The Final Word

Reactions to the Byron Report dissected.

Published as part of our sister-site GamesIndustry.biz' widely-read weekly newsletter, the GamesIndustry.biz Editorial offers analysis of one of the issues weighing on the minds of the people at the top of the games business. It appears on Eurogamer after it goes out to GamesIndustry.biz newsletter subscribers.

In the wake of the publication of the long-awaited Byron Review into the effects on children of videogame and internet content (two subjects seemingly lumped together on the strength of the fact that most of our public representatives don't have the first clue about either of them), the world and its uncle seem to have stepped up to offer an opinion on the question of videogames.

In the case of Dr Byron herself, who gets the loudest voice in all of this, the opinion in question has, thankfully, been an enlightened, educated and informed one. In broad terms, she likes games, she supports the right of adults to enjoy adult-oriented content, she thinks the existing rating system is pretty sensible and she'd just like parents to be a bit more aware of it so that they can make more informed choices.

The reaction to the Byron Review in some parts of the media, however, has been rather less enlightened, much less educated, and barely informed at all. The Times Online saw author Giles Whittell comparing videogames to "smack and teenage pregnancy", and describing them as "a colossal waste of time" - although somewhere in his furious rant was buried the basic admission that he knows nothing about the medium, and refuses to learn.

The Telegraph, meanwhile, carried a piece from Jenny McCartney complaining about games in which one spends "long hours electronically rehearsing the prolonged agony and detailed humiliation of other human beings". Not exactly a scenario I recognise, unless you count the long hours I've spent learning to win at Mario Kart (something which generally results in my own prolonged agony and detailed humiliation at the hands of my opponents, sadly) - and it soon emerges that Ms McCartney is once again trotting out the line about games in which you play "the mass murderer, the torturer, the street thug, drug dealer or pimp".

Top marks, however, go to the Daily Mail - the UK's daily dose of fear and loathing for the terminally insecure - which invited Anne Diamond (a former British TV presenter) to give her "chilling verdict" on violent videogames.

Diamond, writing with the slightly disturbing fervour of someone who can't quite get a grip on the separation of reality from fiction, tells us that she stopped playing Clive Barker's Jericho when "I was set on fire and something splattered blood all over my visor". She goes on to opine that Resident Evil 4 "shouldn't be allowed to be sold, even to adults", because "when I played, I was stabbed to death with pitchforks amid fountains of my own blood."

Meanwhile, almost lost amidst the week's business was an interesting reminder of just how low some parts of the media are prepared to stoop in order to get a nasty headline about videogames - yes, even lower than asking Anne Diamond for her opinions. Nestled away on a talent-hunting site was an advert for a national newspaper willing to pay "hundreds of pounds" for the right person to contribute to a story they're planning. "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," continued the ad.

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