NEW PSA CAMPAIGN PROMOTES VIDEO GAME RATINGS, PARENTAL CONTROLS
On Tuesday, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) began distributing a new public service announcement (PSA) to further educate parents about the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating system and the parental controls on video game devices. The PSA reminds parents to check each game’s ESRB rating, use the ESRB’s free mobile app to learn more about game content, and set the parental controls available on all current consoles, PCs, and handheld devices.
View the ESA's new PSA about the ESRB's rating system
In addition to sending the PSA to TV stations across the country, ESA and game companies are leveraging the video game industry’s extensive network of retail partners and innovative technologies to maximize the PSA’s reach. Companies such as Capcom USA, Take-Two Interactive, Xbox, and PlayStation have featured the PSA on their websites, forums, blogs, and social media channels. Microsoft will feature the PSA on the Xbox 360’s in-game dashboard and GameStop has committed to airing the PSA on its in-store TV networks across more than 6,000 retail locations this holiday season.
A number of policymakers expressed support for the PSA and its message. Vice President Joe Biden tweeted a thank you to the ESA for launching the PSA and urged parents to check the ratings of games their kids play. Other officials who praised the PSA included Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Bob Casey (D-PA), and Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). They drew on their experience as parents in emphasizing the value of the ESRB’s tools and resources.
The PSA is part of the video game industry’s ongoing commitment to equip parents with tools to help inform and manage their family’s entertainment choices. It will add to a growing library of similar materials, including instructions for using parental controls and a guide for family discussions about game play.
To view the PSA, visit http://youtu.be/Zlpkdm9VMrM.
DIGITAL WITNESS SYMPOSIUM EXPLORES HUMAN RIGHTS VIDEO GAMES
Programmers and scholars recently convened at Syracuse University for the Central New York Humanities Corridor’s fourth annual Digital Witness Symposium to discuss how digital video games and interactive media can engage new audiences in human rights activism. Organized by Syracuse University and Hamilton College, the public symposium at Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Public Communications featured media developers, programmers, and scholars who spoke about entertainment software’s evolution and its potential to create positive social impact.
Roger Hallas, associate professor of English at Syracuse, delivered the symposium’s opening remarks, and credited “the serious game movement” for serving as a catalyst in raising public awareness of and driving action on political and social causes. In particular, Hallas noted that by challenging players with complex scenarios, serious games foster new ways of understanding human crises and inspire people to mobilize around an issue.
Two featured guest lecturers at the event, Susana Ruiz, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, and Angel David Nieves, an associate professor at Hamilton College, presented their human rights games to the audience.
Ruiz showcased Darfur is Dying, the first title created by Take Action Games, a design studio she co-founded that partners with nonprofit organizations specializing in game design, activism, and non-fiction social justice storytelling. The award-winning game simulates the hardships that more than 2.5 million refugees face in the Darfur region of Sudan, and challenges players to keep a refugee camp safe from the threat of an attack by Janjaweed militias. Players increase their camps’ security and health by taking real-life action during game play, such as by sending an automated note to President Obama to support the people of Darfur, or by petitioning Congress to pass legislation that aids Darfur’s refugees.
Screenshot from Darfur is Dying, a game which simulates the hardships that more than 2.5 million refugees face in the Darfur region of Sudan
Nieves, who also co-directs Hamilton’s Digital Humanities Initiative, highlighted his work to develop a series of digital projects surrounding apartheid in South Africa. In Soweto ’76, for example, players assume the role of a variety of characters involved in the 1976 anti-apartheid student uprisings and experience accurate representations of historical events. The game’s online community also allows players to interact with local Soweto residents, national and international scholars, and former students who actually experienced the events.
These games demonstrate the potential for digital games and interactive media to captivate audiences in real-life stories and inspire players to become advocates for global human rights.
OPERATION SUPPLY DROP HELPS SOLDIERS COPE THROUGH GAME PLAY
This Veterans Day, the nonprofit group Operation Supply Drop (OSD) will enlist the help of gamers across the U.S. to advance its mission of bolstering morale among American troops and helping veterans fight Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with video games.
