Entries from March 2008 ↓

The British gutter press are still after us


Will the tabloid newspapers ever grow up and realise that games are just another form of popular media? Judging by this story it seems to be unlikely to be any time soon. What we have is a casting website called StarNow which is used by all sorts of performers and their customers. It is also used by television and print media to find people for their stories.

So to anyone interested in games the following advert is a bit disturbing:

Did computer games make you turn to a life of crime?

Listing no. 63806 – All regions, UK
A national newspaper wants your story and will pay hundreds of pounds to the right person.
Write a few lines about how computer games turned you to crime and if it’s something we like, we’ll call you straight back.

Payment details: paid role

Created: 27 March 2008
Applications accepted for at least another month
Application criteria: Males & Females aged 0 to 60 from UK

So there you have it, a national newspaper will pay you hundreds of pounds if you help them stitch up the games industry. This is the standards of the British gutter press today. I can even have a good guess as to which newspaper this is.

Many thanks to willc for finding this.

Byron Review, conclusions


Now the dust has settled lets take a look at how things stand.

  • The review covered the wild west that is the internet (where, realistically the only answer is parent education) and the already very well governed area of video games. It is very strange that these two areas were bundled together in this way.
  • This has attracted an enormous amount of publicity, mainly on the gaming side of the review. This publicity will have done the game industry a lot of good and will have done a huge amount to bring the whole age ratings issue to a massive audience. The average parent will now be far more aware. This is all excellent.
  • The review had nothing bad to say about video gaming or the video game industry. Now when Gordon Brown spouts on about games causing knife crime or when Keith Vaz stands up in parliament and comes out with misinformed rubbish they can be refuted with their own report. They have been hoisted on their own petard. This is good as it gives sensible people ammunition to bang the anti game idiots over the head with. We should hear a lot less nonsense about video games now. (But don’t hold your breath for the Mail to ever see sense.)
  • The review wants game age ratings to be harmonised with film ratings (BBFC). Mainly so the logos look the same on the boxes. And also so the ratings have the power of law. This is silly on many levels. The game industry already has an excellent working rating system called PEGI, why fix something that isn’t broken? Also if games are to be harmonised with films then why not also books, popular music and television? Why throw this huge administrative and cost burden on the games industry, when it isn’t needed? And finally it is moving from PEGI, which is highly respected to BBFC which is somewhat less so, especially after the Manhunt 2 debacle.
  • Of course the ratings issue only applies to boxed games. When and if these proposals come into force in two years time how much boxed game industry will be left? Already it is almost certainly smaller than online gaming with the balance shifting further with every passing month. So the gaming age rating proposals in this report will be increasingly less relevant to the real world.
  • We wait the imminent publication of Grand Theft Chidhood which will have a far more significant effect on video gaming in society worldwide than the Byron Review.

Daily Mail / Anne Diamond stupidity


This takes the biscuit for lazy sensationalist reporting. In light of the Byron Review the Daily Mail paid Anne Diamond to play some violent video games  (which are clearly labelled as not being for children) and she discovered that they were violent. Sheer genius. Obviously she follows the party line, that is what they are paying her for. But the amazing thing is that there is no context whatsoever. 

I bet Anne Diamond sat in front of the TV when she was a kid and watched hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours of Tom and Jerry cartoons with their unremitting violence. Did this make her a bad person? Her article looks at six violent games. Why doesn’t she look at six violent books (with no age rating) and six violent films for comparison? The reason she doesn’t is because the books and films would be far worse and that doesn’t suit the Mail’s agenda.

Let’s pull their article apart paragraph by paragraph.

“Computer games will carry cinema-style age ratings to protect children from violent and sexual images.” Well I have news for the Daily Mail, games already carry age ratings and have done for many years. As the packs of the six games they have chosen clearly show.

“A report has warned of the potential of the Internet and violent console games to harm children.” They obviously read a different report to the one I read. This is just gross sensationalist misrepresentation.  The Mail doesn’t report this from the Byron Review: ” Games offer a range of opportunities for fun, learning and development”.  Because that would not suit their agenda. 

“Allowing children to play on computers unsupervised is as dangerous as letting them play outside on their own.” Firstly what is wrong with allowing children to play outside on their own? And secondly the Mail are deceitfully misrepresenting the Byron Review here. They are taking something that the review said about the internet and quote it as if the review said it about games. Which it didn’t.

“How many parents know what their teenagers are confronted with when spending hours in their bedrooms on the computer?” The answer to this one is easy. Just look at the pack. The same as when you let them watch a video. Also the Mail seems to think that gaming is just a solitary occupation for children. This is so far from reality that you wonder what planet they are on. The funny thing is that the article implies that Anne Diamond bought a 15 rated game for her 12 year old son.

The Daily Mail needs to grow up and look at reality. Games are just another entertainment media, mostly played by adults. All entertainment media can be bought with violence in them, games are no different. But the violence in games is far milder than the violence in books and films. And where there is violence it is very clearly flagged on the outside packaging. In a way that even Anne Diamond and the Daily Mail should be able to understand. But obviously can’t.

There are far more dangerous issues involved in rearing children than video games. Smoking and other killer drugs, for instance. And exposure to sensationalist misrepresenting media like the Daily Mail for another instance.

Join me on Linkedin


If you work in the video game industry please feel free to connect with me on Linkedin. I am an OpenLink networker and welcome all such connections. You can find my Linkedin profile here.

More on the Byron Review


The more you read the report itself and, more importantly, some of the media reaction, the more stupid all this is. You can download the full 226 page review here. Or the 12 page executive summary here.

The review seems more concerned about the internet than it is about games. And quite rightly too. There are forums, blogs and social networking sites full of all the very worst stuff that is hardly fit for right minded adults, never mind children. In comparison games and any problems they may cause pale into insignificance.

A supposed problem is protecting our children from any inappropriate in game material. But this just isn’t a problem. The game industry is brilliant at this sort of control. Far, far better than any other popular media. In fact we are over censorious, regularly giving higher age ratings to game content than the same content would get in a film. And remember that books have no age rating.

Currently all games are PEGI rated (which is the industry successfully self regulating itself) and 18+ games (which are a tiny minority) go on to be BBFC rated. Byron wants all games to be BBFC rated on the front of the packaging. And for most games to also have PEGI ratings on the back (that won’t confuse people). The reason she wants BBFC is that it carries the weight of law, whereas PEGI is a voluntary system.

So what she wants is for the industry to shoulder a huge administrative burden when the current system works perfectly well. Then the government want the video game industry to pay to educate the parents about the age rating system. Why should we? They tax us to run an orderly society, they should shoulder the burden if they want to run a propaganda campaign.

The thing is that kids don’t buy games with inappropriate age ratings, they get their parents to do it. And the parents are happy to, even knowing what the content is. Because they see that it causes no harm to their children. So changing from PEGI to BBFC will have zero effect. Other than costing the industry a fortune.

The press reaction to the Byron Review has been massive, far more than I expected. And much of this is just sensationalist misreporting. Journalists grinding out their own agenda with no regard for the facts. The Daily Mail, for instance said “The government-commissioned report says video games can harm the development of children’s beliefs and value systems and desensitise them to violence”. This is a total lie which deceives and misleads it’s readers. The Daily Mail, in behaving like this, is far more dangerous to society than video games.

This Tanya Byron Lunacy


So, the long awaited report is out and it is stupid.

So there we have it. A sad day for politics and another sad day for the British gaming industry.

Eight news stories 27.3