UK Health Ad Sparks Video Game Biz Backlash

Earlier this year, the UK government’s Change4Life initiative irked some game industry types with a commercial that linked video game play with obesity and other health problems. This month, the campaign has launched print ads suggesting that video games lead to premature death.

The ads, which depict a young boy holding a Playstation controller under the headline RISK AN EARLY DEATH, JUST DO NOTHING, seems to be lighting a fire under the UK game industry.

MCV Associate Editor Tim Ingham has penned an impassioned editorial calling on the industry to speak out against the government’s ad:

Change4Life’s heart-in-mouth scapegoating of the video games industry is a troubling indictment of a hypocritical Government which flashes us grins when we generate £4 billion a year for its depleted coffers; but which then turns its back and explicitly tells parents that we’re KILLING THEIR CHILDREN.  …surely it’s the time for us to stand up as an industry and say: “That’s not fair”?

Let’s be very clear, because this gets sensitive: Sticking up for video games’ achievements in the face of shrieking propaganda does not show us up as a negligent supporter of obesity in kids.

It shows we’ve remembered where our bollocks are – at a time when the Government’s foot is wedged firmly between them.

For its part, MCV has submitted an official complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority saying the ad is “unrepresentative of the positive effect video games have on the UK’s youth.”

Meanwhile, Michael Rawlinson, director of ELSPA, told MCV that the UK game publishers’ trade association took an urgent meeting with the Department of Health regarding the ad.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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  1. 0
    GusTav2 says:

    The point you made is re-enforced by the coverage in

    Which states:

    "The Change4Life campaign, which also features a second, similar advertisement with another child about to eat a cake, is aimed at promoting physical exercise in children, but the clear and public connotations will be unwelcome, to say the least, to an industry working hard to overcome unfounded stereotypes."

    Games are clearly not being singled out. If gamers are to be taken seriously in debates such as this we have to top being so quick to snap overreactions; the only way forward is to engage in the wider debates, and focus on how gaming, and the gamer, can play a positive role in the future.


  2. 0
    Michael Chandra says:

    I have to say I find it ironic how you claim I moan and am anal, yet bitch about a single point and find the need to insult someone repeatedly over that, rather than playing a civilized game. Ahwell, good luck with having the last word.

  3. 0
    State says:

    You seem to be incredibly anal over this point. The simple point I was making was that there are anti-smoking campaigns out there, but I don’t see those organisations moaning about it and they help to bring in massive amounts of tax. Also note the word "similar" which is different from "identical", and that a number of points were made which you took out of context and made into one point.

    The games industry and people here are being overly-sensitive over a campaign calling for kids to get a bit of exercise (and to think people complain about the reactionary Daily Mail).

  4. 0
    Michael Chandra says:

    So the advert is saying that kids who play games all day will end up fat

    That would be why I ‘moan’ about your comparison with anti-smoking. Let me explain more detailed, so hopefully you won’t accuse me of ‘moaning’ next time.

    – Anti-smoking efforts wants you to quit entirely.
    – You claim this advert against games comes down to moderation, not fully quitting.
    – You compare this advert with an anti-smoking advert campaign.
    – Due to the nature of these anti-smoking campaigns the comparison you make implies the advert wants you to quit gaming entirely.
    – Which contradicts your claim about moderation and your softening words "all day".
    – Ergo, your comparison causes your reply to contradict itself.

    Those are the steps taken to arrive at my response, and I’m quite certain that that was the point I tried to make. Notice how I didn’t complain about the anti-drinking campaigns, since I assume most of those aim at moderation and as such the comparison fits the moderation claim.

  5. 0
    State says:

    I gave a few example comparisons, also you talk about this particular advert talking about ‘don’t play games "period"’, and then moan about a comparison with an anti-smoking advert, perhaps you’re unsure about the point you’re trying to make, regardless there are plenty adverts about considerate drinking.

    Anyway it should be noted (as it was in the original article) that this a part of a much wider campaign, a TV advert that I have seen also shows/talks about TV and the Internet, so games aren’t being singled out, although they are in this advert. For all we know there may be other adverts out there singling out TV or the Internet.

    I could take the advert at face value and believe it to be an advert for a survival horror game, where if you do nothing, you’re going to get killed quickly.

    I just feel that this has been taken out of context and has got gamers immediately saying "OMG sue the government, they can’t say this", without actually looking at the whole issue.

