National Video Game Summit Agenda Details

The National Institute on Media & Family and Iowa State University have jointly released the agenda for their upcoming National Summit on Video Games, Youth and Public Policy.

The event, scheduled for October 20-21 in Minnesota will feature a number of well-known academics, many of whom have expressed concerns about either video game content issues or video game ratings. According to a press release, the summit will focus on "concerns regarding video game ratings and children’s access to violent and sexually explicit games." Although it is believed that ESRB president Patricia Vance was invited, no video game industry officials are listed as participating. Here’s the agenda: 


  • Welcome and overview, Dr. Douglas Gentile, Iowa State University Center for the Study of Violence
  • Plenary Session: “The Future of Game Technology” Presenter: TBA
  • Plenary Session: "Violent Video Games: Effects and Public Policy" Presenter: Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D. Iowa State University Center for the Study of Violence
  • Ratings, Research & Policy Panel: Dale Kunkel, Ph.D. University of Arizona, Joanne Cantor, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Kim Thompson, Sc.D. Harvard School of Health, Douglas Gentile, Ph.D. Iowa State University-Center for the Study of Violence
  • Education Policy Panel: Dorothy Singer, Ph.D. Yale University, Joy Asamen, Ph.D. Pepperdine University, Susan Hale, Ph.D. Pennsylvania State University, Karen Dill, Ph.D. Lenoir-Rhyne College
  • Legislative Policy Panel: Jeff McIntyre, American Psychological Association, Kevin Saunders, J.D., Ph.D. Michigan State University, Michael Rich, M.D. Harvard School of Health, Catherine Ross, J.D. George Washington University Law School
  • Public Officials: not known yet, but NIMF historically has had close ties with Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT)

The agenda also has time built in for media interviews as well as breakout sessions for discussion groups. NIMF president Dr. David Walsh (left) will close the summit with a plenary session entitled "Call for Action”

A press release lists the summit’s goals as:

  • review current and emerging trends related to video game rating systems, education policy and government regulation
  • determine the accuracy and independence of video game ratings
  • recommend a 10-year action agenda based on the summit’s conclusions.


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  1. 0
    thefremen says:

    How did he backstab us? He’s been a good enemy throughout. Always there to hate on video games. He just doesn’t hate on gamers as much, just looks on us condescendingly.

  2. 0
    Juggernautz ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yeah, Box Office + DVD combined do produce more total revenue, but not by much. Also, as every statistical survey, there is probably a lot of margin of error. Interesting to know whether the VG revenue is counting online sales (Steam etc.) and MMORPG revenue. If so, Blizzard would be a giant chunk of that revenue.

  3. 0
    Marshie says:

    @Juggernautz: Whoa, I was unaware of how close we were… Though Box Office + DVD Rentals and Sales do beat us, and I wonder what the movie figure would be if you accounted for concession sales at the box office.

  4. 0
    Marshie says:

    @ Beacon: Yep, I am. Thus, the irony of every single person who holds the MPAA up as an example of government legislated ratings when it’s proving the exact OPPOSITE point: That self-regulated ratings can and do work.

  5. 0
    Juggernautz ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Also, it says there is time for media interviews and breakout sessions. Any hope of GP getting in there and arguing on the behalf of the many millions of gamers and game developers worldwide? I’d love to go, but the flight from Oz to US is a little pricey. And besides, I have to make games :)

  6. 0
    Juggernautz says:

    Handofcrom makes some extremely valid arguments. When compared to the movie industry, games are considered a childish bastard offspring.

    The movie industry does not dwarf the games industry at all. In fact games are the single largest entertainment industry in terms of revenue (bar gambling). Also interesting to note that revenue from books and literature is more than DVDs. Who woulda thunk it? 😛

    Grabbed these stats from

    Note that games revenue is higher than both DVD sales and Box Office revenue by over 4 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money. The problem is that the games industry has a LOT of financial weight, but next to no support from the powers-that-be.

  7. 0
    Yukimura sanada ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Actually, there are laws specificly covering slander,liebel, and defamation in the USA, which can be used to force retractions ,as seen by the WWF vs PTC, in which they forced Brent Bozel to retract statments made against the WWF, now the WWE.

    While it would be a tough case, thats not the point, the point is, and this is something alot of you miss, is that they threat of lawsuits would be enough to stem the tide of lies and misinformation. Win or lose, the mere idea that they could face a lawsuit for what they say would be enough to start things like Fact checking, verification, and so forth, as well as get the media to do the same.

