COMMENT: Are we normal?

COMMENT: Are we normal?
Having charmed the industry with her thoroughly modern views on gaming, it was clear that Byron was keen to stress gaming’s positive associations. But cut to three weeks later, she’s drawing vague and potentially damaging comparisons between gaming and drug addiction.

If you didn’t see Am I Normal? – a graduate from the school of self-explanatory TV show titles which brought us I Am The Elephant Man and Britain’s Hairiest Dwarves – let me explain.

Voiced by the lovely Tanya herself in her best ‘concerned mother’ tone, the theme was addiction. There were numerous links between brain activity within video game users and drug addicts – the kind of negative associations that the Byron Review was intended to vanquish forever. All the classic TV tricks were in there.

One sequence cut straight from a gaming addict to a shot of someone cooking up a nice hit of heroin, providing a handy visual reminder of the slippery slope we are all faced with.

Like smokers working in a cigarette factory, those of us who play games as well as ply their trade in this industry are surely the most susceptible to such a terrible, destructive addiction. But of course none of us are Warcraft-obsessed nutters. Well, not all of us at least.

The number of people with video game addiction compared to the vast number of people playing video games for fun is miniscule. And yet this week, Tanya Byron, Official Friend Of The Industry, is on the BBC thrusting games-addicted unfortunates into the media glare, re-enforcing all the classic games stereotypes. It was pretty disappointing.

What the games industry wanted from the Byron Review was a solution to the issues surrounding violent video games and their classification. We didn’t really get it, and also got lumbered with some half-baked ideas about a campaign to educate the consumer about age ratings. Which no-one wants to pay for, by the way.

Watching Byron’s documentary this week made things worse. It left me with the feeling that somehow we’ve all been strung along and nothing’s going to change at all.

Thanks for the memories Tanya, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be...

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