Why Gamers Have a Public Image Problem

I want you to imagine what a person who plays video games looks like.

Like this, right?

This is the problem with gamers. This certainly seems to be how the general public and, more importantly, politicians view us. Just like every other group we carry a negative stereotype but unlike a cultural stereotype it is not only accepted by everyone and becomes the basis of political decisions regarding censorship and distribution laws. This is especially evident in Gaming Ghetto known as Australia which doesn’t allow any material of an adult nature to be made available in the country (more on that later).

Not Pictured: Oppresive Censorship

But let’s look at the facts. The average gamer is not a Ritalin popping fourteen year old, nor is it a pathetic shut-ins who cannot function in normal society. The ESA has conducted a surveys in the USA during 2011 that have found the average age of gamers to be 37 years old, with 29% of them being over the age of 50. Only 18% of gamers are under the age of 18, making teenagers and children the smallest age demographic.

These are the only gamers that worry me.

In spite of these figures the general image of the gaming industry is one that caters towards children. Sure, it started out that way around 30 years ago when Nintendo was leading the market but times have change and the kids of the 80s have grown into adults who play games aimed at an adult audience.

Gamers are a huge slice of the entertainment market with more than 7 out of 10 households in the western world being a gaming household, with 33% of those households considering it to be the primary source of entertainment. Gaming Censorship laws are passed on the assumption that games are for kids when in reality they’re looking at a majority of the adult community.

The argument made in Australia is that games containing overt violent or sexual content should be banned to protect the young audience members. As far as insults go this is a real kick in the teeth, as it assumes that adults have no control over their children’s entertainment when in reality the majority of parents only allow children to purchase games they have approved.

Just to be sure we had it removed from the alphabet.

Australian law dictates that any game rated ‘R18+’ is automatically banned (although the same standard in not applied to any other form of media). Instead of this preventing young audiences from playing inappropriate games most publishers simply remove a token piece of offending content to earn an MA rating, making it accessible to children fifteen years and older – a younger age than if they’d bought it in the USA or the UK.

One clear example is Grand Theft Auto IV, certified for over 18s in other western countries due to the fact that you can steal cars and aircraft, murder, crash, blow up police cars, stab people for their money, drown people, fire at helicopters with explosives and get drunk before getting behind the wheel of a garbage truck. In order to earn their ’15 years appropriate’ rating developer Rockstar removed the players ability to have sex with prostitutes, which happens off-screen.

You can still murder the prostitute with a range of firearms, explosives, knives, bats or your bare fists and steal their money, but the Australian Government balks at the idea of you having sex.

This is a sex scene from ‘GTA IV’.

And this is what was deemed was a-ok.

Somehow this fine, and the word 'morphine' was a problem.

This wouldn’t be such an issue if they were at least consistent in their ratings or even examined the games closely enough to make a sound judgement. Fallout 3 almost faced the ban hammer for its realistic depiction of drugs, which included the negative side-effects of their use and crippling symptoms of addiction, forcing the developer to change the names of the drugs to fictional products (such as morphine being changed to ‘Med-X’). Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the other hand allows the player to buy and sell accurately labelled drugs for profit, and this is a game that was released on the Nintendo DS – a gaming system targeted towards a younger demographic.

The perception of the gaming community begins with the public. Next time you encounter a generalisation about gamers, remember that it is negative stereotyping and grossly inaccurate. If everyone can get on board with this maybe the Powers That Be can stop treating us like irresponsible children playing with matches, instead of former Attorney General of South Australia Michael Atkins reinforcing the ban on R18+ games by claiming gamers were “more dangerous than bikie gangs”.

Now there is another side to this argument…so check in tomorrow for the Top 10 Video Games Not Helping My Argument!