Just when I was thinking how long it’d been since a New York Times article really got me steamed, Michael Marriott served up a doozy (Weaned on Video Games) in yesterday’s Circuits. Here Marriott serves up a love cocktail to the video game industry by touting the wide-open market for games among the 4 year-old set. I kid you not! Not only that, but amidst all the breathy excitement of the author’s prose, he doesn’t ask or allow a single child psychologist or public interest children’s group to comment on the dubious phenomenon of children as young as two (that’s right, one marketing whiz proudly claimed that his game could be played by a 2 year-old!) playing video games.
Here’s what another marketer has to say about the promise of this niche for her industry:
“We have been looking at data that shows that kids at an earlier and earlier age are starting to play video games,” said Julia Fitzgerald, vice president for marketing at VTech Electronics North America. “We wanted to know how we could make this phenomenon work for Mom” – and make it educational.
How does it “work for Mom?” By turning Mom’s babies into zombies during the hours spent in front of the game, thereby serving as a lobotomizing baby sitter?
The author presents the disturbing findings of a study about children’s gaming habits:
A report last fall by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research organization, found that half of all 4- to 6-year-old children have played video games – on hand-held devices, computers or consoles – and one in four played several times a week. Of children 3 or younger, 14 percent have played video games.
That last figure sends chills down my spine.
Pardon me for poking fun at Marriott, but I just have to:
Some game analysts and developers also point out that children are getting older faster.
So let me make sure I understand: our children are losing their childhood to violent cartoons and movies; they’re losing their innocence through the brazenly sexual children’s clothing hyped by the fashion industry…all of this meaning that the video game industry is just following a trend rather than making one? Crap, I say.
Let’s hear from another thoughtful marketer certainly not interested in exploiting toddlers for financial gain:
Daniel Hewitt, public relations manager for the Entertainment Software Association, the trade group that represents computer and video game publishers in the United States, said that playing video games “comes really naturally” to very young children.
Perhap Mr. Hewitt would like to take this to its natural idiot extreme? Maybe cigarette smoking could be similarly introduced to the toddler set. Maybe they’ll take to that “really naturally” as well.
Now, let’s let another marketer put his foot squarely in his mouth without realizing it:
“It’s great for us, introducing kids to video games at a young age,” said Joe Brisbois, a game producer for Sony Computer Entertainment America in Foster City, Calif. “Speaking as a designer, it will push us to create more challenging games for this generation of players that will master the basic skill sets earlier than any other in the past.”
This really starts to remind me of Camel’s attempt to coax young people into smoking with its Joe Camel campaign. The only difference is that cigarette smoking eventually kills these children smokers, while video games only stunt their tender brains.
Besides the question of where this journalist’s professional judgment flew off to, I think there must also be an editor asleep at the wheel here. What editor in his right mind working on an article like this doesn’t ask his reporter to go out and get an alternative view on such a toxic social development?
Maybe you’ll say I’m an old fogey. Perhaps, younger parents (I’m in my early 50s) won’t find anything potentially harmful with Jake or Tina spending hours in front of a video game screen. I know I wasn’t born on video games and don’t use them. But I still think that my point has merit. This simply can’t be good for children whose brain function is so sensitive and tender at such an early age. I can’t imagine that a young child who needs tremendous mental and physical stimulation in their play is going to get much by playing such games.
My son is 3 1/2 and he’s playing with wooden blocks; he’s painting; he’s drawing; he’s dancing down the hall and singing his heart out. But he’s not playing video games.