NIMF Programs Find New Home, VG Report Card Future in Doubt

January 28, 2010 -

The National Institute on Media and Family (NIMF), which was forced to shutter its doors at the end of last year, has found a taker to carry on some of its programs.

NIMF and MediaWise trademarks, NIMF website content and the NIMF programs Say Yes to No, Switch and through-U will be transitioned to the Search Institute, an independent nonprofit with a mission of providing “leadership, knowledge, and resources to promote healthy children, youth, and communities.”

NIMF founder David Walsh on the changeover:

Search Institute has been a trusted resource for parents, educators and community leaders for 50 years. We are excited that the work of the National Institute on Media and the Family will not just survive. It will thrive.

Search Institute CEO Peter Benson offered:

We are honored to have been selected as the new home for these great resources. We look forward to offering these tools and ideas as part of our efforts to help families, schools, and communities work together to ensure that all children and youth succeed.

We asked a NIMF spokesperson if The Search Institute might also perpetuate NIMF’s annual Video Game Industry Report Card and were told that the “Search Institute is evaluating all of the programs from National Institute on Media and Family over the next 3-6 months and will determine which ones to continue to offer in the future.”

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Game Industry Scores Well in FTC Report

December 3, 2009 -

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) seventh report on Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children (PDF) contains good news for the videogame industry.

The FTC review labeled the games industry the "strongest” of the three entertainment sectors (games, music and movies), when it came to self-regulation. The Commission added that the game industry “did not specifically target M-rated games to teens or T-rated games to younger children.“ Additionally, compliance with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) code within the videogame industry was “high in all media.”

Undercover shopping stings run by the FTC reported that retailers were “strongly enforcing” age restrictions for M-rated games, with “an average denial rate of 80%.” GameStop and Target were labeled as top enforcers. Toys R Us however, was specifically labeled as trailing when it came to enforcement, with only a 56% denial rate. The report called the use of gift cards to buy games online a “potential gap in enforcement.”

On the advertising side, the FTC found that game companies demonstrated a “high degree of compliance” when it came to television ads, with only a “few instances” of non compliance over a more than two-year period. The same description was used to depict compliance with videogame print ads.

FTC suggestions aimed directly at the game industry were adding content descriptors to the front of videogames, alongside ratings, and to continue to provide more detailed rating summaries online for parents. Additionally, all three industries were told to pay more attention to compliance within online and viral marketing campaigns.

Entertainment Software Association (ESA) President and CEO Michael D. Gallagher was understandably happy about the report, saying, "Today's FTC report is a strong acknowledgement and validation that industry-led self-regulation efforts are the best way to provide parents and retailers with the resources and support they need to keep our kids' entertainment experiences suitable."

The ESA press release also included a quote from National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) head, Dr. David Walsh, who stated, “We join the FTC in applauding the industry's progress. The advancement in technology including parental controls by console makers, identification checking by retailers, and an ongoing effort to improve ratings illustrates that the members of the video game industry have taken our concerns seriously and continue to make sure that kids enjoy games that are age appropriate."

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NIMF to Close at Year End

November 20, 2009 -

Founded in 1996, The National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) will close its doors at the end of the 2009 calendar year.

In a statement, the group said “that more work remains to be done,” and that NIMF’s board is in discussions with other non-profits organizations to see if its programs and research can be carried on.

NIMF’s most prominent work was its annual Video Game Report Card, which graded the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), game publishers, retailers and parents annually on the enforcement and education of videogame ratings. While the rated groups were knocked early and often by NIMF, the 13th annual Report Card gave grades that would have made any parent proud, except for the “Incomplete” for the Parental Involvement category.

Game groups eventually even cozied up to NIMF, culminating in a grant of $50,000 bestowed upon NIMF in 2008 by The Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

President and founder Dr. David Walsh (picutred), who indicated that he is not ready for retirement, and will continue to speak and write on parenting topics, had this to say:

The current challenging economic environment accelerated those discussions making this the right time to begin transitioning the programs to other organizations who share our mission and values. I look forward to transitioning the Institute’s programs to worthy organizations that I am confident will continue to educate parents and caregivers on our rapidly changing digital culture.

NIMF credits its annual Report Card with the adoption of a ratings system, additional scrutiny over age appropriate game purchases at retail and parental controls being incorporated into console systems.

