Game-induced Epilepsy Debated in Parliament

The House of Commons yesterday debated the merits of requiring game developers to ensure that their software won’t cause players to experience epileptic seizures, reports Spong.

The issue was raised by Conservative John Penrose after a constituent’s son experienced what is known as photosensitive epilepsy (PSE) while playing Ubisoft’s Rayman Raving Rabbids. Penrose argued:

A couple of games-makers, notably Ubisoft, with which I have been in contact, have decided voluntarily and admirably to apply the sort of screening that I am suggesting to their games… and I hope that many other games manufacturers will follow their example. 

The point is that some games manufacturers may decide to do that, but there is a huge number of games-makers and manufacturers throughout the world. Some are large and responsible, such as Ubisoft, but as in any industry, there is a large number of manufacturers who are relatively tiny, and although some may be responsible, we cannot be sure.

Minister for Culture, Media and Sport Margaret Hodge, however, seemed to favor pursuing a voluntary compliance approach rather than a statutory one:

If I am unsuccessful in extending voluntary agreement for a voluntary code of conduct or if we find that it is insufficient, we can always return to the matter at a later stage.

I would like to take the issue away from today’s debate and meet with ELSPA … to see what progress can be made on a voluntary code of conduct.

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  1. Sting1287 says:

    I have Epilepsy, but mine were caused by a tumor and I still have seizures even though its gone. Ive done alot of research about Epilepsy and all the different types. Out of 100 people with Epilepsy only "5" people will suffer from PSE, its very rare. And the amount of light exposure that causes it varies from person to person.

    When ever I’ve gone in for an EEG the techs always stuck a strobe right in my face and started it at a slow speed and had me open and close my eyes and they slowly increase the speed to see if there were any changes in my brain waves.

    This is prolly just another trick from idiot politicians to try and screw the game industry out of money with a law suit, and make them look bad.

  2. Aliasalpha says:

    Maybe they need to come up with an overarching warning label, something like "Warning, this game contains imagery or content which may be offensive &/or harmful to people who are offended &/or harmed by the content of this game".

    I don’t object to alerting people to things that have the potential to be harmful, even if its only to a small minority of the population. From my non-disabled perspective, it’s basically like saying "This product may contain traces of nuts", its not exactly a big deal to put on, it wouldn’t take much more than a minor change to production of software & documentation. When they start saying "This game contains imagery which may be offensive to religious/fat/anorexic/[insert race]/wussy people", then thats when I’ll be kicking up a stink about it.

  3. Aliasalpha says:

    Ahh another fine governmental effort to enact change thats already in place… I recall these warnings starting to appear in some game manuals towards the end of the c64 era & the start of the amiga one & now you can’t open a manual without finding one. Of course the problem there is simple, noone reads the manual anymore, RTFM people!

    I know that I have issues with strobing light, I sometimes feel queasy in cars when the shadows shift rapidly, I can always see the strobe on a neon light & feel sick whenever they’re irregular and I can always see the refresh rate on CRTs which is why I don’t own anything CRT anymore (I can also hear the refresh rate when the monitor is old, now thats an annoying noise, changes pitch the faster the refresh rate is). I’ve often wondered if its some sort of photoreactive condition but I’ve never had a seizure, the worst thats happened is feeling really queasy & games have never done that. In fact the only time I’ve ever felt sick during a game is when I thought that someone might have actually paid full price for Army Of Two

    @Karsten Aaen: Definitely get yourself an LCD monitor, or at least try & borrow one to try out. I never thought there’d be much difference beyond the smaller physical size but then I got one and the difference was amazing, almost immediately the headaches were gone and the eyestrain only happened when I played for more than 12 hours straight without blinking.

  4. Thomas ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Speaking as someone who suffered from photosensitive epilepsy for many years, and knows many people who still do…

    .. this is garbage, they should not be required to go through more expense than a warning because of a thing that effects a tiny minority.

    As someone who lived with this disability until I was fortunate enough to grow out of it, I am tired of seeing people who do not suffer from disabilties forced to bend over backwards to aid those who do..  it is time those of us who do suffer accept the fact that we have some things we simply cannot do and stop pushing our problems on others, nobody else should have to consider them at all.

  5. Neeneko ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As a one-off observation, this is a good example of how governments can make poor referees in a capitalistic system.

    Governments, being large, like dealing with big companies. When they want something done they only have to convince a small number of fairly wealthy CEOs (who are going to be close in culture to polititions) what they want.

