’s personal. Now we truly understand the depths to which “media” has sunk in the cable television world. I’ve seen many cries of outrage over the treatment this topic got because it is important to us. The real story here is that Fox and other cable news networks are doing this on a daily basis. This is media brainwashing of the highest order—the people who watch this show on a regular basis see this garbage every day. It seems absolutely outrageous to us, now that they’ve spoken about something we understand and care about, but this is standard order for these shows.
Perhaps this is the first time people will see this kind of television and say, “But wait, I know for a fact that what they’re saying is not true!” and they will be able to see the twisting of words that takes place on these types of shows.
Maybe it took video gaming to shake us all out of our echo chamber and realize that in America, this is what a great many people believe. If anything, it’s what I got out of this experience, and my hope is that other people realize it too.