UK Game Developers File Complaint Against “Early Death” Ad

The fallout over controversial ads linking video game playing with early death continues.

In the latest news, Tiga, the trade association which represents U.K. video game developers, has filed a complaint with Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority, reports develop.

At issue are print ads placed by the British government’s Change4Life campaign which show a young boy holding a game controller. The ad’s text reads, "Risk an early death, just do nothing."

Of the ads, Tiga CEO Richard Wilson said:

This advert is absurd and insulting in equal measure. To imply that playing a video game leads to a premature rendezvous with the Grim Reaper is a non-sequitur of colossal proportions. Alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, obesity and involvement in violent crime are forms of behaviour that risk an early death…

This advert is offensive to the 30,000 people who work in the UK’s video games industry, particularly the 10,000 who work in games development. Game developers are typically intelligent, very qualified and creative individuals who work to produce high quality games for people’s entertainment. They are not in the business of driving people to an early grave…

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  1. 0
    State says:

    The context is is that it is part of a wider campaign (again an advert exists for cake), and actually reading the "small print" it doesn’t even mention games, it says look at your perfectly healthy child doing what children do, playing games and goes on to talk about their diet. Nowhere does it mention games, nowhere does it link gaming with death, it appears that everyone jumped to a conclusion (the wrong one), and in fact it actually reinforced the view that gaming is a popular pasttime (albeit a child’s hobby).

  2. 0
    lumi says:

    "I haven’t seen the cake industry moan about the advert with a boy and a cake"

    Perhaps because eating cake DOES cause obesity, DOES lead to health problems?

    No amount of gameplay is going to cause death, and the association put forth by that image is absolutely suggesting that gameplay –> death.  It’s making a number of stereotypical yet far from common assumptions regarding people who enjoy video games and physical health.


    "Games don’t directly lead to early death, but the lazy lifestyle (as in sitting playing games all day, eating fatty foods all at the expense of exercise) does and this is what the advert says."

    No, it doesn’t.  It simply has a picture of a kid with a controller and a glazed expression.  It does not show a cheeseburger in a McDonald’s wrapper, it does not show other kids outside playing sports and exercising.  There is NO context; it’s just a kid with a controller and the words "RISK AN EARLY DEATH: DO NOTHING".

    The fine print is just that, fine print.  It’s intentionally tiny and incomprehensible next to the eye catch.  If that were on a billboard, do you think ANYONE would catch the fine print?  Most probably wouldn’t even realize it’s there.

  3. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    I have finally read the ad in full thanks to Kotaku and I still find it offensive. It is a get kids to be active for at least an hour a day ad. But with the picture they chose it inadvertantly puts across the image that kids cannot be active while still having access to games.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  4. 0
    State says:

    The argument "I’m offended" seems to be all the rage now, it seems that everyone has the right to be offended and that the offensive material be taken down, it’s a lame argument.

    As has been said it takes a lot for someone to fall foul of the ASA, and as this is a government campaign it may even be exempt from the rules.

    It amazes me how suddenly people seem to have forgotten about the stereotype of lazy people sitting playing games and getting fat. South Park famously showed this. The advert has been taken out of context as it is part of a much larger campaign (I haven’t seen the cake industry moan about the advert with a boy and a cake). The advert is simply an example of the inactivity that happens across the land, from what I see it doesn’t say "Playing games = Death". The whole commotion over this advert is akin to a campaign from the Daily Mail (something people here actively criticise for being over-reactionary). Games don’t directly lead to early death, but the lazy lifestyle (as in sitting playing games all day, eating fatty foods all at the expense of exercise) does and this is what the advert says.

    The wise words of Michael Winner: "Calm down dear, it’s only a commercial".

  5. 0
    NovaBlack says:

    but still.. eating food does actually CAUSE obesity (and hence health problems).

    gaming doesnt cause it. IT doesnt introduce fat into the body.

    Hell if i gamed 24/7, and didnt eat, would i be obese? heck no. Id be stick thin and malnourished, no matter HOW many videogames i played.

  6. 0
    GusTav2 says:

    Or a good lawyer could blow them out the water 😉

    The main problem is that you can’t read the block of text to the left of the image. That is the key.

    Things become conjecture until I can see the text. I bet all the material in the text checks out and is entirely accurate. I bet the only complaint the industry really has is that the image next to the text has a kid playing a videogame, rather than any other form of sedentary ‘activity’.

    Having some experience of previous ASA rulings you generally have to actively mislead for the ad to be pulled. The presumption is towards the freedom of expression. Here the argument may be that the image is simply illustrative of the text, not the message itself.

    BTW there is another ad in the campaign with a kid eating cake; another illustration of a activity not dangerous per se, but in excess …

  7. 0
    Zero Beat says:

    Are they pulling all desks out of classrooms?  Are parents pulling their kids out of schools that have chairs?  Because if they’re not, they’re being bad parents by that ad’s standards.


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

  8. 0
    Thomas says:

    Lots of this going around at the moment.

    I live in Australia, and have recently started hearing radio ads while at work along the lines of "don’t let your children sit down for more than an hour a day, get them outdoors doing healthy sporty things, because all children should be doing that not staying inside!"

