TV Psychologist, Tanya Byron, is heading up the UK Labour government?s ?Byron Review?, which launches today, and has been tasked with reporting on the effects of violent computer games and the Internet on children.
The review is to be launched by Dr Byron, Schools Secretary Ed Balls and Culture Secretary James Purnell at a school in east London, with full co-operation of trade body ELSPA (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers' Association).
Byron is the star of House of Tiny Tearaways and other populist shows where so-called middle class professionals bully and shame working class families about their unhealthy lifestyles. As you can see from the name of that show, notions of psychological objectivity would appear to get lost in the mix.
Speaking to the BBC today, ELSPA boss, Paul Jackson, said the industry was "too often blamed for everything from obesity to youth violence. It is just not true and it's not appropriate."
He added: "We feel quite positively about this review. It's clear the review is about making sure parents are properly informed about what their youngsters are playing and what they are accessing on the internet."
David Braben, of Frontier games (and Elite fame), added more sagely that: "A review might be useful but it should not just look at one media, especially when media are intersecting? Historically there has always been in government a Luddite sentiment - whatever the new industry is tends to take the blame of the latest ailment of society."
Braben continued, "We do tend to be the people who get the blame first at the moment. And that is a tragedy - because this industry is one of the most interesting media."
A review into video games as part of the culture, headed up by a respected authority with a background in the effects of violence in the media would be welcome. This review, however, with its TV-starred personality and apparent confusion of "video games" and "the Internet" (well, they both use those computer-console doo-hickies) has all the makings of whitewash.
What is required is concerted campaign to educate both buyer and seller about what game ratings mean. This is the heart of the problem and NOT those games publishers with a focus on producing adult-themed entertainment, such as the continually-demonised Rockstar with Manhunt 2, Eidos with the forthcoming Kane and Lynch and Atari with Alone In The Dark to name three.
Feeding the culture of fear surrounding such games among non-gaming adults leads to game bans in order to protect ?our children?, SPOnG fears, is the most likely outcome of this latest government initiative.
On the vague off-chance that the review board contacts you for actual opinion, we'd love to hear about it on the Forum.