Research: Active Gaming and Team Work Can Help Children Lose Weight

April 23, 2013 -

A new study published in the scientific journal Obesity finds that active games or exergaming are a good way for children to lose weight. The goal of the study, "Adolescent Exergame Play for Weight Loss and Psychosocial Improvement: A Controlled Physical Activity Intervention," was to find effective ways to encourage youngsters to be more physically active through video gaming. Researchers Sandra Calvert, Ph.D.

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Research: Children Who Spend Two Hours of Screen Time a Day Drink More Sugary Drinks

August 24, 2012 -

New research from the University of Alberta (Canada) comes to the conclusion that preschoolers from low-income neighborhoods and children who spend more than two hours of screen-time a day either watching TV or playing video games have a "thirst for sugary soda and juice."

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Study: Active Games Do Not Change Sedentary Behavior in Children

June 25, 2012 -

A new study disputes the claims that using exercise video games at home can change the sedentary lifestyles of children in any significant way. A study conducted by researchers at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas found that children overcompensated in "other areas" after playing active video games - basically making any calories burned a zero net gain.

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Study: Eating Lunch at Your Desk Might Make You Fat

December 17, 2010 -

A new study by the University of Bristol (United Kingdom) found that those who eat at their desk are more likely to become fat. Experts were looking into how memory and attention span affect an indvidual's craving for food.

The study asked participant to eat a lunch consisting of nine different types of foods while playing a game of Solitaire on a computer. Another group was given the same kind of meal but did not play the game.

The conclusion? The group that played Solitaire while eating the meal felt less full after about half-an-hour. The people who ate and played could not remember the order in which they consumed the food either. They also ate twice as many snacks as the other group.

Researchers concluded that distractions during meals lead to people consuming more food, which makes them gain weight.

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AHA: Wii Games Lead to Real Exercise

October 19, 2010 -

The American Heart Association found that Wii games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit are gateways to real exercise. The AHA had an opinion prior the survey, but to put it to the test it conducted a survey. The results showed that nearly 70 percent of respondents considered games such as Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit real forms of physical activity.

TV station My Fox Houston solicited the opinion of Dr. Barry A. Franklin, who calls this phenomenon "the gateway effect." While he stresses that these games are no substitute for a real exercise regimen, they do encourage people to get healthier. Here's some select quotes from Franklin:

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Child Shrink: Time for Games to Feature Exercise Ratings

August 17, 2010 -

As the gaming world continues to evolve further into the era of true interactive gaming, one child psychiatrist thinks it’s time for a new ratings system that informs consumers about a game’s ability to contribute to exercise.

Paul Ballas guest-authored a Wired article on the subject following an introduction to, among other things, Sony’s Move and Microsoft’s Kinect technology at this year’s E3 Expo. Ballas thinks that if videogame developers focused their efforts on creating games that also provided a cardiovascular workout, “there is a real chance of striking a blow against childhood obesity.”

To that end Ballas outlined the type of content descriptors he would like to see:

Similar to Food and Drug Administration-mandated labels on food, an exercise rating system could estimate the calories burned by the average person in an hour of gameplay. The label could range from Sedentary for lean-back, button-intensive shooting games to Active for games with a calorie-expenditure rate comparable to playing basketball.

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Games Seen as Culpable in Plumping of America

August 4, 2010 -

Do you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, West Virginia or Mississippi? If you do, odds are you need to go on a diet and, according to one “expert,” cut back on playing videogames.

The population of the states listed above had obesity rates in excess of 30 percent, according to statistics released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An article on Florida’s TCPalm.com, where the obesity rate clocked in at 25.2 percent, discussed the fattening trend with Dr. Jefferson Vaughan, a surgeon based in Jupiter, Florida. Vaughan on the obesity epidemic:

There has been a generational change. When I was a kid, there were three TV channels and they all played Watergate tapes.

Today it's much more convenient to go through the drive-through while your kid plays his Game Boy in the back seat.

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Objections Raised to "Gamers Are Fat & Depressed" Study

August 21, 2009 -

Reports this week that the Center for Disease Control found higher than normal rates of obesity and depression in adult gamers have drawn criticism from some game and tech-oriented observers.

Cnet's Don Reisinger writes:

Due to its small sample size, methods of data collection, and location focus, the study's findings have to be taken with at least one grain of salt.

Moreover, the study found that the majority of those surveyed are overweight, regardless of their gaming patterns.

John Timmer of Ars Technica also sees caveats in the CDC research:

One of the most obvious problems... is that the study is based on survey data gathered online back in 2006... it's important to note (given the conclusions about weight) that the Wii didn't hit the market until the end of that year.

The scope is limited, as well... This limited sample is not a definitive representation of gamers in general, and mainstream reports have ignored the study's own admission to this...