In a blog post, Dr. Walsh added:

We’ve accomplished a lot of amazing things in the last thirteen years.  And in that same amount of time there has been unprecedented technological innovation and an ever-increasing number of screens in young people’s lives, making the Institute’s mission just as relevant today as when we started.  So while this chapter of the Institute’s work is coming to a close, I am excited to transition the Institute’s programs to organizations that will continue to foster the same important conversations and bring relevant solutions to parents.

Update: Via an article on the WCCO CBS affiliate website, comes definitive word that a lack of funding was the culprit behind NIMF’s closure. NIMF was funded by Fairview Health Services with an annual commitment of some $750,000, a figure that Fairview could no longer justify in the current economic climate.

The President of Fairview’s North Region stated, “It was back in the summer of this year that we really said, 'We can't continue. Fairview can't continue.’”

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NIMF's Walsh Lauds ESA for Pushing ESRB at App Store Games

June 15, 2009 -

The ESA & ESRB (which is owned by ESA) have recently begun a push to bring the videogame industry's content rating system to that wild frontier of gaming known as the iTunes App Store.

The ESA plan has now received support from a rather unexpected source.

Dr. David Walsh of the National Institute on Media & the Family has weighed in with an endorsement of ESA boss Mike Gallagher's offer to have the ESRB rate App Store games. In a statement released late on Friday, Walsh said:

Michael Gallagher deserves considerable credit for his foresight in identifying the latest challenge for parents, the gaming industry and the ESRB. As gaming technology continues to advance and games become more accessible via online downloads and phone applications, parents will need new tools to keep inappropriate games out of their kids’ hands.

 

Gallagher took a great first step offering to work with Apple to ensure inappropriate content does not make its way into kids’ lives. I hope Apple accepts his offer and reaches out to other organizations like the ESRB and non-industry groups who are concerned about this issue and can offer valuable insight.

GP: As GamePolitics reported last September,  the National Institute on Media & the Family was the recipient of a $50,000 grant from the ESA Foundation.

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Frontline Looks at Video Game Addiction in South Korea

May 27, 2009 -

The National Institute on Media and the Family, which seems to have adopted video game addiction as its primary game-related issue of late, recently used its Twitter account to point to a Frontline video report on gaming in South Koria. 

Part of the report examines the struggle of an adolescent boy to balance his game play with the other facets of his life and looks at the government-run anti-game addiction camp he attends.

Click here for the video.

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Survey Says: One in Twelve Gamers Addicted

May 26, 2009 -

One in 12 gamers shows signs of addiction, according to a study being presented this week at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Congress.

Prof. Vladan Starcevic (left) of the University of Sydney told New Zealand's NZTV that his team reached that conclusion after conducting an online survey of nearly 2,000 worldwide respondents:

Their whole lives revolve around this activity and there certainly seems to be a problem there - there is an addiction. And it seems to us that these people seem to... have other mental health issues, and it seems excessive video game playing is a manifestation of these underlying problems.

Problem gamers identified by the researchers were more prone to being socially isolated, at increased risk of depression and more likely to engage in compulsive behavior. Most seemed to play four or more hours per day and preferred MMOs like World of Warcraft. On the other hand, Starcevic noted that 92% of gamers displayed no problems with their gaming:

Most people who play video games are not problem video game players, to put it in simple terms, they're not addicted to video games. It is a minority of people who seem to have a problem.

As GameCulture notes, the 8% figure arrived at by Starcevic is remarkably close to the 8.5% game addiction rate Iowa State Prof. Douglas Gentile reported in a study released jointly with the National Institute on Media and the Family last month. As GamePolitics has reported, Gentile's research was criticized by ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer and Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson, author of Grand Theft Childhood.

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NIMF Game Addiction Stats Not Convincing to Poll Respondents

May 19, 2009 -

Late last month, GamePolitics reported on a study jointly published by Dr. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University and the National Institute on Media and the Family which claimed that approximately one in twelve kids show signs of being addicted to video games. Those results were determined by comparing the gaming habits of 8-18-year-olds to symptoms of gambling addiction. Video game addiction is not currently recognized as an official mental disorder.

Shortly after the study’s release, NIMF launched a poll on its website asking: “Do you think that video game addiction is a real problem?” Here’s the national breakdown of the voting as of Monday afternoon.  Of 3,169 respondents:

  • 74% - No
  • 19% - Yes
  • 7%  - Not Sure

Minnesota, where NIMF is headquartered, is the only state with a majority of Yes votes at 51%. The state with the highest percentage of people who don’t think video game addiction is a real problem?  Nevada, at 96%.

Go figure.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen...

UPDATE: The poll remains open. As of posting time, the numbers have changed a bit. Vermont, with 38%, has joined Minnesota as the only state currently where the Yes votes are in the majority.

