How should we feel about the above advertisement. ‘Gambling Starts With Games’ it says. Here we go again.
I’m not angry. I’ve learned to not tangle up my own identity in what basically amount to nothing more than a hobby. An attack on video games is not an attack on me. It’s not an attack on ‘us’, whatever ‘us’ is. Whatever ‘us’ means.
I’m not even disappointed. Actually, on some level, it’s hard to not expect this sort of behaviour from out of touch policy makers, providing out of touch briefs for what will eventually become an out of touch advertisement targeted at out of touch parents, designed to create outrage. Designed to prod at their ignorance. It’s a sign of the times. More specifically, it’s a sign of the end of that time. My lack of outrage is part of that. The ignorance of those who don’t understand video games is impotent now. I don’t care that games are being misunderstood, I just feel sorry for the people who misunderstand them. It’s 2013. You don’t play video games? They still make you people?
The emotion I’m feeling — I think — is confusion, tinged with a hint of boredom.
I’m confused because this advertisement is clearly a mistake. So obviously a mistake that I openly wonder how and why it got past the faceless folks that tick the boxes on this sort of stuff. Simply put: the advertisement makes no sense. It doesn’t address the real issue. It communicates a message that throws the baby out with bathwater. GAMBLING STARTS WITH GAMES, the advertisement says, unaware of how ridiculous that statement is.
ALL DANCING LEADS TO SEX.
PARACETAMOL IS A GATEWAY DRUG.
The campaign itself isn’t the issue, it’s the advertisement itself. Children accessing gambling apps on mobile devices is a problem. Particularly when their malleable little brains are far more adept at fiddling with iPads and Androids compared to clumsy parents. The connections between games with gambling elements and actual gambling may be tenable, but some research suggests those connections exist and we have to deal with that fact.
But this ad, this statement: Gambling Starts With Games. It is wrong. It is a bad thing to say, It is a silly thing to say.
I don’t know if I can state it more plainly than that. Let’s look at another approach.
On the front page of the iGEA is a story with the headline ‘Time To Take Control’. It is a phrase used to discuss the various ways parents can enable parental controls to monitor their children’s console usage. It is a suggestion: review the consoles in your home. Are you making full use of the tools made available to you? To make sure your children aren’t accessing the kind of content you don’t want them accessing. Is this something you’re even aware of?
It’s a challenge, but it’s also educational.
Gambling Starts With Games. What is that? It’s a massive generalisation. It’s fear mongering. It’s an incorrect assumption. More importantly, it’s extremely unhelpful. It confuses the issue in a cloud of rampant fear mongering and moral panic. Cast these infernal devices from your home before they infect your children. Throw them out the window. Flush them down the toilet. For the love of god do something.
‘Time to take control’. What is that? It’s a statement that suggests gaming devices are something that — gasp — can be controlled. It informs parents that it’s time to learn how to protect your child from gaming devices like a parent should — because it’s your responsibility. It invites you to learn something, which is what these advertisements should be about: education.
Gambling Starts With Games: it places the blame elsewhere. It ‘others’ the blame. It places the blame inside a cosy little box and tosses it into the ocean where we can all forget about it and take no responsibility for our actions whatsoever.
South Australian government: you can do better. Actually, you couldn’t really do a whole lot worse. You’re obscuring the issue you want to promote. Worse, you’re drawing attention away from that issue, from the problem you should be trying to help others solve.
Maybe it's time to stop gambling with games. Maybe it's time to take control.