Indeed, western Washington has a climate that's rather unique within the US, one that may influence decisions on indoor vs. outdoor activities... The survey data was also completely dependent on self-assessment... The correlations are curious and more study is needed.

Jordan Lund of GameStooge adds:

When you look at the actual data, the differences aren’t as extreme as you might think. For example, male gamers have an average BMI of 28.05 while non gamers score a 26.55... To put it in relative terms, you’re looking at the difference between Homer Simpson and Krusty the Clown...

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CDC: Adult Game Addicts are Fat and Depressed

August 17, 2009 -

The Center for Disease Control reports that the average adult computer game addict is 35 years old.

According to The Telegraph, the CDC partnered with researchers from Emory and Andrews Universities on the study of more than 500 adults in the Seattle-Tacoma area. The results are not encouraging for gamers, with investigators finding correlations between video game play and health risks:

  • Female gamers reported greater depression and poorer health than non-gamers
  • Male gamers reported higher BMI (body mass index) than non-gamers
  • Gamers of both genders reported a higher than normal reliance on the Internet for social support

The CDC's Dr. James Weaver III commented on the data:

As hypothesized, health-risk factors specifically, a higher BMI and a greater number of poor mental-health days differentiated adult video-game players from non-players.

Video-game players also reported lower extraversion, consistent with research on adolescents that linked video game playing to a sedentary lifestyle and overweight status, and to mental-health concerns.

Internet community support and time spent online distinguished adult video-game players from non-players, a finding consistent with prior research pointing to the willingness of adult video-game enthusiasts to sacrifice real-world social activities to play video games.

The data illustrate the need for further research among adults to clarify how to use digital opportunities more effectively to promote health and prevent disease.

The research will be published in the October, 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reports Medical News Today.

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Mark Methenitis Offers Alternate Scenarios For Govt. Regulation of Games

July 29, 2009 -

So far, every single law seeking to restrict the sale of violent video games has been struck down by the federal courts; it would seem that such legislation is a losing proposition.  So how else might the government try to regulate our favorite pastime?  Writing for Joystiq, lawyer and gamer Mark Methenitis offers two possible scenarios which censorcrats might seek to employ.

The first is to impose content restrictions - not on the type of violence that can be shown but on the type of stories that can be told or the types of characters presented. The idea here would be to ensure that games are politically correct so as not to offend anyone and prevent flaps over perceived racism in games like Resident Evil 5, Left 4 Dead 2, or Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood.  Of course, this still boils down to regulating speech so it’s not likely to be any more successful in the courts than restricting violent content has been.

The second is an idea presented by Jack Thompson during his debate with Methenitis at SGC09 earlier this month. Thompson speculated that the Obama administration might address America’s obesity issues by regulating our play time. But how? The government can’t just march into your home and turn off your Xbox. While there is no indication that Obama is planning any such thing, Methenitis explains how such a scenario might work:

When the government wants you to stop doing something, they tax it. Alcohol is taxed. Tobacco is taxed. Certain kinds of less-fuel efficient cars are taxed. In short, the theory is "fewer people buy things at a higher cost." And it's something that can be levied against both retail sales and digital downloads.

Taxing games is not a new idea but with the economy the way it is, now seems like the absolute worst time to try it.  Still, you never know. Methenitis:

It's always difficult to predict what the government may or may not do, or how the courts may or may not rule. The system, however, relies on the vigilance of the public to ensure that our rights are not infringed....

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

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Study: Advergames Influence Kids' Food Choices

July 21, 2009 -

Online games used by food manufacturers to promote their products can sway food choices made by children, according to a new research report.

Food Industry website Flex News takes note of a study conducted at Georgetown University which found that foods suggested by advergames were craved by kids immediately after playing. The good news is that games pushing healthy snacks had a similar impact. 

Study authors Drs. Tiffany A. Pempek and Sandra L. Calvert interpret their work in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine:

[The findings] suggest that concerns about online advergames that market unhealthy foods are justified...

[Using positive food messages with] this kind of social marketing approach could tip the scales toward the selection of higher-quality snacks, thereby helping to curb the obesity epidemic...

 

Our results suggest that not only is there a market for healthier foods and beverages, but advergames can be used to promote healthier choices and eating patterns, thereby tipping the balance toward a healthier society.

In the study, 30 low-income, African-American children between the ages of 9 and 10 played a Pac-Man-like game. In one version, junk food was gobbled up. In the other, healthy snacks were the target. The researchers found that kids who played the healthy version of the game tended to choose nutritious snacks afterward.

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Fitness Blogger Calls For Obesity Warning Labels on Video Games

July 6, 2009 -

A North Carolina fitness blog has called for obesity warning labels to be placed on video game packaging.