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ESA Targets NIMF Addiction Study

April 28, 2009 -

Last week the National Institute on Media and the Family along with Iowa State University Prof. Douglas Gentile released a study which claimed that 8.5% of 8-18 year-olds displayed signs of video game addiction.

The research, published in the journal Psychological Science, was quickly challenged, most notably by Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson (co-author of Grand Theft Childhood) and ABC News polling director Gary Langer.

Citing Langer's report on the study's flawed research methodology, game publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association yesterday sent a letter to the editor of Psychological Science, Purdue University Prof. Robert Kail. ESA CEO Mike Gallagher questioned the validity of the NIMF/Gentile findings and complained that their alarming assertions regarding video game addiction received wide coverage in the mainstream media.

It is safe to say that the sole reason the [Gentile] study generated the kind of media attention it did was due to the inclusion of specific numbers that would appear to have been based on scientific research. In fact, the numbers reflected no such thing. Because of the composition of the group studied, neither the overall figure, nor the cited sampling error is supported by the data Dr. Gentile presented. 

 

We accept Dr. Gentile’s [subsequent] admission of [sampling interpretation] error at face value, although it is hard to understand how a researcher would base a scientific study upon an assumption about the nature of the group he was studying. It is not that Dr. Gentile did not have time to make sure that the group was a truly national representative sample: the data was collected in January, 2007...

Gallagher concluded by asking Kail to advise Psychological Science readers of the discrepancy between the sampling reported by Gentile and that upon which the study was actually based. For a detailed explanation of the sampling issue, see Gary Langer's ABC News post.

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ABC News Polling Guru Slams NIMF Game Addiction Data

April 22, 2009 -

On Monday Prof. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University in conjunction with the National Institute on Media and the Family released the results of a new study which suggested that one in twelve 8-18 year-olds displayed symptoms of video game addiction.

As GamePolitics reported, the methodology behind the ISA/NIMF research was almost immediately called into question by Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson, co-author of Grand Theft Childhood and Oregon psychiatrist Dr. Jerald Block, an expert of the topic of video game addiction.

A report today by ABC News polling director Gary Langer (left) goes a step further, questioning Gentile's study for its claim of being "nationally representative within 3% [margin of error]."

Writing for his The Numbers blog, Langer explains:

The problem: This study was conducted among members of an opt-in online panel – individuals who sign up to click through questionnaires on the internet in exchange for points redeemable for cash and gifts. There are multiple methodological challenges with these things... but the most basic – and I think least arguable – is that they’re based on a self-selected “convenience sample,” rather than a probability sample. And you need a probability sample to compute sampling error...

This is far from an inconsequential issue. The public discourse is well-informed by quality data; it can be misinformed or even disinformed by other data. It is challenging – but essential – for us to differentiate.

Langer also heard from the study's author who admitted the mistake in calculating a margin of error:

Prof. Gentile got back to me... He said he was unaware the data in his study came from a convenience sample... and that, relying on his own background in market research, he’d gone ahead and calculated an error margin for it. “I missed that when I was writing this up. That is an error then on my part.”

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ESA Reacts to NIMF Game Addiction Study

April 21, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics reported on research data released by Iowa State University Prof. Douglas Gentile and the National Institute on Media and the Family which suggests that one in twelve people between 8 and 18 show signs of video game dependency.

We also noted that Grand Theft Childhood author Dr. Cheryl Olson of Harvard questioned the survey methodology used in the study.

Not unexpectedly, game publishers' trade group ESA has now weighed in to dispute the NIMF research. Senior VP Rich Taylor (left) commented:

This is a report more in search of media headlines than scientific truth and facts. In an interview, though not in the report itself, Dr. Gentile said, ‘It’s not that games are bad. It’s not that games are addictive.’ Medical experts, including the American Medical Association, have already rejected the fallacy of video game ‘addiction,’ and we completely agree.

Like all forms of entertainment, computer and video games should be a part of a well-rounded lifestyle that includes healthy eating and exercise. It is up to parents to determine when and how often their children should play any game. For our part, the industry already provides a wide range of tools and information, including timers and parental controls, to help caregivers ensure that entertainment software is used appropriately.

Oregon psychiatrist Dr. Jerald Block, who has been known to drop by GamePolitics from time to time, offered some additional criticism of Gentile's research, reports USA Today:

Jerald Block, a psychiatrist at the Oregon Health Science University, called the study "valuable" to the American Psychiatric Association's [upcoming] decision on whether compulsive computer and Internet use should be considered a mental disorder.

