And so, two critical questions arise:
1 - How do we break out of the current moral panic over videogames, so we can better address real social issues?
2 - How do we ensure that we do not slip into the same pattern when the next medium of mass entrainment and expression comes onto the scene?
Some tease that the solution to the current panic over games is simply to wait it out. That is, we just have to hang around until the older generation dies off and this will all be a non-issue. While that may be true, mounting attacks on the industry make it hard to see how we could survive from now to then with such a laissez-faire approach. The challenge is in ensuring that games, and gamer culture, are not sterilized and neutered into oblivion before we get to a point where we become the older generation.
More likely, it will require a collective, concerted and proactive approach from everyone connected to games - not just "the industry." Sony Online honcho John Smedley got it right when he said that we need to take the words out of the politicians' mouths, get off the sidelines and get into the fight. We can't just rely on Brain Age to serve as our Trojan horse.
The recent establishment of the Entertainment Consumers Association and the Video Game Voters Network are two steps in the right direction. And even big guys like Microsoft realize it's time to get involved: They recently unveiled their "Safety is no game" campaign.
More importantly, it is about bringing attention to all the positive things about games and the diverse range of content available. New trends in lifestyle and fitness games have a role to play, along with advances in the serious games movement. Certainly charitable efforts like Penny Arcade's Child's Play can do wonders for the perception of games and gamers - if only it got a bit more play in the media.
Maybe we need our own summit to come up with a big - no pun intended - game plan?
In regard to the second question, well, that's even tougher. No doubt, there will come a time when we all wax nostalgic over how charming the GTA series was, and how some newfangled metaverse will turn kids' brains into jelly. And, in our old age, we'd likely be blind to the fact that we'd be singing the same ol' song that's been playing since humans first learned to mix nostalgia with panic.
Plus ça change ...
Jason Della Rocca is the executive director of the International Game Developers Association. (Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the IGDA.) He really cannot understand why his 1-year-old daughter keeps smacking him even though she's never played a video game. You can read his other musings at Reality Panic.