In a review of Nintendo's Wii Fit, Winston-Salem Fitness writes:

Overall, I give Nintendo credit for trying to make a game that tries to get people to be more active, which is more than can be said for other video game manufacturers. However, this will not do anything in terms of chipping away at the American obesity problem.

 

In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the video game industry needs to follow the route of the tobacco and alcohol manufacturers, and state that excessive use of their product could lead to inactivity and obesity, rather than try to make a half-hearted effort at increasing American activity levels...

By our count, this is the second call this year for warning labels on video games. In January Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) proposed in Congress that games rated T and higher carry warnings linking violent games to aggressive behavior.

Obesity warning labels have previously been advocated in some quarters for consumables such as soda and fast food.

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Obama Names Video Games as Health Concern in Speech to A.M.A.

June 15, 2009 -

In a speech to the American Medical Association in Chicago today, President Obama mentioned video games as a factor in unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles.

As reported by the New York Times, Obama addressed the AMA as part of his drive to build support for sweeping healthcare reform. The Wall Street Journal's Health blog has the full text of the President's remarks. Here's what he said about video games:

The second step that we can all agree on is to invest more in preventive care so that we can avoid illness and disease in the first place. That starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and the health of our children. It means quitting smoking, going in for that mammogram or colon cancer screening. It means going for a run or hitting the gym, and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside.

In other speeches, Obama has frequently linked video games to academic underachievement.

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Watchdog Group Finds Dairy Queen Game "Egregious"

May 22, 2009 -

Stopping by your local Dairy Queen over the holiday weekend? If so, here's something to consider:

Ice cream-centric PC game DQ Tycoon has come in for some freezer burn, courtesy of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

The Boston-based CCFC turned its attention to DQ Tycoon as part of its ongoing campaign to lobby Scholastic, Inc. to drop non-books items such as toys, make-up and video games from its school flyers. In a press release issued earlier this week, CCFC termed the game "egregious":

CCFC plans to continue to track Scholastic Book club offerings. One of the more egregious recent findings was the Dairy Queen video game, DQ Tycoon, which appears in Scholastic’s June 2009 Arrow flyer.

The Orlando Sentinel's education blog picked up on the theme:

Some might suggest that  DQ Tycoon isn't in the same league with a Newbery Medal winner for children's literature, such as Joseph Krumgold's And Now Miguel, my personal favorite.  But it apparently gets equal of better billing in the book club fliers. That coming of age book about a Hispanic boy in New Mexico, which won the Newbery in 1954, has been "thinker" literature for kids for 55 years. Will DQ Tycoon meet that test??

While it's true that DQ Tycoon is probably not going to change anyone's life, GamePolitics just had to ask: What's so bad about a game based on ice cream? CCFC spokesman Josh Golin responded.

CCFC: The game is egregious because it's an ad for Dairy Queen masquerading as a video game and ads for Dairy Queen have no place in schools. It is particularly galling that Scholastic is enlisting teachers as a sales force for the game because, at a time of heightened concerns about childhood obesity, many schools are limiting the types of foods that can be sold and marketed on their premises.  I think it's safe to say that without Scholastic, DQ would be unable to promote Blizzards (as many as 1,200 calories) in elementary schools.

GP: In my experience the "tycoon" game genre generally would seem to have at least some educational value, forcing players to plan, strategize, allocate resources, etc. Not exactly Manhunt 2. I noticed that the game next to DQ Tycoon in the ad is "1701," which I've played and which also brings a lot of historical flavor as well as the previously mentioned elements to the mix.

CCFC: I don't dispute for a second that some video games can have educational value. Our concerns are a) the highly commercialized nature of so many of Scholastic's offerings  (not just the games) and b) the fact that Scholastic sells so many things that are not books in its "book clubs".

The fact of the matter is that books clearly play a special role in schools which is why Scholastic is allowed into classrooms and given the unique opportunity to sell directly to students.  Scholastic is exploiting that access by selling so many things that aren't books.  I'm sure Game Stop or Toys R' Us would love to have teachers hand out circulars for them every month.

GP: So, why does CCFC hate ice cream? Just kidding...

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New York Bill Would Add Fat Tax to Video Games, DVDs, Junk Food

May 14, 2009 -

A bill currently before the New York Assembly would add a one-quarter of one percent tax to the sale or rental of video games and video game hardware.

The measure, A02455, was proposed by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D, at left) of Brooklyn. The bill would also tax the sale and rental of movies, admissions to movie theaters and the sale of snack foods and sweet drinks. In addition, corporations would be barred from taking a New York tax deduction for expenses incurred in advertising any of the affected items, including video games and systems.

The proposal is currently before the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee, where it seems likely to remain. This is Ortiz's fourth attempt at similiar legislation since 2003; none have made it out of committee.