Block, an APA adviser, warns that the [NIMF] study has weaknesses. The research should be replicated because it is supported by the National Institute for Media and the Family, which he likens to a lobbying group. And the survey could have found higher game use because it was collected in January as opposed to summer. It also classifies 8.5% as addicted without a physician interview: "The people they are claiming have a problem, it's not entirely clear that they do have a problem."

UPDATE: GU Comics pokes a bit of fun at the NIMF study.

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Grand Theft Childhood Author Challenges NIMF Game Addiction Data

April 20, 2009 -

Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson, co-author of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, offered GamePolitics some thoughts on research data released today by Iowa State University Prof. Douglas Gentile and Dr. David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family.

According to Gentile and Walsh, 8.5% of 8-18 year olds exhibit behaviors similar to those that clinically define compulsive gamblers.

Olson, however, questions their methodology, which involved the collection of data via an online Harris Interactive Poll.

From Dr. Olson:

The concern here is labeling normal childhood behaviors as "pathological" and "addicted." The author [Iowa State University's Prof. Douglas Gentile] is repurposing questions used to assess problem gambling in adults; however, lying to your spouse about blowing the rent money on gambling is a very different matter from fibbing to your mom about whether you played video games instead of starting your homework.

 

It's also very questionable whether kids as young as 8 can accurately fill out a self-administered online questionnaire, especially one that uses questions designed for adults.

That said, the study is well intended, and a good reminder to discuss rules and set limits with your kids re: electronic game use.

New Study: One in Twelve Young Gamers Shows Signs of Addiction

April 20, 2009 -

A new study claims that one in twelve (8.5%) of gamers age 8-18 shows signs of being addicted to their hobby.

The research, conducted by Iowa State University and the National Institute on Media and the Family, compared the young gamers' playing habits to the American Psychiatric Association’s list of symptoms of gambling addiction.

The 8.5% of study subjects who showed addictive traits indicated behaviors such as:

•    Lying to family and friends about video game usage
•    Using video games to escape from problems or bad feelings
•    Becoming restless or irritable when attempting to stop playing video games
•    Skipping homework in order to play video games
•    Doing poorly on a school assignment or test because they spent too much time on games.

ISU Prof Douglas Gentile (left) commented on his findings:

Many parents have been worried about their children being ‘addicted’ to video games. While the medical community currently does not recognize video game addiction as a mental disorder, hopefully this study will be one of many that allow us to have an educated conversation on the positive and negative effects of video games.

NIMF president David Walsh added:

This study is a wake-up call for families. While video games can be fun and entertaining, some kids are getting into trouble. I continue to hear from families who are concerned about their child’s gaming habits. Not only do we need to focus on identifying the problem, but we need to find ways to help families prevent and treat it.

The ISU/NIMF study used data collected in a Harris Interactive Poll that surveyed 1,178 American youth, aged 8 to 18.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the study here.

GP: Perhaps a small point, but the press release for this research continually refers to "nearly one out of ten" respondents being addicted to video games. However, the 8.5% addiction result determined by the research is actually much nearer to one in twelve (8.33%); we've represented it as such in this article.

UPDATE: Grand Theft Childhood co-author Dr. Cheryl Olson offers some criticism of the study methodology employed by Prof. Gentile.

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NIMF Sees Madworld as Blemish on Nintendo's Record

March 10, 2009 -

The National Institute on Media and the Family has taken a swipe at Nintendo over the release of Sega's bloody Madworld for the Wii.

IGN reports on a NIMF press release in which organization founder Dr. David Walsh criticizes Nintendo for licensing Madworld, which has been highly anticipated by many Wii gamers:

[Nintendo has] shed its 'family friendly' reputation with MadWorld's release.

 

The release of MadWorld for the Wii brings violent videogames to a once family-friendly platform. In MadWorld, gamers use the Wii Remote to make the necessary physical actions to chainsaw an opponent in half, impale an enemy with a signpost or decapitate a victim with a golf club...

In the past, the Wii has successfully sold itself as being the gaming console for the entire family and a way to bring family-game nights back into people's living rooms. Unfortunately, Nintendo opened its doors to the violent videogame genre. The National Institute on Media and the Family hopes that Nintendo does not lose sight of its initial audience and continues to offer quality, family-friendly games.

GP: While Walsh's criticism of Madworld is not unexpected, the idea that Nintendo is pursuing a family friendly policy went by the wayside with the 2007 release of Manhunt 2 for the Wii.

