VIDEOGAMES: CONTENT AND RESPONSIBILITY
Between 10:30am and 12:15pm a panel discussion was held regarding the content of videogames and the responsibilities surrounding them.
Author: Hamish Millar, Web Editor, Vancouver ACM SIGGRAPH
SIGGRAPH 2006 – Boston, M.A. – Wednesday August 2 2006
What might have been a fiery affair felt slightly one-sided in the absence of David Walsh (National Institute for Media and the Family). However, Elizabeth Losh did raise some valid points, which were critical of praise for videogames in his absence.
Here are the three panelists and what they had to say in their introduction:
Jason Della Rocca – International Game Developers Association
- The average age of a North American videogame player is 33 years old
- Male / Female gamers ratio: 60/40
- 89% of videogames are bought by parents
- There were only 7 mature titles in the top 40 games published last year
- The US FTC retailers survey shows there is about a 50% success rate for retailers restricting the sales of mature videogames to minors. This is compared to a 7% rate for mature-rated DVDs
- FBI statistics show that youth-related violent crime is as low in the US as it has ever been recorded, despite increasing sales of videogame consoles in recent years.
Tamsen Mitchell – Shaba Games Inc.
- The moral panic in the media is discouraging for the games industry
- We need to ask the question “What can we learn from games?”
Elizabeth Losh – U.C. Irvine
- Violence and hate-themed content in videogames doesn’t necessarily justify banning them
- Teaching in person will always be of greater value to students than learning through a videogame. We should be careful not to overvalue game learning at the expense of personal teaching time
- Government-sponsored games have yielded mixed results and are sometimes used as political point scoring devices to evade the real issues
- Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure doesn’t teach kids art skills as well as Photoshop might. Guitar Hero won’t teach you guitar skills as well as playing a real guitar would
Below are some of the interesting issues raised and discussed:
Politicians have demonstrated a lack of understanding of videogames, which has cast the games industry in a negative light. But politicians are only ever appealing to the people. What can the IGDA do to educate people that violent videogames aren’t evil?
- It is everyone’s responsibility to correct this misperception about videogames in their social circles. If you think that games are being wrongly portrayed, speak up
- DIGRA has an ongoing commitment to better understand videogames from an academic point of view
- The IGDA works with the ESA to provide accurate statistics that relate to the role of videogames in society
Are violent games potentially more harmful to people than other forms of media due to their interactive nature?
- The real question is not that of interactivity, but of the degree of engagement that each form of media offers people. Interactivity is a red herring.
- If human psychology is based on conditional behavior, then doesn’t interactivity still warrant different treatment – particularly given the increasing realism of videogames and the large number of games that reward you for killing people?
- People are often said to enter the ‘magic circle’ when they play games or engage in other fantasy media. They are aware of the boundary between fantasy and reality, so the fact that games are comprised of conditional behavior does not necessarily make them more harmful
Should videogames be treated differently to other media due to their addictive nature?
- Addiction is a medical term that is often inaccurately used.
- True addiction to videogames is likely to arise in people with addictive personalities. Some people are predisposed to this behavior. Addressing the nature of the games alone will not address the problem for these people.
- The most addictive games are community-based massive multiplayer online games (MMO’s). MMO’s such as World of Warcraft are, in a way, ‘sexy telephones’. They are ways to communicate with people remotely using very pretty interfaces. Communicating with people for extended amounts of time, within reason, might not be a bad thing.
Will in-game advertising compromise the quality of the experience provided by videogames?
- Inevitably, in some cases, it will
- The games industry might be particularly vulnerable. There is collective bargaining through writers in film and television to protect the integrity of the product. This does not seem to occur for videogames.
- The Writers Guild of America actively fights product placement in film, TV and videogames.
- Politicians do not seem to be able to score points by limiting product placement and other forms of advertising. They will most likely play both sides of the issue, continuing to sell themselves while still promoting the protection of children from in-game violence.
The panel discussion was concluded with a final statement to the effect that videogames being misunderstood as bad for people usually stems from the popular misconception that games are for made for kids:
”If you thought that all TV was Sesame Street and then you saw The Sopranos you’d be pretty shocked too” – Jason Della Rocca.