11 December, 2007
Games under fire
I've been hearing a lot on the news over the past two days about "abuse" in on-line console games. The investigation by reporters highlighted the kind of verbal abuse possible with on-line games, especially those that allow voice communication.
Interviews with gamers give more specific examples of the abuse. One person tells us that he has heard people talking about his family, other people's families and "the N word".
When asked about it, Sony say that they have no way of stopping such behaviour in their games and much was made by the reporters about the games and consoles using the Internet, facilitating and enabling such abuse and also that it could be directed at children.
My own research has found even more worrying evidence of such abuse. Using an even more prevalent medium than the internet, some games [1,2] have no control at all. Many games rely on the common method of air compression and rarification to allow communication between players, offering absolutely no control over content. I have even experienced such "abuse" not only about my family, but often by my family.
More worrying still are games that reward such abuse. One game in particular  awards 8 points for using "the N word", while giving a player only 7 points for the word "love" and a measly 5 points for "God".
Even worse, this game and many others are regularly sold to children. This Christmas, many parents will be giving these games as gifts to their children, unaware of the total lack of control exercised by the creators when it comes to player-to-player communication.
I think it's clear that we need much more rigorous regulation of such communications. If the games companies admit to having no control, have no desire to implement it and wilfully allow this kind of abuse to be directed at the public and it's children, the government should step in to enforce it. If the government won't step in and control what we say, who will? Who's responsible?
Please, won't somebody think of the children?