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NIMF's David Walsh Talks Game Addiction, Game Violence with GameCyte

December 31, 2008 -

GameCyte has a posted an in-depth interview with Dr. David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family.

On game addiction, Walsh told GameCyte's Sean Hollister:

[At a recent conference] therapists and counselors from all over the country were saying, “We’re seeing this in our offices every week, more and more frequently,” and so I think the frequency is definitely something that’s getting people’s attention...

Where we will go with video games, compulsive video game playing, whatever the term is, where we will end up with that ten years from now, I’m not quite sure. But I think it is something we’ll have to take seriously, and the people who just pooh-pooh it and say there’s nothing to it — they haven’t talked to the parents or the spouses that I’ve been talking to in the last couple of years...

 

I would hope that we wouldn’t go after companies that produce video games because for some people it becomes a problem... With video games, there are all sorts of positive uses and applications of the product… and I think that it would be wise for the industry to acknowledge that for some people, there could be a problem, and for them to actually become part of the solution...

 

Will we have [Congressional] hearings on this in five years? I wouldn’t be surprised.

The full interview is definitely worth a look.

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NIMF Fires Back at GP

December 4, 2008 -

Yesterday on GamePolitics I wrote that watchdog group the National Institute on Media and the Family has been co-opted by the video game industry.

It wasn't the first time I've taken NIMF to task for accepting a $50,000 grant from the Entertainment Software Association, the lobbying group which represents US game publishers. Not surprisingly, NIMF took umbrage at my comments. Spokesman Darin Broton told GameCyte:

We’re never going to stop putting the [video game] retailers or the [video game] industry’s feet to the fire... You can rest assured that we’ll be talking publicly in 2009 about the issue of gaming addiction.

 

[NIMF accepted the ESA grant because] we’re working on a project to create an online tool for parents to tackle the issues of online predators, cyberbullies, etcetera. It’s not a blank check. It’s for a specific spot on the website.

 

Yes, there was hesitation [about accepting the ESA grant], and if there wasn’t hesitation, I don’t think any of us would be doing our jobs. But I think the end result of giving a parent another useful thing for them to make better decisions at home with their kids is worthwhile.

 

I’ve actually laughed at GamePolitics, because before this, GamePolitics was a frequent critic of NIMF for being too harsh on the industry. It’s a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

I look forward to seeing what GamePolitics has to say in early 2009, and see if they still think we’re in the back pocket of the industry.

GP: I'm glad to see that my comments struck a nerve - they were meant to.

That said, I should point out that I have a great deal of respect for Dr. David Walsh and his organization. But there are certain lines which a self-proclaimed watchdog group like NIMF just shouldn't cross. And accepting money from the very industry you claim to be watching is one of those lines - maybe the biggest, brightest one of all. It's the reason why you won't find any paid video game advertising on GamePolitics, which is owned by the ECA, a game consumer advocacy group.

And while I haven't always agreed with NIMF's conclusions or its methodology, I've always believed that the organization's heart was in the right place. Over the years, David Walsh has been unfailingly respectful in his treatment of the gamer community and gaming press. As we all know, not every game critic behaves with such decency.

Beyond that, it's not a bad thing to have rational game industry watchdogs at work. When operating appropriately, groups like NIMF provide a useful checks-and-balances function. Yes, we may chafe at some of their conclusions, but sparking a dialogue about games and their potential effects on young people can't hurt.

In taking GamePolitics to task, Darin Broton indicates that NIMF will have some watchdog-worthy comments early in the new year.

We'll be watching.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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NIMF Report Card Praises Game Biz, Gives Parents an Incomplete

November 25, 2008 -

Mom and Dad forgot to turn an assignment in, apparently.

While lavishly praising the video game industry in its 13th Annual Video Game Report Card, the National Institute on Media and the Family has tagged parents with an "incomplete."

Actually, the "I" grade is NIMF's cutesy way of saying, well, not much, to be honest. Here are the grades along with NIMF's commentary:

ESRB Ratings.... A The addition of ratings summaries is yet another step forward in the growing list of improvements that the ESRB has made in recent years.

ESRB Ratings Education.... We commend the ESRB for intensifying efforts to help parents understand the video game ratings. The ESRB has become the entertainment industry leader in educating retailers and parents about the rating system.

Retailer Ratings Enforcement.... B+  The 80 percent enforcement rate shows significant progress with still some room for improvement.

Gaming Console Manufacturers.... Parental controls, timing devices and parent education efforts are all major
improvements giving parents more tools to supervise game play.