Ortiz's proposal is motivated by his desire to address the current obesity epidemic. In the justification for A02455 he writes:

Almost all experts agree that the primary reasons [for the obesity epidemic] are increased consumption of larger quantities of high calorie foods, snacks and sugar sweetened beverages... and lack of physical activity as vigorous play is replaced by sedentary activities such as watching more television, movies and videos and playing video games.

This bill would raise revenues from modest surcharges on the very food products and sedentary activities that are linked to the lifestyle changes involved in the explosion of childhood obesity in the last 20-30 years.

Ortiz estimates that his bill would raise $50 million in revenue which would in turn be used to fund programs designed to counter childhood obesity. Conservative magazine The American Spectator refers to Ortiz as "perhaps the nation’s most prolific author of vice taxes:"

[Ortiz] has a litany of bills before the New York state legislature imposing a $10 tax on visitors to strip clubs, a 25¢-cent tax on bottles of beer and wine, and a fatso tax on soda, sweets, and video games.

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Report: U.K. Health Campaign Will Tout Benefits of Active Games

April 24, 2009 -

Last month's controversy over a British government health agency ad which appeared to link video games to childhood obesity has subsided.

But beyond that, MCV UK reports that today the government's Change4Life organization will launch a campaign touting the benefits of active gaming.

Presumably, that would include the likes of Nintendo's Wii as well as multi-platform titles like Dance Dance Revolution (see screenshot from new ad at left). MCV quotes Minister for Public Health Dawn Primarolo:

Active video games, where kids need to jump up and down or dance about as part of the game, are a great way to get kids moving more.

Little bits of activity like this, throughout the day can easily add up to the 60 active minutes kids need. But our survey shows that at the moment our kids just aren’t getting up and about enough.

UPDATE: The new Change4Life ad, which at one point depicts a character playing a DDR -like game, can be seen here.

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California Bill Would Limit Game Time, Content for Day Care Kids

April 13, 2009 -

A Santa Monica legislator wants to limit the amount of time that children in day care spend playing video games. California Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D) also wants to ensure that any games played are of the educational or exercise varieties.

To that end Brownley has introduced AB627. Her bill is aimed at addressing California's rampant childhood obesity problem.

As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle:

[The bill would] require child care centers receiving state reimbursement for their food programs to limit sugary sweets and drinks, prohibit deep-fat frying, mandate servings of vegetables and limit TV, computer and video-game use to one hour per day, among other regulations.

A reading of the bill suggests that games like Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution would be acceptable if AB627 becomes law:

For children in full day care, screen time, including, but not limited to, television, video games, and computer usage, shall be limited to a maximum of one hour per day and shall be limited to
educational programming or programs that encourage movement.
For children in less than full day care, screen time shall be reduced proportionately.

The measure has been referred to the Assembly's Human Services Committee.

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New Video Game Tax: Louisiana Rep. Mulls "No Child Left Indoors"

March 28, 2009 -

A Louisiana legislator has withdrawn a bill that would impose a 1% sales tax on video game equipment and television sets.

The Monroe News-Star reports that Rep. Robert Billiot (D) hoped to use revenue collected by the tax to create a "No Child Left Indoors Fund." Those funds would in turn be channeled into recreational facilities and state programs to combat childhood obesity.

However, Ark-La-Tax Politics reports that Billiot withdrew the measure while he re-evaluates its revenue potential. The legislator said that he may resubmit the tax proposal before Louisiana's legislative session begins on April 27th.

As GamePolitics reported, A similar measure proposed in New Mexico last year failed to pass.

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Watchdog Group Rejects Complaint Over "Early Death" Ad

March 19, 2009 -

Over the years, video games have been linked to societal ills ranging from poor academic performance to extreme antisocial behavior.  So perhaps it came as no surprise when the game industry reacted poorly to U.K. health group Change4Life’s “Early Death” ad which visually linked the sedentary nature of video game play to dying before one's time.

Several game industry types spoke out against the ad while trade magazine MCV and trade association Tiga (representing UK game developers) went as far as to submit official complaints with U.K. ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority.

Less than two weeks later, the ASA has decided not to take any action against the ad. In its ruling the ASA said:

Most readers would understand that the ad was discouraging a sedentary lifestyle and used the example of playing a console game as an illustration of the type of behaviour which might lead to long-term health problems if no exercise were taken alongside more sedentary activities.

Interestingly, the ASA also said that it received a complaint from someone not affiliated with the video game industry:

One parent objected that the ad was offensive and harmful because it frightened her young child who became scared that she would die if she played video games. The ASA Council sympathised with those concerns and understood that the reference to future health might, for some, be upsetting. However, it considered that the ad was unlikely to cause undue fear or distress to parents or children.

