The Average Gamer

In the Evening Standard

Prior to the Telegraph’s linkbait, the Evening Standard was also thinking about games. For those who missed it, the UK Prime Minister – Gordon Brown – was interviewed last week by lowest-common-denominator tabloid, The Sun. He was very vague about what he actually expects but it does seem he believes it’s the games industry’s responsibility to put on a happy face at all times, even when catering to adults. Here’s the quote:

“It is completely unacceptable to carry a knife or a gun.

“Where police have previously been cautioning people, there now has to be a presumption of prosecution.”

The PM went on: “I am very worried about video and computer games.

“No one wants censorship or an interfering State.

“But the industry has some responsibility to society and needs to exercise that.”

– The Sun – Gordon Brown’s blitz on blades

I like the way he overlooks the fact that the UK has had censorship on knives (mildly NSFW) for quite some time.

The Evening Standard emailed me asking for my opinion. My response was stripped of all personality but published in their Friday print edition with the general point still intact. Even better, it was alongside two other responses who were equally disdainful of the connection between games and real-world violence. Here’s what I sent them:

“As a long-time gamer I can assure you that the interactive format of games only serves to emphasise the gap between virtual and real blood. Yes, even with pretty graphics and hi-def televisions. Virtual injuries are harmless learning experiences. Real injuries hurt like hell. It’s a big bloody difference.

Any video game that could potentially glamorise knife or violent crime is given at least a 15 rating by the BBFC, making it illegal for children to purchase. In other words, if impressionable kids are playing these games, someone in a position of responsibility has chosen to give it to them. Adults think twice about showing 18-rated films to teens but it happens, with no ill-effects. Games should be treated the same way.

Real violence has long-term consequences (ideally). Zero tolerance for violent crime is a good thing, as long as the resources are there to properly rehabilitate offenders, not just hide them away for a few short months or years.

People join gangs because they feel unsafe and seek a sense of community, belonging and protection. Until safe alternative communities are supported, prevalent and (crucially) fun, the violent gangs will prevail. What’s that? Gamers are safe in their living rooms and having fun with friends? Interesting idea…”

Here’s a scan of the printed version – The Evening Standard Reader’s Letters Page. Sure, it’s not exactly a feature article but they approached me and it’s in a prominent position, so I’m counting it as a win :)

What would you have said, had they asked you to weigh in on the debate?

One Comment

  1. Mr Butterscotch

    24th Jan, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I’d say that it’s yet another politician (albeit one in a position of absolute power) who knows very little, if anything at all, about the subject. The fact is that there’s not been any conclusive scientific link between violence and video games. I’m not even sure if there’s been a connection of the same type brought about between film and violence.

    What I will say though is that games must try harder to shake off this ‘for children’ image (which unfortunately Nintendo seems desperate to hold on to). This idea that games are for children means that the press can come out with garbage like Mass Effect having graphic sex scenes (which it does not) – http://kotaku.com/348187/ea-calls-fox-out-on-insulting-mass-effect-inaccuracies.

    I’m still hoping that this is all a passing phase due to games being the new media in town. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but let’s have informed debate rather than impassioned rhetoric from any angle. Most importantly, let’s make sure this debate is conducted in an educated way by all parties involved…