  6. 0
    Michael Chandra says:

    And the USA legislations are different how? USA politicians lying to their people, committing perjury to defend these legislations that violate civil rights and freedom of speech, are different how? And where does this tie in to the anti-game acts in Australia, China, Taiwan, etc?

    Using this political agenda for your own while there’s plenty of faults on many other sides as well is just bullshit. Seriously, fighting for a country’s freedom that results in a war, should be compared to a government-sponsored dirty trick against games? What does the Utah legislation mean then, the South will rise again?

  7. 0
    mdo7 says:



    "Um… we DO have freedom of speech in the UK…"


    That’s true, but they always violate it a lot even in the 80’s.  You know the video nasty, countless violation.  They didn’t even allow the ultraviolent film until 2000.  Now they’re getting it right.  But now, England is now making video game the new "video nasty".  I remember they try to ban Manhunt 2 and Madworld.  But they fail, when I saw what UK did, it’s almost a splitting images of the video nasty.  You got to compare what they’re doing to whatever they did to the past.


    Tell you the truth, that "don’t repeat the past" stuff, it’s not working.  History do really repeat itself, I wonder how long until till they blame another medium for "corrupting children".  I really hate it when history repeat itself, don’t ya.

  8. 0
    mdo7 says:

    try to compare England’s outlaw unalienable rights over America during the British colonization to what they are doing to video game.  They’re trying to tell you video game are bad and they don’t want people to play it.  That’s violating somebody civil rights and also violating the freedom of speech.  Video game have the right to be in England as much as we were allowed to have unalienable rights during British colonization in America.  Not allowing playing video game is just like how England not allow you to have certain rights during the British colonization of America.  This is why we fought against England, because England was unfair to it colonists.  Now the Uk is being unfair to video game and gamers in their own country, you have to compare this to whatever they did in history.    

  9. 0
    NovaBlack says:

    ”UK doesn’t have freedom of speech unlike us and this is why we seperated from us”

    Um… we DO have freedom of speech in the UK…

    We also have human right laws and other such stuff. We also have the wheel, electricity, cars, the printing press, and computers.

    And what does this have to do with the article? :S

  10. 0
    State says:

    Apart from the bad English what has this got to do with violent games? Where do they talk about violent games? This is part of a campaign to get kids more active in a time when obesity levels in kids are very high.

  11. 0
    mdo7 says:

    And this is why we fought against England during the American Revolution.  UK denied unalienable rights during the colonial era for their colonies, what UK is doing is the same thing, they don’t want violent video game.  UK doesn’t have freedom of speech unlike us and this is why we seperated from us.  Are everybody familiar with the Video nasty.  Yeah, now they’re going afer video game now.  We’re not the worse because most video game legislation are shot down by the Supreme Court because we have the First Amendment behind us.

  12. 0
    TBoneTony says:

    UK government and all other governments in the world who attack videogames like this are just as worse themselves when they scare parents about fantasy violence instead of focusing on real life violence like bullying and rape in schools and workplace.


  13. 0
    Austin_Lewis says:

    Depends.  Some jackasses equate Harry Potter with wizardy and witchcraft (by the way, saw some ‘wiccans’ while I was out jogging a nature trail yesterday.  Hilarious.  If that’s what the ‘religion’ is about, then it’s one of those stupid teeny-bopper fads like emo and goth.), instead of just equating it with books that kids will read cover to cover.  All I know is anything that gets kids today reading is great.  That’s why I’m a proponent of RPG’s.

  14. 0
    JB says:

    Replace that controller with a novel (Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, for example) and let’s see what the reactions would be. I think parents would be outraged at those accusations.


    But it would be good to see the gaming industry sticking up for its self.

  15. 0
    NovaBlack says:

    um beacuse there is a direct CAUSAL link between smoking and lung cancer.

    a direct CAUSAL link between drinking and liver disease.

    There is only corellation between time spent playing video games and obesity. You can quite happily play 10 hours of video games a day if you like, as long as you spend another hour a day say in the gym. The video games dont CAUSE obesity. fatty foods do.

  16. 0
    HyperEnergy says:

    I can’t find any picture large enough to indicate what those tiny sentences say, so I may be wrong, but at face value I see no mention of excess video games leading to obesity.

    No, what I see is an organization claiming video games have no merit whatsoever.

  17. 0
    Michael Chandra says:

    The fact that with this poster they seem to indicate playing games is bad for you, period. By marking gaming as a big health enemy, period, they don’t aim for moderation but create an image of "don’t do it, period". And smoking campaigns actually aim against quitting smoking entirely, so the comparison isn’t that correct.