You can read the ASA’s entire response at MCV.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

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Lack of Game Biz Contributions NOT Behind "Early Death" Ads

March 17, 2009 -

With no end in sight to gaming press coverage, Change4Life’s "Early Death" ad campaign  seems at little risk for a premature demise of its own.
 
In the latest development, Business4Life, a coalition of companies formed to support the U.K. government health campaign, released a statement to GoNintendo which would appear to debunk last week’s speculation that the now-infamous ad was payback for a lack of game industry donations:

Business4Life has not donated any money to the Department of Health or the Change4Life movement. The coalition has pledged a £200 million in-kind contribution to support Change4Life through marketing, branding and advertising activity.

A glance at Business4Life’s website seems to support this view. The B4L statement also refutes any editorial influence over the imagery used in the campaign’s adverts.
 
Perhaps more significantly, the well-known video game version of the "Early Death" ad, in which a young boy grasps a game controller, also has a junk food counterpart:

In fact, there is another poster as part of this campaign of a girl eating a cupcake with the strapline “is a premature death so tempting” which is running side by side the ad with the boy playing a video game, and we were only made aware of this once the ads were launched.”

Look here for full motion versions of both ads.
 
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

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Malaysian Consumer Advocate on Games: It's Up To Parents to Prevent "Fat, Violent Kids"

March 17, 2009 -

Malaysia's New Straits Times ran a front page article yesterday which urged parents to monitor the video games that their children play.

Muhammad Sha'ani Abdullah (left), who heads the National Consumer Complaints Centre, said that neither parents nor retailers are taking game ratings seriously enough:

These classifications are given by the producers of the games but when they are sold, traders rarely make it a practice to sell according to the recommended age group. They do not see how serious an impact it can have on children...

It is similar to what happened when junk food and fast food became available to children. We are now seeing many obese children. Similarly, in 20 years, we may have adults who practise the wrong values.

 

There is no law on video games. Therefore, these ratings must be actively promoted to parents.

The Times also quotes an unnamed consumer advocate:

The onus is on parents. Just as many failed to realise the dangers posed by junk food, today's parents are also failing to realise the dangers of violent video games and television shows... for video games, it is the parents' duty to ensure they don't contain violent content.

Parents must ensure they are not building a generation of fat, violent kids.

Apparently, games sold in the Malaysian market carry ESRB ratings. Complicating the issue of rating enforcement, however, is the wide availability of pirated games in Malaysia.

Via: Nine Over Ten

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Lack of Game Biz Contributions Behind "Early Death" Ad?

March 13, 2009 -

Over the last week, several British game industry types have expressed their displeasure over a Change4Life print ad which addresses the issue of childhood obesity by depicting a young boy playing a video game.

Now joining the chorus of those who feel their bread and butter is being unfairly singled out are EA and Ubisoft. Why games? Why not a picture of a kid chowing down on junk food or vegging out in front of the television?

Is there a connection between the ad and the video game industry's failure to donate to the British government's health campaign?

Business4Life is a coalition of corporations who have donated a combined £200 million to Change4Life, money which apparently grants them some influence on the direction of the campaign.  These firms include sweets manufacturers Cadbury’s, Mars and Nestle, soda maker's PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, and TV companies BSkyB, Channel 4, five, ITV, Virgin Media and Viacom.

Jane Holdsworth, marketing director of Business4Life spoke to MCV about the lack of participation from game companies:

It’s a shame – a combination of us not having contacts and games companies not coming forward.  We would be delighted to have the games industry involved in future. Our members meet regularly with the Department Of Health, and are given opportunity to express opinions about upcoming campaigns – which helps avoid nasty surprises.

 

It’s irrational and grossly unfair to pick on a single product like that. I’m surprised, because the Department of Health’s own research shows negative advertising is not effective.

For its part, Nintendo has expressed interest in opening up discussions with Business4Life.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

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Is UK Game Biz Over-reacting to "Early Death" Ad Campaign?

March 11, 2009 -

Outrage would be a mild way to describe the British video game industry's reaction to that now-infamous print ad which appears to suggest that playing video games may lead to an early death.

The gaming press has also been largely critical of the ads. But Rob Hearn at UK site PocketGamer takes a much different view:

To begin with, the ad does not call video game publishers 'child killers', or anything like it, and the suggestion that it does is bordering on neurotic...


The ad implies... that playing a lot of video games instead of running around in fields can reduce life expectancy, but that's true...

Of course, video games are no more responsible for obesity than they are for violent episodes. That responsibility falls firmly in the lap of the individual and his guardians...

 

[Given all of the unfair criticism of games, it's] no wonder the video game community feels embattled and defensive. But that's no excuse for fuzzy logic or myopia. Just because the public is neurotic, there's no reason why we should be.

It's not a contradiction to love video games and to believe they can be played to the detriment of the player. To discourage a group of impartial charitable institutions from making this point does no favours to the industry's hard won credibility.

