The Associated Press has a great human interest story about a blind 17-year-old gamer who routinely beats opponents with his back turned away from the screen. The article has one quote, though, that makes it seems like the story’s author wasn’t watching the screen either.
In describing a Soul Calibur II (the article misspells it “Soul Caliber”) match, the author writes:
“‘That’s what happens. It’s why I don’t play him,’ O’Banion said after his blood-spattered character’s corpse vanishes from the screen.” [emphasis added]
“Blood-spattered” is an interesting adjective to use, considering Time magazine described the game as “mercifully blood-free.” Many fan reviews also point out the game’s lack of blood, and anyone who has played or watched the “corpses” are remarkably unblemished after a loss.
It’s likely that this throwaway line was just a bit of colorful embellishment on the part of an overzealous writer or editor, trying to punch up the copy long after the match took place. And given the fact that characters in SC2 are routinely hacked with extremely sharp weapons, it’s easy to imagine how the faulty image of a bloody corpse might form in the author’s memory. In the grand scheme of things, this small error doesn’t really detract from the quality of the rest of the article.
But it can be just as important get the little things right as the big ones. Adding errors to the small details of your text can distract readers from the larger focus of the article, and make them doubt the rest of the facts. Given the extremely sensitive nature of the video game violence debate, errors like these can also serve as the basis for some truly baseless claims.
One of my journalism teachers always told us “If your mom tells you her name, ask to see some ID.” It’s an extreme example, but the point is clear: check everything, assume nothing.