    Small companies on the other hand.. there are more of them, the people runing them often come from a differnt class of sociaty, and you have to talk with the group of them out in the open (instead of a small private meeting) which tends to air government’s dirty laundries….

  6. Orange Soda says:

    I don’t know about other current-gen consoles because I’ve only ever been a Nintendo gamer, but both Wii and DS have an epilepsy warning as the first thing that shows on screen regardless of what you plan on doing, and you have to either press A or touch the screen to move on. They did the same thing for the later-released Gamecube games (so I end up seeing the message twice when I play one on my Wii). Maybe it was a government mandate or something? I just know it’s there, as well as the warnings that have been in the manuals and on the back of packaging since whenever ago.

    But on the other hand, I also sort of wonder if these warnings end up going ignored in a boy-who-cried-wolf sort of way. I know I stopped paying attention to the messages a long time ago and just skip right past them to get on with my gaming.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I once had a friend who was thrown into a second seizure by the flashing lights on the Ambulance as it arrived after his first one outside a pub.

    I felt that most games had epilepsy warnings on them anyway, but anything that can help is good.



  8. Karsten Aaen ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I have had children’s epilepsy (I think this is what it called) when I was very young (maybe 2½-6½ years or so). It do not affect me today, though. Although, almost doesn’t affect me.

    I can’t stand looking at strobe lights from the discotec’s strobe’s flashing light.

    I copuld never understand why flashing neon sign made me uneasy – now I know, thank you 🙂

    Flourescent lightning (like the ones from lamp’s mosy used in schools) may have given me at least some small seizures when I was in school. Today I prefer natural sunlight or light bulbs. Unfortunately, the save energy light bulbs uses flourescent ligtning, I think?

    I have played adventure games in which there were a moving fan which you to stop. I always wondered why I felt uneasy….know I know, thanks 🙂

    I had a CRT computer screen. If LCD screens are less likely to enduze these things than CRT screens should I get a LCD computer screen?

    Anyway, back to to the topic at hand.

    Every computer game, I have do come with a warning about photosentisive epilepsy. Most of them seem to have it in the front of the manual, a few of them have them in the back of the manaual. But the warning definetely is there. I think it was put into the manuals during the mid-1990’s or thereabouts. As I remember it, there were several cases of people havíng experienced this form of epilepsy while playing computer games. Then it was put into the manuals. I think I have even seen these warnings in loading screens, too, or as part of the EULA, you agree to, before installing the game.

    Anyway, every manual says the same: Do not play for more than an hour. Take a 10-15 minutes break every hour. Parents should supervise their children when they (the children) play video and computer-games. Sit in a well-light room. Sit as far back from the screen as possible. Do not play when you’re tired.

    I can’t play some FPS games as I tend to get motion sickness from playing them. It seems to be worst when there’s no fixed camera and the camera just bobs from side to side or up and down all the time. Thankfully, I can play Bioshock…as it has a fixed camera.



  9. Billy says:

    Am I the only one that thinks it’s funny that his kid had a seizure from playing Raman Raving Rabbids, yet the guy goes on to say what a great job Ubisoft is doing to protect against them?

  10. A viking says:

    That’s for sharing all of that. I’ve personall never known anybody with epilepsy and I never realized how something as mundane as furnature placement could have an impact on thigns. Good luck with the girlfriend too.

  11. neoelasticman says:

    PSE is a nasty bugger of a condition. I’ve heard that some people have seizures just from seing the trees rapidly block and unblock the sun as they drive by. Not fun.

    I have epilepsy myself, but I’m not photosensitive (thank goodness). However, there are varying degrees of any kind of epilepsy. Mine, for example, is practically nothing at this point. If I were to have one, though, it would be from a combination of stress, being really really tired, and waking up in the morning. Almost never happens.

    As for people who are photosensitive, not everybody is going to be screwed over by every bit of light out there. Being as I’ve got a little research under my belt on epilepsy as a whole, here are a few pointers for anybody out there who might have a mild case of PSE:

    1. CRT television sets are more likely to be a trigger than LCD or Plasma, so get one of the latter two to reduce the risk.

    2. Don’t play games when you’re tired. I think this one’s pretty obvious but you never know.

    3. Also, if you are going to have a seizure, be sure there aren’t any sharp objects around you to fall into. Personally, my worst seizure was the one where I busted my head open on my bedside table. Ever since then I refuse to have any furniture anywhere near my bed. Basically, your seizure is mostly harmless in and of itself, it’s just what you fall into that matters.