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UK Game Biz Types Speak Out Against "Early Death" Ad

March 10, 2009 -

The British government’s recent Change4Life print ad, which visually links playing video games with an early demise, continues to draw ire from the games industry. Adding to official complaints lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority by MCV, Tiga, and ELSPA are scathing comments from a variety of industry types.
 
Codemasters CEO Rod Cousens:

Governments have a unique ability to get it wrong. Their track record to do so spans centuries.  As usual, they are out of touch, respond too late and their so called facts or intelligence is normally flawed. This is certainly so in this case.

Konami UK general manager Peter Stone:

Konami has long been at the forefront of active video games, with our Dance Dance Revolution series... we refute the accusations that gaming is a sedentary pastime, and feel such comments are damaging and do not reflect the wide range of activity-related titles that are both available and immensely popular.


James Binns, publishing director of Future (Official Nintendo, Xbox and PlayStation magazines):

Using a child with a joypad to illustrate Change4Life is crass and misleading. The negative associations with gaming could be long lasting. There is no arguing that the campaign’s underlying message about premature death is incredibly important – but the government would never risk the wrath of showing a child sitting still reading a book to illustrate their point.


Sega Europe president and COO Mike Hayes:

Television, radio, cinema, listening to music, computing, video gaming and of course, reading all require a high element of passive participation, but of all these media types it is video gaming that provides the most potential interaction and activity. It seems that an advertisement has been put together by a poorly informed advertising agency.

For its part, the Department of Health defended the ad:

We are not saying that children shouldn't play computer games or eat treats, but parents and children need to be aware of the benefits of a balanced diet and an active lifestyle. The activities portrayed are examples of poor diet and lack of physical activity.


You can grab a hi-res version of the controversial Change4Life advertisement here.
 
Via: MCV
 
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen.

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Reports of Execrise Guru's Suit vs. Nintendo Seem Premature

February 10, 2009 -

A story sourced to back to Newsblaze (we're not familiar with the publication) maintains that a California fitness guru by the name of Michael Torchia (left) plans to file a class-action lawsuit against Nintendo.

The Newsblaze story, in fact, reads rather like a press release and links back to Torchia's marketing site. As to the supposed lawsuit, its basis is described as follows:

Michael Torchia's mission is to have Nintendo pull their Wii games off the shelves until they make important changes to their products.

People around the World are sustaining serious injuries due to the lack of proper warnings on their products... Torchia feels Nintendo is misrepresenting their Wii games as a replacement for sensible exercise and sports activities. He believes that Nintendo needs to issue a warning that these games are intended for entertainment and not to replace actual physical activity...

There is a new phenomenon that is occurring as a result of extensive and widespread usage of the Wii Fit and Wii Balance Board. As more people use the Wii as an exercise tool, they are sustaining injuries in their knees, back and wrists because of overuse and improper warm-up...

Michael Torchia, has retained a prominent law firm in Beverly Hills, California to prepare a class action suit against Nintendo...

Despite reports to the contrary at some game sites, no lawsuit has yet been filed. The law firm said to be preparing such an action is not named. It's easy, of course, to threaten a lawsuit and adding Nintendo's industry-leading name to the mix ensures that such a threat will garner some coverage.

That's not to say a class-action suit won't be forthcoming. But it seems very odd to announce it in this fashion.

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North Dakota's 1st Lady Plays Guitar Hero... Legislators Fail at DDR

February 6, 2009 -

Bismarck's KYFR-5 reports that North Dakota's First Lady Mikey Hoeven (sporting the big hair at left) has played a bit of Guitar Hero. And the wife of Gov. John Hoeven (R) isn't bad at Dance Dance Revolution, either.

News of Mrs. Hoeven's gaming chops leaked during an American Heart Association event at the State Capitol. KYFR reports that legislators who gave DDR a try didn't fare nearly as well as the First Lady:

Sen. Dwight Cook knows a thing or two about North Dakota politics, but there was one thing going on at the capitol today that was over his head.

"It's not easy, it`s not easy at all," Cook says.

The response most legislators had after testing out Dance, Dance Revolution... Unfortunately, legislators weren`t so enthused about the high-tech workout.

"Most of them, I think, are a little shy or shy away from it because of the technology, I think they`re afraid like `Oh is this going to move too fast for me?` And `I can`t do this,`" says [gym teacher Tammi] Doppler...

First Lady Mikey Hoeven was among the top scoring in the political sector. But she admits, she had the upper hand as the concept of the game isn`t new because she`s played Guitar Hero.

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Anti-Obesity Commercial Riles Some Game Biz Types

January 20, 2009 -

Do video games make you fat? 

It depends on how many you eat!

*rimshot*

A new commercial (left) for the UK government’s Change 4 Life initiative seems to have irked a few game industry types by linking video games with obesity and other health problems.

