Original controversies

Andrew Uribe, Staff Writer

Originality in media such as video games, novels, and movies has seemed to decline. The popularity has shifted greatly over to franchises, thus bringing all the attention and hype to sequels, prequels, or otherwise of an existing entertainment source and leaving standalone pieces widely unnoticed.

The logo from the Game Theory video series.

“Money makes the world go round” is a common quote, strongly applicable to this situation. When many standalone entertainment pieces become popular, further expansions of it into a franchise hastily become hyped and many consumers are willing to commit to a franchise in which they previously enjoyed. Not to mention, the hype attracts consumers who were never involved, whether or not for any niche audiences. Sadly, this means easy money for entertainment companies—many, in fact, do not even bother to change much in the story or developments.

Think of popular franchises you may have heard of. Disney’s Frozen, for example, managed to collect great amounts of money and success. Recently, in fact, Disney created the short film Frozen Fever and announced for the release of Frozen 2.

In addition, back in 2014, the popular horror game by Scott Cawthon, Five Nights At Freddy’s emerged, having scarce hype. Several famous YouTubers played—many of them, and many viewers labeled it as one of the scariest games of our time, and its hype skyrocketed, leading to the first game’s abrupt success and then to the three games and popularity that it has now.

It is very clear how the system works, but a question does still remain: how does anything become hyped or popular?

Matthew Patrick, a well-known YouTuber popular for his ‘Game Theory’ video series, states in his video Game Theory: Gamers, You’re Getting Played, “For the game publisher, it’s not about artistic purity or keeping the game uncensored—it’s about cash.”

Patrick previously explained controversial hype and its beginnings. To put it simply, controversy leads to hype. The words “there is no such thing as bad publicity” ring truer than ever. This is not a fault of the publisher. This is marketing. Consumer arguments, controversial articles/headlines and the like are all exactly what entertainment companies want. The media jumps on controversy, leading to publicity the consumer base.

Patrick also mentions how the violence of the original Mortal Kombat series’ controversy resulted in the formation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and then goes on to point to Grand Theft Auto as a very strong point of controversy in the 1990’s.

UK publicist, Max Clifford.

Max Clifford, a successful publicist in the UK at the time, planned out what led to Grand Theft Auto’s initial entrance into the media. At the time, its level of violence was widely known to be unacceptable and easily banned.

Clifford’s method was to deliberately ‘throw it under the guns.’ He had the publishers arguing and had the consumers arguing, giving it powerful controversy and publicity. It led to anti-violence rallying and the risk of the game being banned for the mere sake of headlines. The strategy worked. Once unknown, the franchise became a ‘hot topic’ before release and enjoyed huge sales when it did.

Obviously, Grand Theft Auto is not the only of its kind. The movie Fifty Shades of Grey caused eagerness for views and concern over usage of BDSM; the video game Hatred has experienced wild debate regarding the level of violence since its cinematic trailer.

PlayStation’s box art for their first iteration of Grand Theft Auto.

In the end, it is, by extension, up to the player base and his reactions to controversy that spark or end the media hype.

Outside of media…how does this apply? Does media, even outside of entertainment, follow the same rules? Of course—and even more so.

On a constant basis, we are exposed to stories and events in the media. The latest ‘hot topics’ in the news have included police brutality, intense racism (dominantly to blacks and Muslims), the fight for the LGBTQ+ community, and much more. So many issues are brought about, and they will very likely continue, trending as they are.