    4. This goes without saying, but do yourself a favor and let people know what to do if you have a seizure (rest you on your side to prevent you from accidentally inhaling your spit. NEVER EVER put anything into the mouth of a seizure patient, or else expect a huge dental bill in the near future).

    I hate to sound like some sort of educational seminar, but it just seems to me that seizures are hugely misunderstood. My girlfriend, a nurse, did a report when she was in school about epilepsy and during her  question segment, she got "questions" like ‘what’s it like dating an epileptic?’ and ‘wow, you’re really brave dating an epileptic, I could never do that!’ Needless to say, I hope I never get treated by the dolts that were in that class with her.

  12. TBoneTony ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Health and Safety Warning already pressent in every videogame cover, booklet and also game loading sequence avaliable these days.

    Why make a law of it if those voluntary procedures all apply to all Videogames on the market?

    Also I smell some politicians with nothing to do but waste tax payers money on something that is already the best that it could be.

  13. Zero Beat ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think they’ve even put the warnings on the boxes and in the manuals for consoles and handhelds now.

  14. vasudean says:

    The emergency lights on the back and front of just about every car in the world to add to the list.  It’s almost flat out impossible to avoid said things.  I have a little brother who’s severely epileptic, so I learned a few things so that I can minimize the likelihood of my brother getting another seizure.

  15. beemoh says:

    If you look up the now-aging BBC Three documentary series “Outrageous Fortunes”, there was an episode on Nintendo.

    They tested Mario Kart Double Dash for anything that might cause a seizure- a flight of stairs would trip the testing mechanism if it was driven over too quickly.


  16. Helpless Kitten says:

    This reminds me a bit of the crazy situation with parents wanting peanut butter sandwiches banned because their children might be touched by a child who had peanut residue on their hands.

    Shall we make a list of all of the visual images that might cause photosensitive epileptic seizures?

    -Strobe lighting

    -The flashing lights on a bicycles

    -Sunlight off of water or through the leaves of trees

    -Flashing neon signs

    -Light seen through a ceiling fan

    – Fluorescent lighting

    -Some non-moving patterns with high contrast

    Feel free to add more but when you look at the list it seems that it is nearly impossible to avoid all potential triggers for this condition.

  17. Sai says:

    How do they test a game as an epileptic trigger anyway? Stick a bunch of epileptic kids in front of it and see what happens?

  18. Cheater87 says:

    Every game now has a warning that it MIGHT cause seizures in some people. They put that there in the early 90s IIC. How can people not notice it??? In order to do this there can be no more guns in games because the muzzle flash, no flashing lights from fireworks like in Guitar Hero and other games will be affected also.

  19. StealthMaster86 says:

    Yeah let’s just all throw commen scense out the window so that everybody can feel "Safer". I think that the worst part about all this is that the constituent’s son was playing a Wii game where EVERY Wii game has a warning about that. Hell it’s the first thing that pops up.

  20. beemoh says:

    There’s already guidelines and laws in place for television.

    Shows go through electronic testing, those that fail must be preceeded by a verbal warning during continuity announcements.


  21. Dark Sovereign says:

    Are they looking at TV too? I remember that a while back a Pokemon episode caused a massive spike in seizures in Japan.

  22. Chadius ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Uh…yeah. It’s an insert inside every single manual. Leap before you look and all that.

  23. Azhrarn ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Like the 2 posters above already mentioned, every PC game i own (and at present the count stands at around 200) has an photosensitive seizure warning on the first page after the cover. Every… single… one… even the turn based strategy games, which barely feature moving pixels to begin with.

    Its quite safe to assume that any console game will have exactly the same warning in the same location. As far as i’m aware the developers and publisher have done their duty at this point, having warned the customer this is a potential side effect, and as such can not be blamed when someone gets an episode while playing. Even if that person was not aware he was epileptic, it is downright silly to blame the game for his episode.

  24. mogbert says:

    I’m sorry, but if you have PSE, you shouldn’t play video games, period.

    It’s not an issue of making things available to everyone, it is something you shouldn’t do. If you are alergic to peanuts, you shouldn’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you have a bad heart condition, you shouldn’t go on roller coasters. If you breathe oxygen, you shouldn’t try to inhale under water. If you have PSE, you shouldn’t play video games. It is something which your condition expressly warns against.

  25. Jack Wessels says:

    Aren’t there warnings about this in the game’s manual? I think it says something along the lines of ‘stand back’ and ‘if you feel funny, turn it off.’ Granted I don’t want a game that is likely to cause seizures out there…


    -"A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject." -Sir Winston Churchill

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