  18. 0
    Thomas McKenna says:

    You are entirely correct.  However, what is upsetting about this is not the statement that doing nothing leads to an unhealthy lifestyle, but rather that games are seemingly being singled out as the cause for it.  While there are other targets it could get away with attacking (TV, internet), there are plenty of other non-active forms or recreation which would cause ire at the advertisement.  What if the controller was replaced with a book?  What if it was replaced with homework?  What if instead the child was sleeping on a sunny hillside?  Sitting in a cubicle?  If any of these were the picture in the advert, there would be mass outrage as these are "fine" and "respectable" activities, yet they promote the same "active" state as playing videogames. 

    There are other ways they could get this same message across without paiting a big target on video games, and that’s the reason we’re getting on our "high horses."

  19. 0
    State says:

    So the advert is saying that kids who play games all day will end up fat, now what exactly is wrong with that?

    The whole campaign is about children sitting in front of screens all day at the expense of exercise and how that leads to health problems. I think people are jumping on their high horses too quickly here.

    There are similar campaigns about smoking and excessive drinking which lead to health problems, but I don’t see those industries moaning.

    What it comes down to is moderation, which is something surely everyone can agree on.

  20. 0
    Austin_Lewis says:

    That’s because the UK government doesn’t fear nor really serve its citizens.  But we in the US are going the same way all the time.

  21. 0
    Thomas McKenna says:

    True, but at least it’s entertaining to watch the legal process in action.  Watching the US government bores me to fucking tears, and watching them proposing ridiculous legislation is like watching a very, very slow train crash.  Compare this to the UK system where the politicians have a strange dichotomy of pompous pretenses while at the same time having shouting matches while in session, and I start reaching for my popcorn.  So yes, they’re jackasses and assholes, but at least they’re entertaining.  It’s not much to be said about them, but it is something.

  22. 0
    PHX Corp says:

    The UK govt are a bunch of arseholes compared to the US govt

    Watching JT on GP is just like watching an episode of Jerry springer only as funny as the fights

  23. 0
    Randomavatar says:

    Funny thing was, McCain wanted to take a leaf from our government and have his own version of PM Qs, probably on the senate floor.

    Now as hilarious as that would be I’m still glad you guys picked obama.

  24. 0
    Thomas McKenna says:

    I agree that it’s totally dumb, but it’s so entertaining to see someone call someone else his honorable friend and then give a round about explanation about why he’s an idiot. 

  25. 0
    Zero Beat says:

    The worst thing about the UK in my opinion is how they call everyone "my right honorable friend" as a matter of professional conduct, no matter how wrong, dishonorable, or unfriendly, even enemy-like they may be.

    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  26. 0
    DarkSaber says:

    Nah he’s right, mostly they are faddy teens who saw it in shit like Charmed or Buffy. That episode of South Park about the ‘vampire kids’ after Twilight was released hit the nail on the head really.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  27. 0
    Mattsworkname says:

    Here HERE. This is what I keep talking about. Now if only the USA game industry would follow suit and grow a pair.


    Yukimura is still here "Honor, that is what matters, isn’t it? " Yukimura Sanada, from Samurai warriors 2

  28. 0
    NovaBlack says:

    dear god i hope the industry stands up to this one.


    The uk government is ridiuclous. As said in the article, £4 billion a year the games industry generates, yet it wont give ANY tax breaks to developers etc, yet it DOES give funding to the film industry, which now generates less.

    The uk is going to slip away from being in the top few countries in the world for game development, yet the uk government will do nothing. But giving yet more money to banks to squander (700 grand a YEAR pension recently for one of the guys who lead the banks into collapse… wtf) is apparently ok.


    When asked for tax breaks / challenged about it, the uk’s solution was to bizaarly wasted 2 years trying to stop other countries (e.g. france / canada) giving ITS developers tax breaks… which F*KING OBVIOUSLY got laughed at by the WTO, as everyone knew it would.. but.. any excuse not to give money where its needed.



    PLEASE STAND UP FOR YOURSELVES DEVS! i REALLY want this advert f*cking taken down, and an apology issued. Its downright outrageous.


  29. 0
    JC says:

    Wow, isn’t this like extremely unorthodox to do in the UK? I heard libel/slander lawsuits are more effective over there than here in NA. The ad just really has to add the bold portion for emphasis as well…


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