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Games the scapegoat… again


What is it with the way that the mainstream media perceives videogames? Why can’t it get over the fact that games aren’t just played by fat, spotty teenagers, locked in their darkened bedrooms for hours on end? There’s probably a simple explanation: it’s a cliché that people who don’t game assume about gamers and their habits and so the media uses it to talk to those people.

Hence a new government health ad aimed at highlighting the growing problem of obesity, diabetes and other debilitating diseases.

In the ad, a teenager is seen playing a game, holding what looks suspiciously like a PlayStation controller. The caption reads, “Risk death, just do nothing.” It is, frankly, insulting.

The global games market was worth around £18 billion last year and the UK market represented about £4 billion slice of that. In fact, growth has been so good over the past couple of years, it has just overtaken Japan as the world’s second-largest games market.

Now, I don’t know how much the government takes from this £4 billion in taxes, but I’m willing to guess that it runs into the tens of millions of pounds. And, on top of that, the games industry is one of the few industries in the UK that has seen growth in a time of recession, something, I think, should be celebrated and invested in. But how does the British government treat it? By portraying games as a cause of obesity in children. Brilliant.

Lazy? Probably. Irresponsible? Certainly. Small-minded? Yes. Legally actionable? Well, that’s the question. It seems that certain elements in the UK games industry have spoken up against the ad.

TIGA, the trade organisation that represents European game developers, had this to say, “This advert is absurd and insulting in equal measure. To imply that playing a videogame leads to a premature rendezvous with the Grim Reaper is a non-sequitur of colossal proportions.” It has lodged a formal complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority.

Meanwhile, sources indicate that Sony is considering suing over the use of a PlayStation controller in the ad.

We’ll see what happens but while videogaming has done much in recent years to shrug off that image of the fat, spotty teenage gamer it looks like it’ll be sometime before it’s represented fairly by some areas of the media.

The ad is part of the campaign “Change4life” and the website can be found here.

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  • Hazy

    Oh dear… what about more passive forms of entertainment such as listening to music and of course… reading?
    I guess by studying for exams we are also heading towards an early demise.