    Like I said, i hate having to apply such sever methods ,but it may be the only way to get this crap to stop.

    The courts have been behind the industry since day one, now we need to work on stopping media lies, and the Jack Thompsons of the world.

  8. 0
    HandofCrom ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m mystified by these folks constantly harp the ESRB for things they let slide in movies.
    – Ratings: The ESRB ratings are much more descriptive and obvious than the ratings for movies. On cases for movies, the rating is really tiny and on the back, and has no further description. On games, it is very noticeable, on both sides, and has descriptors of why it received said rating. However, they complain the ESRB is unclear.
    – Violence: Again, people harp on how many people you can kill in video games. They do not take into account that in some games, you could go on a murder spree, or you could be completely pacifistic. Also, they complain about the realistic violence in games, which is cartoony in comparison to the gore in movies, but are silent about movies.
    – Sex: These folks always claim there is graphic sex in games. Actual pornography is ridiculously rare in games, and is already going to fall under current pornography laws. In games like GTA or Fallout, there is no visual sex. The car rocks in the former, and the screen goes black in the latter (I am going to get to Hot Coffee later). Compare that to movies or public access television, with people hopping into bed with each other constantly.
    – Hidden content: Detractors of the ESRB cite Hot Coffee as proof it is broken. Rather, it shows the strength and effectiveness of the ESRB. When content was slipped by them, even in an inaccessable form, they forced the producer to take action to correct the error, citing Take Two had broken contract with them. Compare this to the MPAA. Hot Coffee may have been “hidden” in an M-rated game, but Disney has a nasty track record of hiding frames of pornography in G-rated movies. These frames are automatically accessed as it is ran, and you don’t need third-party mods to access them. However, the MPAA has never done a damn thing about it.

  9. 0
    Mike says:

    @ Jabrwok

    You have a point, to be sure. More than anything, better PR and more awareness are the main things they need.

    I’m now saying they have to completely overhaul the system, but it needs some work. I think making some tangible changes (not just piddly stuff), combined with getting the word out about those changes, could do a world of good for the industry and the ESRB. John Davison made a great point on the 1 Up Yours podcast after the “Oblivion” re-rating a few months ago. It initially got a T rating, but as John pointed out, it would only take 8 to 10 hours of gameplay (out of what, 100 or 200 possible?) to tell that it’s clearly an M game. Publishers, too, need to just be more up front about what’s in the games. I’m sure the vast majority are, but some may not be.

    It’s about ethics — both on the industry’s part and on the part of attention-grabbing politicians.

  10. 0
    Blitz Fitness ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    To any GP contributors or readers:

    I know action plans for x amount of years after a conference/convention is nothing new, however, I was curious about two things. First, I have two jobs that I was involved in understanding the action plans, Job A would consistently have a completely new action plan every so often that never even touched base on it’s predecessor, whereas, Job B would create their goals, and bring up the failed or incomplete ones (at least for discussion purposes) the next time.

    So hears what I was hoping. Is it possible to have someone reseach and create an editorial grading the NIMF on this? For example, what were their previous goals? Did they fulfill them? Any extra information about them. Whether or not they were addressed again? Things like that.

  11. 0
    Beacon ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Marshie
    According to most people who hold the opinion, the MPAA is superior to the ESRB because it’s regulated by the government.
    Just to confirm, you are aware that the MPAA is, in fact, not regulated by the government, right?

  12. 0
    Timmy says:

    kurisu7885: That would be great actually, Walsh and the NIMF publicly and loudly cut ties to Thompson and he had a meltdown in the GP comments a while back. He even, surprise surprise, tried to get Walsh in legal trouble over the slap.

  13. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Zerodash Says:
    I still don’t understand how the MPAA is superior to the ESRB. Where’s the heat?

    It’s because of the stigma that videogames are just for kids, whereas movies can be for all ages. That and the fact that movie are squeaky clean. I mean, they’ve never stuck hidden images of topless women in a Disney kids cartoon, right? erm…

    Plus there’s that whole “interactiveness” BS, although that was supposedly why TV was bad for kids, because it WASN’T interactive, so they had no control over the message…

  14. 0
    Marshie says:

    According to most people who hold the opinion, the MPAA is superior to the ESRB because it’s regulated by the government. The real reason the MPAA doesn’t take any heat is twofold:

    1) As I understand it, the MPAA has already dealt with legislation very similar to the anti-gaming legislation currently going on and they won and kept winning until the idea of challenging the MPAA through unconstitutional means became unpopular with taxpayers because it was a waste of money. I don’t think they had quite so many attackers, but they were under fire for a time. In truth, they are self-regulated and industry sponsored just like the ESRB.