    And yeah.. I know, we all know, that excercise is needed by kids.. and they are getting less and less.

    But such overreactionary BS needs to be checked.. I cannot abide how people are allowed to use such "headlines" to catch people’s attention. They should not be allowed to do so, they should have to present the facts, and only the facts, without any moderation or opinion involved. They should not be allowed to use images and phrases picked for maximum psychological impact for their own agenda.

    If the UK government is willing to step in to moderate video game content, and other such things.. and it is, which I for one am fine with.. then it must also be willing to step in to moderate things like this.

    It is high time advertising and news outlets in general were forced to follow the same rules everyone else is.

    "We never paid any heed to the ancient prophecies… Like fools we clung to the old hatreds, and fought as we had for generations"

  9. 0
    Unruly says:

    That just becomes a matter of opinion though, which is why I said that I didn’t find it very offensive. Then again, I suppose you could say I have a bit of a double standard about it because if they were to say that gaming would make me a violent psychopath I would be offended, but saying that it leads to health problems like they are doesn’t offend me near as much.

    Although that could also be because there’s some truth to the point about causing health problems and the reason I found it rude was because they singled out gaming when they said "do nothing" instead of leaving it ambiguous.

  10. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    Took that closer look at the CAP Code and have found a few things that this add may be in violation of:

    6.1 Marketers should not exploit the credulity, lack of knowledge or inexperience of consumers.

    Here they could be construed to be exploiting that lack of knowledge and understanding of the gaming industry and their products by those they are targetting.

    7.1 No marketing communication should mislead, or be likely to mislead, by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise.

    7.2 Marketing communications must not omit, hide or provide in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner material information if that omission or presentation is likely to affect consumers’ decisions about whether and how to buy the advertised product, unless the information is obvious from the context. If the advertisement is limited by time or space, the ASA will take into account steps that the advertiser has taken to make that information available to consumers by other means.

    For marketing communications that quote prices for advertised products, material information includes:

    a) the main characteristics of the product

    b) the identity (eg trading name) and geographical address of the marketer and any other trader on whose behalf the advertiser is acting

    c) the price of the advertised product, including taxes; or where the nature of the product is such that the price cannot be calculated in advance, the manner in which the price is calculated

    d) delivery charges

    e) the arrangement for payment, delivery, performance or complaint handling, if those differ from the arrangements that consumers are likely to reasonably expect

    f) that consumers have the right to withdraw or cancel, if they have that right (see 42.2(f)).

    Here they could be in violation of 7.1 by misleading through both inaccuracy and ambiguity. The ycould also be inviolation of 7.2 by not showing that other sedintary activities such as television or reading have the same affect as gaming if not taken in moderation.

    9.1 No marketing communication should cause fear or distress without good reason. Marketers should not use shocking claims or images merely to attract attention.

    9.2 Marketers may use an appeal to fear to encourage prudent behaviour or to discourage dangerous or ill-advised actions; the fear likely to be aroused should not be disproportionate to the risk.

    9.3 Marketers should not mislead about the nature or extent of the risk to the personal security of consumers or their families if consumers do not buy the advertised product.

    Here they are using fear and misunderstanding of gaming to make the claim that gaming will lead to an early death.

    Sorry that I am not going to in depth, but a good lawyer will be able to make these calims even better and probably more consise than myself a lay person.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  11. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    Is ‘freedom of expression’ only OK when it expresses a point of view in support of the industry: is this not simply ‘Ban This Sick [Advertising] Filth’?

    I don’t find it to be a case of "Ban this filth" I find it to be a bit more of a libel complaint. Just by the association of gaming to and early death, they are making out gaming to be completely bad with no redeaming qualities. Just the headline and picture alone does not advocate a healthy life style and gaming in moderation. It just simply comes across as games will kill you.

    I’ll have to take a closer look at the CAP code you linked to, but it should be interesting.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  12. 0
    GusTav2 says:

    I’ve yet to see any comment on how any of the industry bodies argue this ad has breach the CAP Code, which the ASA uphold. The code can be found at

    I also enjoy the irony of an industry fighting against statutory self-regulation by the BBFC, using another such body, the ASA, to complain about the actions of others.

    Is ‘freedom of expression’ only OK when it expresses a point of view in support of the industry: is this not simply ‘Ban This Sick [Advertising] Filth’?

    I should start a campaign for constency in positions.

  13. 0
    Unruly says:

    While I wouldn’t call it offensive, I would call it uncalled for and stereotypical. It’s a misrepresentation of the gaming populace as fat and lazy and it makes it a point to showcase gaming in particular instead of just showing the kid sitting there doing exactly what the ad says – nothing. Not playing a game, not watching TV, just sitting there.

    While some people do fit into the stereotype of the lazy gamer, myself included until last year, it’s just as wrong to make a connection solely between games and major health concerns as it is to do it with games and overly violent behavior.

  14. 0
    deuxhero says:

    I was with them till they used the stupid "It’s offenceive" crap.


    Attack it on ligitamate points, rather then that stupid catch all.

  15. 0
    lumi says:

    I really hope something comes of this.  I think the concept of "truth in advertising" should be much more rigidly enforced, across the board.

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