A campaign that's caused outrage in the video game industry will be allowed to continue running after winning a battle against its critics. Its message is clear. If you let your children play computer games, they'll die early.
The alarming poster began appearing in women's magazines at the beginning of the year. It's part of a government and charity-funded campaign called Change4life, which was set up to fight the mounting obesity crisis in the UK. On March 6, the Market for Home Computer and Video Games (MCV magazine) filed an official complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), in which they called the printed ad "hugely unfair and unrepresentative of the positive effect video games have on the UK's youth", citing that hundreds of small businesses would suffer from the "grossly inaccurate" campaign. But on Wednesday, the ASA stated that it would not be taking any action against the campaign. In a separate development however, there are rumours that Japanese company Sony, which owns PlayStation, is considering legal action over the use of a controller which is similar to their own.
Parody of the poster
The TV ad from the campaign
"The campaign's message is not clear and that's why it is badly received"
Christelle Andrès is director of the Research centre into excessive game playing in Nantes, France.
This campaign does not take into account anything researchers currently know about video games. To say that playing games can lead to premature death is not supported by any evidence we have so far.
We still have very little scientific research to look back on in terms of the direct effects of this activity. And to feature such a young child, sitting in that morbid atmosphere, has nothing to do with reality. Video games cause problems mainly with young adults and even then it only affects a small minority of them.
The campaign's message is not clear and that's why it is badly received. Playing video games is not the only activity to blame for sedentary existence and health risks. If the industry responded with such outcry, it's because they're constantly being discriminated against and with accusations that hold no scientific basis. They end up closing up while we should be encouraging them into a politics of responsible gaming."
"This ad would have been much more powerful if it had shown a child watching mindless television"
Helen Claire Routledge, 27, has been playing computer games since she can remember. She now works as a Serious Games designer in Coventry, UK. She set up the Facebook group Change4life - Time to fight back.
This contradicts what the Serious Games (SG) community and the commercial games industry has been working towards for many years. We promote the use of games and game technology for positive uses, such as for education, training and social and political awareness. We have been exploring engaging and motivating aspects of game play. While we have plenty of good news stories and research backing up the fact that using games can lead to higher retention rates, improved skills, and improved social abilities, for children, adults and even surgeons, the message does not reach far outside of the games community. What this advert has done, is reach a wide audience, who already have a negative view of gaming. It has damaged the perception of games even more, and completely ignores any possible positive affects from using video games.
This ad would have been much more powerful if it had shown a child watching mindless television, as at least with games, the player is using cognitive processes such as problem solving and reasoning. Of course, as with any sedentary activity, there is a risk of weight gain. If you sat in class all day listening to the teacher or just read books, it would be just as unhealthy."