    2) The movie industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. As formidable an economic force as the game industry is, the movie industry dwarfs it. Legislating the MPAA doesn’t really touch on any politician’s head because the MPAA makes campaign donations on both sides of the fence and they have enough money that no one state wants to piss them off and potentially take money away from cities which currently enjoy local filming from Hollywood. Even a small-budget Hollywood film can inject a few million into a town’s economy and no politician wants to lose that or they’ll have very unhappy constituents. Politicians with very unhappy constituents don’t really last long.

  15. 0
    Theory ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    * Welcome and overview: Here we will introduce each other and kiss ass until our noses bleed.

    * Plenary Session: “The Future of Game Technology”: A quick overview of the evolution of video games from their origins as plastic dough-baking simulators to full-fledged humanoid killing machines

    * Plenary Session: “Violent Video Games: Effects and Public Policy”: In this seminar we will examine the effects of public policy on violent video games…or maybe its the other way around…but backwards.

    * Ratings, Research & Policy Panel: Here we will discuss our policy on research. Seminar will only be 12 seconds long.

    * Education Policy Panel: Seminar has been cancelled due to lack of funding and public interest

    * Legislative Policy Panel: Bring a pillow, this one may take a while.

    * Public Officials: not known yet…I don’t even need to edit that.

  16. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Two words come to mind unfortunately,

    Kangaroo and Court. Considering NIMF’s already well known statements regarding the Computer Game Genre in general, I cannot see any kind of unbiased opinion coming out of this, mores the pity.

  17. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I agree that the ESRB needs to do a bit more to ensure they are taken seriously, but there’s only so much you can do in the realms of ensuring the ratings reflect actual game content. The SEC doesn’t audit every publicly traded company every year. They audit those that they are currently investigating, or have concerns about, and they hold the threat of major fines over all the companies to in theory encourage them to report honestly. The fact that many companies still don’t tells me the fines aren’t high enough, and are only levelled at the company, not those responsible. But that’s the side effect of incorporation.

    The ESRB has done this already by holding investigations into game content when there’s a concern, and increasing their fines to an amount that would put a serious dent in profits if a company tried to sneak something by.

    I think they should have begun a PR campaign that reminded parents that such fines and investigations are in place to help ensure the honesty of the ratings. Instead they just told Congress.

  18. 0
    Mike says:

    I think some change needs to come to the ESRB. I actually think this kind of attention is good, if it gets the ESRB to do more thorough reviews of games. Sam Brownback is off the mark by suggesting they play ALL of a game before rating it, but playing most or at least a good chunk needs to happen before they rate a game. If the ESRB and retail can clean up their act just a little, then conferences and critics like these dont’ have a leg to stand on.

    Yukimura – you have a nice thought, but the game industry can’t force anyone to retract anything via lawsuit. These guys are going to say what they want, and you know what people like Craig Anderson are going to say. I only hope that if this event is covered by the MSM, they’ll take the time to find someone from the real world, not an ivory tower, to talk about the true effects games have on real life, which — besides a little wasted time — is not much.

  19. 0
    PlayfulPuppy ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Just had a quick visit to the Colorado ‘Center for the Study of Violence’ website, and it’s quite clear where they stand within the very first sentence:

    “Violence in America has reached epidemic proportions.”

    Now, violent crime in America is certainly a major issue, but welcoming visitors to your site with that phrase makes the CSV come across more as fear-mongerers than academics.

    The agenda certainly doesn’t seem to be promoting a balanced forum, however. Reading through the speakers and what they represent, it appears that this is going to be nothing more than a soapbox conference. My viewpoint on these sort of things is tainted from previous experiences, sure, but I’m certainly not holding out hope for these people to express concern in finding root causes as much as merely seeing what can be logically (Not scientifically) attributed to violent games.

