Erin Hoffman's Inside Job

Erin Hoffman's Inside Job
Inside Job: Getting Real about Kids and Games

Erin Hoffman | 5 Oct 2007 17:00
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I've talked to some of them. The thing is, they're genuinely scared. It's hard for us to understand this because we're so steeped in videogame culture that we know, through first-hand knowledge, that games don't hurt people. But these parents don't have that experience.

If you've ever seen your father or your grandmother try to make sense of a videogame, you'll know what I'm talking about. My stepmother couldn't even stand to look at Sonic the Hedgehog, because it gave her motion sickness.

The sheer length of videogames is also an issue. While a parent can, with minimal investment, watch a movie before she allows her child to watch it, the amount of time it takes to get through a videogame is prohibitive. Parents know that they can't possibly screen an entire eight-, 10- or 50-hour videogame for content before they allow their kids to have it. This creates a barrier between themselves and the media, which - if they think they can't trust what the only videogame review board is telling them - induces more fear, and more protective instincts.

Add to this the sheer amount of time modern kids spend with their eyes glued to a screen, and you have some very real concerns. These parents aren't pushovers, and they aren't stupid - most of them probably don't trust politicians any further than we do. But the politicians are telling them there is a danger, their instincts are telling them they are out of their depth, and the game community, in large part, is dismissing them and calling them names.

Quality Environment

So what does this have to do with quality of life? An awful lot, actually.

One of the most popular pieces I've written for The Escapist, one that continues to get me emails, is certainly "Who's Your Daddy? - Why Parents Make Great Game Developers." In November, here and at the Montreal International Games Summit, I will be arguing the converse - that game developers make great parents.

The emails I get about the original article come from parents in the game industry who feel set upon from all sides. It's one of those things, like the working hours and the regret about being away from their family, that are heartbreaking. And I am tired of having to defend parents to other developers - though that's becoming less and less necessary as time goes on - and even more tired of seeing developers have to mask or excuse their profession to other parents.

I come from a diverse family with computer professionals, teachers, steelworkers, military, artists, managers and more. Those industries all have great people. But game developers and members of the creative, forward-thinking arts in general - meaning primarily videogames and science fiction - are the best people I know. They're passionate, optimistic, visionary, tolerant, progressive, energetic, wondrous individuals. And they have some of the worst PR in the world, for how few people outside of the communities realize this, and, in the case of game developers, how hard we have to fight to do this thing that we love. That fight hurts overall quality of life as much as anything else, hurts our ability to be creative, and it causes people to leave the business.

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