Once again I am writing while gripped in the throes of a dark depression.
Yes, I read a tragic story in the news today, a story that places video games firmly at the centre of another epic catastrophe. Brace yourselves; it’s going to make your heart bleed with anguish when I tell you what happened.
Andy Murray, that famous and talented tennis player, has broken up with his girlfriend, Kim Sears.
I know, I know. You must be devastated. Especially by the fact that video games are at fault. No, I don’t blame you for instantly rushing to eBay to sell your Wii / PS3 / Xbox 360/ PC. Obviously this crushing information has made a lightbulb go off in your head making you realise that gaming is going to destroy your life. It’s ok, go ahead. Just don’t undercut me, ok?
People wonder why gamers can get a little bit whiny. Well, we get whiny because the rest of the world feels this overwhelming compulsion to smash our favourite toy against a rock whenever they have a problem they can’t solve.
World peace is just not happening. It’s video games!
The recession is tightening its grip, worst in history! Must be the video game industry. Valve probably destroyed the banking system from within with their pet zombies and a crowbar.
However, as my thoughts sank into a dark place with lots of revenge swirling about I discovered something else. Something that wrenched me away from the catastrophic horror that is Kim Sears and Andy Murray and their £5 million mansion.
The Entertainment Software Ratings Board, that which we more commonly call the ESRB, has taken a huge step in the “please, take responsibility for yourself” direction. They’ve released a new iPhone app that has all their written gaming summaries on it. Over 18,000 video game ratings, reviews and summaries all right there at parental fingertips.
Now people can amble into the shops, access the app and find out more than just “M” or “Teen” for the rating. For example, Sims 3 returned a Teen rating with content described as Crude Humor (aargh American spelling!), Sexual Themes and Violence and had a more detailed analysis that would give the newbie an excellent idea as to what the game is about.
This is exactly the kind of proactive attitude that the gaming industry needs to adopt in order to start controlling the way people perceive them. Multi-million pound industry or not, it can be destroyed if the wrong people decide it should go.
By ensuring that parents, kids, teachers and “those in charge” have instantaneous access to the right information about a game you’re putting the ball firmly in their court. While this app is not yet available for the Android or other smart phones, there is a mobile site that can be accessed easily enough. It’s not as convenient as the iPhone, sure, but it does the job.
Personally I’m hoping that this may be one small step in the direction of making people take responsibility for themselves AND their children. I’m heartily sick and tired of hearing about how traumatised Little Johnny was when he played a game rated M that he asked Mommy to buy. How about Mommy picks up the box and reads it before she summarily hands it over?
Time to start accepting that your actions have consequences and that it’s ridiculous to level blame at an industry that’s trying to help you make informed decisions.
If you buy the wrong games for your kids it’s your fault. Deal with it. I don’t want to anymore.
I also don’t want to read anymore exceedingly stupid headlines that blame games for the ills of the world. When I examined the Andy Murray feature a little more closely it does say that Kim had other reasons for leaving Andy than his penchant for gaming.
However, thanks to the uproar about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, some media seem to think that slapping the term video game into the headline is going to get a puerile and random feature more attention. This is not a true reflection of the market.
Where are the stories of people who got together while playing epic sessions of an MMO? There have been some of those. Aren’t they as newsworthy? The fact that Alexey Pajitnov plays WoW as a female elf merited only a spasm on the media-oh-meter.
So he’s possibly not as obviously famous as Andy Murray but the man invented Tetris! Everybody’s played Tetris. I spent at least an hour chuckling away and wondering what server he was on. I want to play with Alexey’s elf.
I’m not sure if it’s any use to rant and rage about a world that seems determined to scrape every last morsel of bad out of something I love, but I'm going to keep trying. Books were burned, TVs were vilified and now its our turn. One day this will change and another will take it’s place but, until then, I’m going down fighting.