    The fact of the matter is, until they can show that violent crime has indeed risen a uncharactaristic amount since the introduction and public acceptance of video games (Mid 1970s, 1990s and today would be good sample points), then they don’t have a case as far as I’m concerned. They seem to be putting far too much weight in logical arguments (In this case, observation of actions encouraging replication of actions) rather than scientific data. Logical arguments are a bad cause to follow explicitly, as almost every logical argument has a logical counterpoint (In this case, observation of actions satiating the pursuit of actions). Scientific data has a much more solid footing, being that it relies on carefully recorded data, which while it can be interpreted differently for different causes, does not deteriorate over time. Over a period of 30 years, we should be able to see common trends and how the prominence of games relates to the frequency and verocity of crimes committed.

    Yet we don’t hear of such data from the anti-game crowd. The pro-game crowd has brought it up several times, and essentially had their arguments ignored by the other parties. While a straight comparison of the data is not an accurate gauge of their relation (Game sales are influenced purely by the sale of games, crime has many, many contributing factors), through careful analasis it should be possible to identify trends in both sets. If similarities are found, then it will assist the creation of accurate censorship legislation. If no trends are found, then how could it be said that violent games are a direct contributing factor?

    We need more basis and less hyperbole.

  20. 0
    Marshie says:

    Now for some added fun… Marshie predicts the course of the summit!

    Goal #1: “review current and emerging trends related to video game rating systems, education policy and government regulation”

    This one will be simple for them, of course. There be frightening CHANGE here, people! The games, they’re taking over our brains! The ESRB isn’t ruling every aspect of a parent’s control over a child so of course they’re not doing enough! Education is becoming a bigger problem (even as the government slashes the Education budget, which is an entirely unrelated factor, of course), and the government just doesn’t have enough control! The ESRB needs to be watched by the government, just like the MPAA is (again, ignoring the fact that the MPAA is NOT watched by the government).

    Goal 2: “determine the accuracy and independence of video game ratings”

    Hey this one is easy! Vague indicators like Green, Yellow and Red need to be put in place instead of vague identifiers like Mature 17+, Teen 13+, and Everyone. Colours identify the content of a game much better than paltry content descriptors!

    Goal 3: “recommend a 10-year action agenda based on the summit’s conclusions.”

    Another easy one. After two days of whining about the ESRB, the members of the summit will realize that maybe they should come up with a plan. This plan will likely involve monkeys and blaming the ESRB for all of the problems of today, with a vague plan which involves replacing the ESRB with “something” better. This “something” will either be either vaguely defined or be a carbon copy of the ESRB ratings after they’ve been run through a Thesaurus.

    I might be wrong, but those would be the long odds on that bet.

  21. 0
    aniki21 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    ijed Says:
    This ’summit’ is just another opportunity for politcal posturing and a means to an end.

    That would be true, if it actually brought us any closer to an “end”. Realistically, it’s a means to a means.

  22. 0
    aniki21 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Yeah, I just did a quick google for a bunch of them, and they do seem to be generally child psychologists with expertise in the effects on children of violent/sexual/racial* content in media.

    Rather disappointing, frankly. This is a place where there could have been some reasonable, worthwhile debate on the issues of videogames ratings, how best to educate parents and what tactics to use in the retail sector.

    Instead, it’ll be endless parades of agenda psychologists preaching rhetoric to the choir.

    (*delete as applicable)

  23. 0
    Marshie says:

    Looks like it’s going to be yes-men, for the most part. Most of them have “expressed concern” over the current ratings system, and with the dual evils of Clinton and Lieberman potentially on call I don’t see this thing being balanced.

    Especially since we’re not seeing any well-known ratings system defenders on the list. Given that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Vance had declined an invitation. Last time she tried to be reasonable with these people and have a rational discussion she wound up being viciously attacked from all sides with no real chance to defend herself and her organization and no rational thought from her aggressors. The ESRB’s opponents have not proven themselves to be fair, or even honest in the past. I don’t see them doing so for this summit.

  24. 0
    aniki21 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Out of interest, is anybody aware how many of these guests could be considered “neutral”, or is it going to be a bunch of yes-men all getting together to blame Evil Video Games for all the world’s ills?

  25. 0
    Marshie says:

    The only game which comes to mind is perhaps God of War… and even that isn’t so much sexually explicit as it is very, VERY suggestive. Most sexually explicit games are homebrewed things not under the jurisdiction of the ESRB.