Parental Involvement.... Incomplete  The focus of this year’s report card is providing parents with the information they need. All segments of the industry have made significant improvements in recent years. Parents now have more information and tools than ever before. However, the constant changes present new challenges. Parents need to pay more attention to the amount of time and the types of games their kids play. The parent guide section in this report card is intended to motivate and equip parents to do this.

GP: We can't argue with the grades assigned to the game industry categories by NIMF, and the industry must certainly be pleased. There was a time, and not so long ago, that the ESA and ESRB dreaded this day as NIMF head David Walsh and Sen. Joe Lieberman would step to a Capitol Hill podium and deliver their annual video game beatdown, er, report card.

As to the incomplete for parents, it's meaningless, since NIMF has no way to measure it.

We must also say that the process would be far more coherent if NIMF maintained the same grading categories from year to year. The 2007 version, for example (which was far less complementary to the industry), included grades for "Retailer Policies," (broken down by National, Specialty and Rental) and "The Gaming Industry."

The 2005 version absolutely savaged the industry and included grades for "Ratings Accuracy," "Arcade Survey," and "Industry's 10-year cumulative grade." 

In addition to the grades, the report card contains about 30 pages of material regarding topics such as game addiction and a section on aggression research by Prof. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University.

Finally, NIMF's unfortunate decision to accept game industry funding clouds their grading effort. Inevitably, there are those who will say that the one-time watchdog has become a lapdog.

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NIMF Annual Video Game Report Card Due Today

November 25, 2008 -

The National Institute on Media and the Family will release its 2008 Annual Video Game Report Card today.

In contrast to previous years which saw NIMF head David Walsh (left) launch the report card in Washington, D.C., flanked by the likes of Sen. Joe Lieberman and other Congressional types, the 2008 edition will have a low-profile release from NIMF HQ in Minneapolis. A NIMF representative told GamePolitics that there will be no press conference, nor will any politicos be on hand.

The Associated Press has apparently gotten an early look at the Report Card and cites ten games which NIMF recommends be kept away from the under-17 crowd. All are rated M, so there would seem to be little disagreement between NIMF and the video game industry, at least as far as these titles are concerned:

  • Blitz: The League II
  • Gears of War 2
  • Saints Row 2
  • Dead Space
  • Fallout 3
  • Far Cry 2
  • Legendary
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Resistance 2
  • Silent Hill: Homecoming

From the Associated Press report:

The institute in past years has urged the video game industry to develop better ratings and retailers to do more to prevent kids from being able to buy mature-themed games. This year, citing the positive steps taken by industry officials and retailers, the group is focusing on ways parents can play a more active role in safeguarding their children from games that glamorize sex, drugs and violence.

NIMF head David Walsh told the AP:

In spite of the fact that all of the games are rated, in spite of the fact that the retailers are doing a better job, we still know that there are a lot of teenagers who still spend a lot of time playing adult-rated games.

 

We parents need to wake up and realize that the games our kids play do influence them. And it's our job to make sure they are playing age-appropriate games. It's the next big step.

GP: 2008 marks the 13th edition of NIMF's Video Game Report Card. But the watchdog organization damaged its credibility earlier this year when it accepted a $50,000 grant from video game publisher lobbying group the ESA.

GamePolitics will make the full Report Card available when it is released.

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Conflict of Interest? NIMF Responds to GP Queries on ESA Grant

September 30, 2008 -

Buried deep in last week's ESA press release which detailed a million bucks worth of grants to non-profits was word that the National Institute on Media and the Family was to be one of nine funding recipients.

NIMF is an interesting selection for the ESA, to say the least. Over the years the group has been a highly vocal, politically well-connected, and rational (in contrast to certain other critics) thorn in the side of the video game industry.

As recently as November, 2005, for example, NIMF head David Walsh, flanked by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), gave the ESRB an "F" on its Annual Video Game Report Card. In its 2007 report card, NIMF charged the game industry with "an ominous backslide on multiple fronts." Walsh has also worked with Hillary Clinton and other members of Congress on video game sex and violence issues.

Given NIMF's history as self-appointed media watchdog, it's more than a little surprising to see the group accept funding from the video game industry. Doing so raises obvious conflict of interest questions and GamePolitics put those issues to NIMF. Late yesterday, spokesman Darin Broton responded on behalf of the organization:

For 12 years, the Institute has been a leader in helping families maximize the benefit and minimize the harm of media. To continue our success in helping parents navigate the constantly changing technology, the Institute will work with organizations that support its mission to give parents the tools to make them even more successful. Reasonable organizations can disagree on principle, but can work together for the betterment of families and children. 