The commercial, created in stop motion with plasticine characters, features a boy playing a Space Invaders-like game. While he works the controllers, the camera zooms in on his body to observe all of the fat he’s storing. Cut back to the TV, where he zaps an in-game representation of himself for Game Over. The boy and his father look at the screen in horror before hurrying outside to exercise and eat healthily.

An unidentified insider at “one of the world’s biggest producers of fitness games” told MVCUK:

Any initiative that encourages people to move towards a healthier lifestyle can only be a good thing. But this is just another example of naive stereotyping and scapegoating. Video games can be a part of an active and healthy lifestyle for everyone of all ages.

Actually, because video games are playing such an important and fun role in people’s lives, the very audience this advert is supposed to address and speak to might dismiss it purely because of the naivety and ignorance shown.

Richard Keith, publisher for Future’s games portfolio added:

You would have to pretty hard-headed not to support the aims of the Change 4 Life campaign… However, it should be noted that when it comes to house-bound activities, gaming is much more ‘active’ than most – whether that’s exercising the brain with puzzles, rocking out with Rock Band or playing a few sets of tennis with Wii Sports, there’s more to gaming than sitting playing Space Invaders.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen

35 comments

Does Wii Fit Really Work? Researchers Aim to Find Out

January 6, 2009 -

Will Nintendo's best-selling Wii Fit really help you get into shape?

What They Play reports that Scott Owens, a researcher at the University of Mississippi wants to find out. Owens equipped eight families with Wii Fit last autumn. The study will run for six months. Said Owens:

Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States, and one of the reasons is the adults and children are getting less physical activity. There has been an upswing in sales of whole body movement video games over the past few years. This potentially could help family fitness, so we are looking at the research aspect to see if family fitness improves after purchasing one of these whole body movement game consoles.

17 comments

Will New Study Linking Kids' Media Habits to Sex, Drugs & Obesity be Fast-tracked to the White House?

December 4, 2008 -

A study released by watchdog group Common Sense Media this week strongly correlates the amount of time children spend with media to poor school performance as well as negative health outcomes such as obesity, substance abuse and smoking.

Media and Child and Adolescent Health: A Systematic Review is, essentially, a survey of research on the topic conducted over the past 30 years. The study was carried out by researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and California Pacific Medical Center.

From a political standpoint, it is interesting to note that lead researcher Ezekiel Emanuel of the NIH is the brother of President-elect Barack Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Common Sense Media CEO and founder Jim Steyer (left) discussed the Obama connection with Time:

[Rahm Emanuel] will have a strong position in the incoming Administration. And I am optimistic that you'll see a renewed emphasis, from the White House on down, on media, technology and kids. In that sense, I'm very hopeful that Barack and Michelle Obama will be parents-in-chief and role models-in-chief for our country. Barack talked about it repeatedly through his campaign—turning off the TV, turning off the video games, doing your homework, talking with your kids.

Steyer also told Time that the study deliberately stayed away from issues of violence and media:

The research team decided that there was a voluminous amount of studies that focus solely on media and violence. So they wanted to stay away from that... This report doesn't say, nor would Common Sense ever suggest, that media is the cause of all society's ills, or the sole cause of childhood obesity or risky sexual behavior or smoking or alcohol use among teens. But it is a significant contributing factor...

The study's politicial potential is also emphasized in a press release on the Common Sense Media website which quotes former FCC chairman and CSM board member William Kennard:

The new administration has shown a commitment to children and has already made important statements about how it will focus new attention on technology and media. There is a unique opportunity to make real change in the role that media plays in our children’s lives.

46 comments

NIMF Report Card Praises Game Biz, Gives Parents an Incomplete

November 25, 2008 -

Mom and Dad forgot to turn an assignment in, apparently.

While lavishly praising the video game industry in its 13th Annual Video Game Report Card, the National Institute on Media and the Family has tagged parents with an "incomplete."

Actually, the "I" grade is NIMF's cutesy way of saying, well, not much, to be honest. Here are the grades along with NIMF's commentary:

ESRB Ratings.... A The addition of ratings summaries is yet another step forward in the growing list of improvements that the ESRB has made in recent years.

ESRB Ratings Education.... We commend the ESRB for intensifying efforts to help parents understand the video game ratings. The ESRB has become the entertainment industry leader in educating retailers and parents about the rating system.

Retailer Ratings Enforcement.... B+  The 80 percent enforcement rate shows significant progress with still some room for improvement.

Gaming Console Manufacturers.... Parental controls, timing devices and parent education efforts are all major
improvements giving parents more tools to supervise game play.