  26. 0
    ijed ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    ‘the poor old games industry’ give me a break – the politicians and thier hangers on are welcome to continue thier idiocy in some misdirected drive to gain votes / status / crack whore. I’ve worked in the games industry for a while now and we’re all far more preoccupied with the reality of making games and if someone slandered one of our games specifically without reference then they’d be sued by the wankers in the management team – it’d be like the golden goose with diarrhea to them.

    There are companies who court this type of publicity with a very shrewd / manipulative slant, but thats another thread. (Whoops! Hot Coffee? How did that get in there?)

    This ‘summit’ is just another opportunity for politcal posturing and a means to an end. I’m pretty sure that the final report produced from this will be condensable into a single half-page of A4. But will originally be a 400 page book.

  27. 0
    ChrowX ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Quick question to everyone… What sexually explicit games are they talking about? GTA:SA aside (though that barely counts since you have to hack the game to get said content) I can’t really think of any games that are shoving sex into young kids’ faces. the fact that this summit is based on bashing the ESRB because of the left over effects of the hot coffee scandal pretty much means it’s not even worth paying attention to in the first place.

    How many of these people actually understand that GTA:SA wasn’t rated AO (or any other rating that’s supposed to keep it from young children) because the content was not accessible.

    I understand the issue of exposing young children to overly violent media (There were parents who brought their very young children to see Jackass 2, for instance) but tagging ‘Sexually explicit’ next to video games doesn’t make any sense.

  28. 0
    Marshie says:

    While I’m no Shaun, I do believe that if this bit about how much the ratings fail continues the ESRB would have a case. Implying that the ratings fail implicates the ESRB in the slander and libel these people spout by simple virtue of the fact that the only nationally recognized ratings system for video games is the ESRB. It’d be like saying “A United States President currently in power” instead of “George Bush”… regardless of the fact his name isn’t explicitly mentioned, there’s nobody else it could be.

    Then again, the ESRB probably has better things to do then launch frivilous lawsuits against their detractors. Especially since most of their detractors have the lawyers and political clout to wiggle their way free of any lawsuit, or at least drag it on long enough that the costs start to outweigh the benefits.

  29. 0
    Yukimura sanada ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Not if any specific statement they make is incorrect or in some way defames the industry or a company. Now, opinion, specificly stated, is fine. opinion stated as fact with out evidance, is slander, or liebel depending on if it is spoken or written. Stateing, for example that that school shooting are caused by games would reguire some form of proof. Every school shooting, the police rule out games as a cause. Another example is saying research has found a casual link between games and violence. Dennis already proved that was wrong.

    While your partially right, it’s not a matter of specifics but a matter of facts. Anything that is specificly a lie, or has no backing to go with it, is actinoable, though it might be an unlikely case to make. It’s not the case itself that I want, it’s the fear of legal actions. I’ve had enough of these guys getting away with lies left and right. maybe if there own buts are at stake, they will wise up.

  30. 0
    Zerodash ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This conference is just a load of crap every time- they never get anything new accomplished and just bash on the ‘evil’ game industry regardless of the facts. Don’t let Walsh’s manners fool you either- he speaks of the Columbine RPG as a product of the commercial games industry.

    I still am waiting for a REAL conference on this issue in which real, productive dialogue takes place. Then, perhaps the ESA can participate and get something constructive accomplished for a change.

  31. 0
    dagrak ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think they can only issue legal action if a specific company/game is named. Most of the time they just generalise, so no individual is being got at, just everyone as a whole. I guarantee the second they say something which can be used against them then it will

  32. 0
    Yukimura sanada ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I hate to sound like a broken record, but, this is what the Industry should do. Monitor this event very carefully one way or another, and mark down anyone who make any statement that is an outright lie or defamatory. When the summit is over, the present Dr. Walsh with a notice of intent to file a lawsuit if these statements are not immediatly retracted.

    I think some people would get the hint after that. The industry should stop rolling over and letting these assholes do whatever they want.

    On a side note,while I normally have no issue with Dr walsh and have had some excellent correspondance with him in the past, this reeks of agendizing for political benifit and the fact that no one in the industry is participating proves it. As does Dr. andersons pressance, as he’s had his researched debunked and rebuked in court multiple times.

    Anyone know where this will be? And I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I intend to Write Dr. walsh and see why he’s putting anderson on that panel. Most of the others I don’t have to much of a problem with, though i feel Kim thompson might have been a bad choice. I feel that this summit is clearly biased and has a single agenda. To beat on the industry.

    So, I say, maybe it’s time the industry started beating back.

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