In a rousing keynote address that ran well into our allotted lunch hour, John Geoghegan, Executive Director at The SILOE Research Institute offered a 12-step program for guiding games out of the danger zone. Though his remarks were directed at the body of gathered game marketers, this 12-step program is something that everyday gamers should follow, as each of us is in regular contact with people who really don't know all that much about our favorite hobby and who could use a little edumacation.
Why is any program at all needed? Geoghegan explained, "it's time for us to wake up people! we are in deep doodoo." The major issue is that games are headed for a "perfect storm of circumstances" as the 2008 election incentivizes politicians like Hilary Clinton to make game content a political issue to win votes. The effects could be disastrous.
A summary of his 12-step program follows.
- Promote the ratings system. Geoghegan noted that the industry has a "perfectly good" ratings system maintained by the ESRB. That ratings system needs to be promoted and supported.
- Evangelize the benefits of video games. Brandishing a copy of Everything Bad Is Good for You, he noted that there are some people out there who deeply believe that games are good for those who consume them. This message needs to reach non-gamers.
- Prove that games are good. Partner with brand-name universities to conduct research that disproves "negative mythology about video games."
- Publicize that history shows that new media is never never embraced wholeheartedly at the start. Most people are resistant to change. Mozart was a radical in his day. Elvis was too. Frank Zappa? The Marylin Manson of his day. Comic books. Radio. The novel. Theater. It's natural that games will have its detractors. Helping people understand that this is typical and not a result of some inherent evil in games is critical.
- Preach moderation and promote good parenting. The liquor industry promotes responsible drinking, and that's an industry whose product actually kills a large number of people every single year. We need to help parents understand that they should be moderating their kids' interaction with all forms of entertainment, not just games. That's the definition of parenting.
- Benchmark against sex and violence in prime network tv and movies. "Have you ever watched CSI? the grisly forensic corpses that they turn up each week on that thing? I don't think that videogames have cornered the entertainment market on sex and violence by a long shot."
- Embrace the constitution. Most of the proposed legislation is violates constitutional rights.
- Lobby. "Let's make political donations. Let's play the game like everybody else plays. Maybe we are doing that... but if we are, maybe we're not paying enough or we need to get new lobbyists."
- Harness our best spokespeople. Spielberg and Peter Jackson appreciate the games medium. Have these guys help assuage public concern by speaking on behalf of games.
- Demonstrate our most creative games. Games aren't just Grand Theft Auto and Halo, but that's what they are to the non-gaming public who no longer chance across games in arcades. It's not all guns-and-boobs anymore. Publicize the creative hits like Katamari Damacy, Guitar Hero and so on.
- Put the problem in statistical perspective. Less than 20% of all games released are M-rated, but the general public has been mislead to believe that most games are M-rated.
- Be proud. "You're marketing people.... Be proud of what you do for a living. Don't be ashamed to say that you like video games. this is a great industry!" The talent, creativity, artistry, technology and sheer heart all on display in the gaming industry are inspiring and praiseworthy. Be proud of that.