Parental Involvement.... Incomplete  The focus of this year’s report card is providing parents with the information they need. All segments of the industry have made significant improvements in recent years. Parents now have more information and tools than ever before. However, the constant changes present new challenges. Parents need to pay more attention to the amount of time and the types of games their kids play. The parent guide section in this report card is intended to motivate and equip parents to do this.

GP: We can't argue with the grades assigned to the game industry categories by NIMF, and the industry must certainly be pleased. There was a time, and not so long ago, that the ESA and ESRB dreaded this day as NIMF head David Walsh and Sen. Joe Lieberman would step to a Capitol Hill podium and deliver their annual video game beatdown, er, report card.

As to the incomplete for parents, it's meaningless, since NIMF has no way to measure it.

We must also say that the process would be far more coherent if NIMF maintained the same grading categories from year to year. The 2007 version, for example (which was far less complementary to the industry), included grades for "Retailer Policies," (broken down by National, Specialty and Rental) and "The Gaming Industry."

The 2005 version absolutely savaged the industry and included grades for "Ratings Accuracy," "Arcade Survey," and "Industry's 10-year cumulative grade." 

In addition to the grades, the report card contains about 30 pages of material regarding topics such as game addiction and a section on aggression research by Prof. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University.

Finally, NIMF's unfortunate decision to accept game industry funding clouds their grading effort. Inevitably, there are those who will say that the one-time watchdog has become a lapdog.

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Andrew EisenHence the "Uh, yeah. Obviously."09/02/2014 - 12:53am
SleakerI think Nintendo has proven over the last 2 years that it doesn't.09/02/2014 - 12:31am
Andrew EisenSleaker - Uh, yeah. Obviously.09/01/2014 - 8:20pm
Sleaker@AE - exclusives do not a console business make.09/01/2014 - 8:03pm
Papa MidnightI find it disappointing that, despite the presence of a snopes article and multiple articles countering it, people are still spreading a fake news story about a "SWATter" being sentenced to X (because the number seems to keep changing) years in prison.09/01/2014 - 5:08pm
Papa MidnightAnd resulting in PC gaming continuing to be held back by developer habits09/01/2014 - 5:07pm
Papa MidnightI find it disappointing that the current gen of consoles is representative of 2009-2010 in PC gaming, and will be the bar by which games are released over the next 8 years - resulting in more years of poor PC ports (if they're ever ported)09/01/2014 - 5:06pm
Andrew EisenMeanwhile, 6 of Wii U's top 12 are exclusive: Mario 3D World, Nintendo Land, Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8, Wonderful 101, and ZombiU. (Wind Waker HD is on the list too but I didn't count it.)09/01/2014 - 4:36pm
Andrew EisenLikewise, only two of Xbox One's top 12 are exclusive: Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son of Rome (if you ignore a PC release later this year).09/01/2014 - 4:34pm
Andrew EisenNot to disrespect the current gen of consoles but I find it telling that of the "12 Best Games For The PS4" (per Kotaku), only two are exclusive to the system: Infamous: Second Son and Resogun.09/01/2014 - 4:30pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/09/01/beyond-two-souls-ps4-trophies-emerge-directors-cut-reported/ MMM MMM, nothing quire like reheated last gen games to make you appreciate the 400 bucks you spent on a new console.09/01/2014 - 4:24pm
Andrew EisenThat's actually a super depressing thought, that a bunch of retweeters are taking that pic as an illustration of the actual issue instead of an example of a complete misunderstanding of it.09/01/2014 - 4:20pm
Andrew EisenObviously, the picture was created by someone who doesn't understand what the issue actually is (or, possibly, someone trying to satire said misunderstanding).09/01/2014 - 4:10pm
Papa MidnightPeople fear and attack what they do not understand.09/01/2014 - 4:04pm
Papa MidnightWell, let's not forget. Someone held their hand in a peace sign a few weeks ago and people started claiming it was a gang sign. Or a police chief displayed the hand signal of their fraternity and was accused of the same.09/01/2014 - 4:04pm
SleakerEither people don't understand that what the picture is saying is true, or the picture was created out of a misunderstanding of what sexism is.09/01/2014 - 3:52pm
Sleaker@AE ok yah that's where the kind of confusion I'm getting. Your tweet can be taken to mean two different things.09/01/2014 - 3:51pm
Andrew EisenSleaker - No. No, not even remotely. The pic attached to my tweet was not made by me; it's not a statement I'm making. It's an illustration of the complete misunderstanding of the issue my tweet is referring to.09/01/2014 - 3:13pm
Papa MidnightIn other news, Netflix states why it paid Comcast: http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/29/technology/netflix-comcast/index.html?hpt=hp_t209/01/2014 - 3:10pm
Papa MidnightAndrew Eisen: Sites like Tumblr make things seem much bigger than they are. A vocal extreme minority start complaining and things go as they do.09/01/2014 - 3:09pm
 

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