Yesterday on GamePolitics I wrote that watchdog group the National Institute on Media and the Family has been co-opted by the video game industry.
It wasn't the first time I've taken NIMF to task for accepting a $50,000 grant from the Entertainment Software Association, the lobbying group which represents US game publishers. Not surprisingly, NIMF took umbrage at my comments. Spokesman Darin Broton told GameCyte:
We’re never going to stop putting the [video game] retailers or the [video game] industry’s feet to the fire... You can rest assured that we’ll be talking publicly in 2009 about the issue of gaming addiction.
[NIMF accepted the ESA grant because] we’re working on a project to create an online tool for parents to tackle the issues of online predators, cyberbullies, etcetera. It’s not a blank check. It’s for a specific spot on the website.
Yes, there was hesitation [about accepting the ESA grant], and if there wasn’t hesitation, I don’t think any of us would be doing our jobs. But I think the end result of giving a parent another useful thing for them to make better decisions at home with their kids is worthwhile.
I’ve actually laughed at GamePolitics, because before this, GamePolitics was a frequent critic of NIMF for being too harsh on the industry. It’s a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.
I look forward to seeing what GamePolitics has to say in early 2009, and see if they still think we’re in the back pocket of the industry.
GP: I'm glad to see that my comments struck a nerve - they were meant to.
That said, I should point out that I have a great deal of respect for Dr. David Walsh and his organization. But there are certain lines which a self-proclaimed watchdog group like NIMF just shouldn't cross. And accepting money from the very industry you claim to be watching is one of those lines - maybe the biggest, brightest one of all. It's the reason why you won't find any paid video game advertising on GamePolitics, which is owned by the ECA, a game consumer advocacy group.
And while I haven't always agreed with NIMF's conclusions or its methodology, I've always believed that the organization's heart was in the right place. Over the years, David Walsh has been unfailingly respectful in his treatment of the gamer community and gaming press. As we all know, not every game critic behaves with such decency.
Beyond that, it's not a bad thing to have rational game industry watchdogs at work. When operating appropriately, groups like NIMF provide a useful checks-and-balances function. Yes, we may chafe at some of their conclusions, but sparking a dialogue about games and their potential effects on young people can't hurt.
In taking GamePolitics to task, Darin Broton indicates that NIMF will have some watchdog-worthy comments early in the new year.
We'll be watching.
FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.