 

This isn’t the first time the Institute has worked with an organization it has been at odds with in the past. As you may recall, we worked together with the ESRB earlier this year during the release of GTA IV. The two organizations issued a joint statement telling parents to beware and follow the ESRB’s rating on the box. Where there are areas of agreement, the Institute will work with reasonable organizations to help parents and families. If the Institute has concerns with a particular issue within the gaming industry, we will respond appropriately. Nothing has changed.

Broton also told GP that the amount of the ESA grant is $50,000, but did not respond to our question as to whether NIMF approached the ESA regarding funding or vice-versa. According to the ESA press release the grant will be used to "develop an on-line e-learning zone for using the latest interactive technologies to help kids and adults understand the issues and potential areas of concern with the Internet."

GP: Broton is correct to point out that NIMF worked with ESRB on the GTA IV advisory. However, there's a wide gap between "working with" and "accepting money from." Whether one agrees or disagrees with NIMF and its mission, taking funding from the industry it purports to be watching is a credibility-damaging decision on the organization's part.

What were they thinking?

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Prominent Media Watchdog Group Among Game Biz Grant Recipients

September 29, 2008 -

The Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies on behalf of U.S. video game publishers, announced last week that it would award $1 million in grants to nine non-profit organizations. The money will be distributed by the organization's charitable arm, the ESA Foundation.

Most notable among the recipients is the Minneapolis-based National Institute for Media and the Family. The watchdog group, headed by Dr. David Walsh (left), is best known for its annual video game report card. At times it has been a harsh critic of the video game industry. In 2005, for example, NIMF tagged the ESRB with a failing grade in the wake of the Hot Coffee scandal.

According to an ESA press release, NIMF will receive funding to "develop an on-line e-learning zone for using the latest interactive technologies to help kids and adults understand the issues and potential areas of concern with the Internet."

GamePolitics has requested comment from NIMF.

Of the ESA Foundation grants CEO Michael Gallagher said:

We are pleased to help these organizations address such critical social issues. The creativity and commitment of these recipients gives us a glimpse into the countless ways technology, including video games, can be used to improve the quality of life of our young people.

Additional details on the grant awards are available on the ESA website. Aside from NIMF, other recipients include:

  • Animation Project, Inc.
  • HopeLab Foundation
  • PAX (not the game conference)
  • ThanksUSA
  • WGBH
  • Web Wise Kids
  • Federation of American Scientists
  • One Economy Corporation
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NIMF's David Walsh Interviewed in Game Informer

July 2, 2008 -

Dr. David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, is the subject of an  interview in the July issue of Game Informer.

The politically-connected Walsh, whose organization delivers its Annual Video Game Report Card each holiday season, is described by the magazine as "one of gaming's most thoughtful and reasoned critics." He dishes on a number of topics, including:

  • ESRB ratings (watchdog-ish, cautiously supportive)
  • his criticism of the Grand Theft Childhood book (disagrees with its premise)
  • his thoughts on video game legislation (opposes censorship)
  • Jack Thompson (publicly distanced himself from Thompson)

Regarding legislation, Walsh told GI:

I'm not in favor of censorship. Once we delegate to the government what we can and can't say and freedom of expression - and video games are a form of expression - that's a very slippery slope. I think government can have a role. I think the role they've been playing is the "bully pulpit" to raise awareness.

As to Thompson, Walsh said:

Extreme positions create a lot of heat but very little light. Television and talk radio love extreme positions. So there are folks out there who do not hesitate to take positions that they can't defend. You get the these food fights going on that talk radio loves, but don't really advance our knowledge and understanding whatsoever. It got to the point where I had to publlcily distance myself from Jack Thompson. 

Distance himself, indeed.

The high-profile split with Thompson came in October, 2005. The story was broken by GamePolitics, and set Internet tongues wagging for days. Read Walsh's letter breaking ties with Thompson here.

Why is National Institute on Media & Family Jumping into the File Sharing Debate?

March 5, 2008 -

In an unusual move, the National Institute on Media & the Family issued a newsletter alert last Thursday under the heading, "Does your teen understand illegal downloading?"

We found this both surprising and unsettling, for a couple of reasons.

First, the file sharing debate is a hot button issue between media content owners and consumers, and it's not one that's going away any time soon. Nor is it a simple issue. And while reasonable points can be made by both sides, the tactics of the content owners and their apparatchiks have been little short of draconian at times.