OSD collects in-kind donations of video games, hardware and accessories, then prepares and sends video game care packages to men and women deployed in combat zones and service members recovering in military medical facilities. These care packages meet an important need for members of America’s armed forces. An increasing number of service members state that playing games helps to build camaraderie and distracts them from the challenges of war. In addition, several studies have found that games effectively help troops cope with PTSD, combat injuries, and other repercussions of war. The Journal of CyberTherapy and Rehabilitation, for example, examined more than 15 studies testing therapies involving virtual-reality exposure, and concluded that most studies showed such regimens strengthened the success of PTSD therapy, with an average success rate of 66 to 90 percent.
Troops in Afghanistan with video games from Operation Supply Drop
In honor of Veterans Day, OSD will host its second annual donation drive, "The 8-Bit Salute to Veterans Day," on November 9 and 10. The 24-hour game marathon enables players to sign up and solicit donations from their friends and family. OSD hopes to raise enough funds from the marathon to support 12 video game supply drops to troops around the world, as well as two drops to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia.
"Ultimately, the games help make [soldiers] feel a little closer to home, because if they were home, they would probably be playing these games with their family, with their kids,” said OSD care package recipient and Army Sergeant Teddy Simmons in an interview with Kotaku. “It lets them know that…there is an appreciation for our actions and cause…The package set up a positive tone for the entire camp."
To learn more about OSD, visit http://www.operationsupplydrop.org/.
ROCK STARS SHINE SPOTLIGHT ON SUSTAINABILITY GAME AT SOCIAL GOODS SUMMIT
Video games shared the stage with celebrities, technology pioneers, world leaders, and passionate activists at Mashable’s recent Social Good Summit, an annual event that explores how to leverage new media and technology to promote actions that make the world a better place.
Among the summit’s speakers were Linkin Park bassist Dave Farrell and drummer Rob Bourdon. The two musicians were featured on a panel about sustainably, and discussed Recharge, a free-to-play social game they created in partnership with Kuuluu Interactive Entertainment. Farrell and Bourdon noted that today’s highly connective online games and social networks provide numerous opportunities to raise awareness of important issues and turn users into activists, and said Recharge’s goal is to educate people about the need for sustainable energy. The game simulates a world in which humans have depleted all natural resources, and players must team up to battle machines for control of the limited energy supply that remains and “recharge” the globe with renewable energy.
Linkin Park band members discuss Recharge and sustainability with UN energy policy specialist Bahareh Seyedi and Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore
The game is the latest product of Music For Relief, a charity Linkin Park started in 2005 to provide help to people affected by natural disasters and support clean energy projects. The charity's main project is Power the World, an initiative dedicated to raising awareness about the 1.3 billion people worldwide whose lack of electricity compromises their health, safety, education, and livelihoods.
Farrell and Bourdon plan to engage Linkin Park’s 56 million Facebook fans in the climate change debate through Recharge.
"We're big believers in powers in numbers," Farrell said. “What better way than gaming? We grew up playing video games, and those games had all different types of messages.”
To try your hand at “recharging” the world, go to: http://www.lprecharge.com/.
In The News
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Quote of the Month
"In many of these games, the best way to learn is to continually fail and then reassess and try again. This creates a positive relationship with failure, especially because the stakes are so low."
— Joey J. Lee, assistant professor and director of the Games Research Lab at Columbia University's Teachers College in New York, on how video games encourage students to persist through negative outcomes
Did You Know?
“The Art of Video Games” traveling exhibition will open at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. on October 25, and will remain on display until January 29, 2014. The museum will offer a variety of related public programs during the exhibition’s presentation, including a lecture and book signing by exhibition curator Chris Melissinos, family-friendly events such as a video game character design competition, and musical concerts featuring scores from popular video game titles.
Statistic of the Month
According to new research released by ESA, a record 385 U.S. colleges and universities are offering computer and video game design programs or degrees. Schools are also offering new degree programs this year, preparing more students for careers in the nearly $21 billion entertainment software industry. A total of 55 schools offer associate’s degrees, 226 offer bachelor’s degrees, 46 offer master’s degrees, and four offer Ph.Ds.
ESA Foundation Impact Update
On Wednesday, October 23, the ESA Foundation (ESAF) will host its annual gala, “Nite to Unite — for Kids” (NTU). NTU convenes leaders from the entertainment software community to celebrate the industry's continued growth and success, while also helping to make a difference in the lives of America's youth. To date, NTU has raised more than $12 million to support ESAF’s scholarship program and grants to organizations that create opportunities for youth across the country. For more information, please visit www.nitetounite.org.
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