Not all games are bad for kids. Or, so says Scott Steinberg and a litany of game experts, in his latest article for CNN, “Why does the media still think video games are bad for kids?” I totally agree, but when it comes to violent games, is that really the point?
Violence in games is once again in the news as the Supreme Court plans to review the constitutionality of a California law making it illegal to sell violent games to minors later this year.
What’s often missing out in the debate, according to Steinberg, is that adults play the majority of video games and the majority of games played by children are actually good for you.
He compares a kid passively watching television to a kid playing a game, where the child can learn lateral thinking and decision-making skills. In addition, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has conducted a study that shows that 63% of parents believe that games are positive to children. Admittedly, though, the ESA could be biased; it would be like asking the oil industry to conduct a study on how bad the oil spill really is in the Gulf of Mexico (hint: it’d probably be positive).
I totally agree with Steinberg that not all games are bad for kids. If it’s a casual game or any game as viewed on Gamezebo (since, our slogan is, “We love casual games”) it’s highly likely the game will not harm the well-being of children, as long as they are not being played ten hours a day.
I do think, however, it’s a moot point when it comes to violence in video games. Regardless of whether most games (and pretty much all casual games) help your child learn and become a better person, it does not negate the fact that some games are ultra-violent and should be not be sold to under-age children or without the parent’s permission, in the same way alcohol or R-rated movies are regulated in this country.
A hundred hidden object games will do you no harm but a game where you are killing, shooting, and maiming should not be sold cart blanche to anyone, because it’s “cool” and the video games industry makes billions of dollars a year.
Industry-sponsored studies aside, I remember the first time I played Grand Theft Auto. After five hours straight of running red lights over pedestrians virtually, I had to get in my car to run an errand. As I approached a stop sign, I remember thinking, if this was Grand Theft Auto, I’d run it! Of course, I obeyed the rules of the road, but the fact that thought popped in my head for even a second and I was an adult, displayed to me how influential playing a game could be.
I do not think it does the games industry any service whatsoever for the Electronic Software Association (ESA) to be arguing against the state of California to require parents to give permission to buy a violent game for a minor.
In fact, I have no clue why the ESA even exists or is relevant to the casual games industry. The ESA represents video game companies that make billions of dollars selling games (of which many are violent). They do not represent parents. They do not represent children. They do not represent independent game developers. And surely, they do not represent or even care whatsoever about the casual games industry.
What we need is an association of our own, just for casual games, to represent us. We already have a Casual Games Association that runs amazing conferences (such as Casual Connect, just last week) and publishes helpful research. But, I think it would be great if they took it to the next step, and started charge dues and represent the casual games industry legislatively.
As casual games take over the entire video games industry through the iPhone, Facebook, and online, the casual games industry needs to be represented by an entity that knows we exist rather than an association that is fighting the battles of yesterday that are completely irrelevant to us.
We need more articles like the one written by Scott Steinberg that showcases the positive impact of games on children and people. But, we also need less infighting within the casual games industry and more cooperation to get this most excellent point across to the politicians and the public.