This morning’s headline ‘news’ article from BBC technology: “Games content ‘concerns parents’“.
According to a survey conducted on behalf of Microsoft, more than 75% of parents in the UK, France, Italy and Germany were concerned about the content of the games played by their children. About 44% felt that children should devote up to one hour a day to computer games, and 43% said that they were not aware of ratings systems to determine the suitability of games. Over 50% of the children played on consoles, and 64% played mainly alone.
This survey has irritated me for several reasons. Firstly, shouldn’t it be “games’ content”? Apostrophes, people! Sheesh, doesn’t anbody bother with proper punctuation nowadays?
Secondly, I feel that reports of this nature create a negative press for video games that they just don’t deserve. I mean, if parents are concerned about the content of the games, why do they buy them? I think that just reeks of lazy parenting. OK, so there are some games that are obviously unsuitable for children, but the majority of games, such as Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Sonic the Hedgehog, are no worse than the average Disney film (most games are less disturbing than that transformation scene in Pinnochio). Even many games like Halo 3, with more violent content, are still no worse than a 12A rated movie (Halo 3 is 15 certificate, in the UK at least). Whilst there are games that are obviously unsuitable for children (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and BioShock spring to mind), these games are clearly labelled as 18 certificate, with a larger BBFC symbol than is present on the cover of a film, so how can people not know about the rating system? Either these people lack common sense, or they lack the ability to actually look at something before buying it.
Deep breath, rant over.
The BBC also reports that the UK government has launched a study, headed by Doctor Tanya Byron, who states “Video gaming and the internet themselves are a very positive and important part of children’s and young children’s growing up and learning and development. But it is also about saying where are the risks?”
Except I’ll bet she actually said that last sentence with the proper punctuation, if that makes any kind of sense.
Paul Jackson, of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers’ Association, said “We feel quite positively about this review. It’s clear the review is about making sure parents are properly informed about what their youngsters are playing and what they are accessing on the internet.”
David Braben, of Frontier, seemed less happy, saying “A review might be useful but it should not just look at one media, especially when media are intersecting.” I agree that it does seem odd that the government are targeting video games specifically (although they are also looking into the Internet).
The industry’s reaction seems quite reasonable, and provides some interesting quotes. For example, Paul Jackson said, “The key for us is to make sure parents understand age ratings. There is no difference between an 18-rated film and an 18-rated game. I think the video games industry is this year’s whipping boy. Too often we are blamed for everything from obesity to youth violence. It is just not true and it’s not appropriate.”
I took the liberty of correcting some of the grammatical errors in that quote – they were making me wince.