But even beyond the various arguments to be made, our question is simply this: Why is an organization founded and operated by a child psychologist (Dr. David Walsh), an organization which has historically attempted to relate modern digital media to developmental and emotional health issues, getting involved in a fight which is fraught with elements of politics and class struggle?

We note that the non-profit NIMF recently agreed to partner with Microsoft on PACT, a video game usage contract between parents and kids which also enjoys the backing of the National PTA. It is unknown whether NIMF's relationship with Microsoft is related to the non-profit's position on downloading. Figures compiled by Microsoft, however, are cited in last week's newsletter:
 

Parents have understood for millennia that they must teach their kids values like honesty and that you cannot just walk into a store and take stuff. Modern parenting includes preparing kids for honesty in the digital age.


 

Microsoft released results from an online survey showing that teens are less likely to illegally download or share content from the Internet when they understand the laws protecting intellectual property. However (and here’s the heads-up for parents and teachers), 49% of those surveyed said they did not understand the rules for downloading music, movies, images, literature, and software. Only 11% of teens surveyed said they “understood the rules very well.”


Attempts to reach NIMF for comment were unsuccessful. However, we will update if we hear from the organization.

GP: Let's be clear: we don't support copyright violation or illegal downloading. Nor, on the other hand, can we get behind many of the heavy-handed tactics employed by content providers. The bottom line? NIMF should stick to what it does best and let the wealthy media corporations fight their own battles.

National Video Game Summit Agenda Details

September 28, 2006 -

The National Institute on Media & Family and Iowa State University have jointly released the agenda for their upcoming National Summit on Video Games, Youth and Public Policy.

The event, scheduled for October 20-21 in Minnesota will feature a number of well-known academics, many of whom have expressed concerns about either video game content issues or video game ratings. According to a press release, the summit will focus on "concerns regarding video game ratings and children’s access to violent and sexually explicit games." Although it is believed that ESRB president Patricia Vance was invited, no video game industry officials are listed as participating. Here's the agenda: 

 
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ZippyDSMleehttp://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2014/07/19/ruling_aereo_is_not_a_cable_company07/22/2014 - 8:13am
ZippyDSMleelul what?07/22/2014 - 7:53am
ZippyDSMleehttp://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/07/bungie-cross-generation-destiny-wouldnt-be-fair-to-low-res-players/07/22/2014 - 7:53am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/22/wii-u-update-adds-system-to-system-transfers/ The latest Wii U update allows you to do the system transfer between two Wii Us. Still not true accounts, but getting there.07/22/2014 - 7:39am
Papa MidnightSpeculation from PC Gamer. Don't hold your breath. http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/07/21/microsoft-job-listing-says-nice-things-about-pc-gaming-isnt-clear-if-it-means-them/07/21/2014 - 5:58pm
MaskedPixelanteI dunno, it's probably Vevo powertripping.07/21/2014 - 5:52pm
Andrew EisenMP - Makes you wonder what the intention behind the removal was. Stop the RickRolls? Yeah, like removing that one video is going to make a difference.07/21/2014 - 3:27pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.billboard.com/articles/business/digital-and-mobile/6165313/youtube-blocks-original-rickroll-video Moment of silence, the original Rickroll video has been blocked in many regions.07/20/2014 - 3:53pm
PHX CorpUseless DLC news: Killzone Fart Pack http://ps4daily.com/2014/07/killzone-fart-dlc/07/20/2014 - 12:56pm
MaskedPixelantehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU1mK2ig_GU They did their research beforehand.07/19/2014 - 4:41pm
Sleaker@james_fudge - are you sure the FCC can pick and choose? the general rules I read as passed in the act don't really indicate that, but I didn't read through the entirety.07/19/2014 - 4:19pm
MaskedPixelanteOf course, Saban's entire point hinges on them not knowing what the tokusatsu genre is.07/19/2014 - 1:57pm
lomdrLink to where you saw this, Sora-chan?07/19/2014 - 1:50pm
MaskedPixelanteThis is just... confusing to me... They're not being sued, but it looks like extortion, but maybe now the devs can make demands of Saban? I dunno...07/19/2014 - 1:47pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/07/18/chroma-squad-dev-agrees-to-royalty-split-ultimatum-from-power-ra/07/19/2014 - 1:43pm
Sora-ChanSo apparently, Towns is updating again. Not sure what that means, since last we heard it got abandoned.07/19/2014 - 5:42am
Matthew Wilsonthe 10c is based of the fact that it only cost them 2c a gig to send data around to start with, and that does include infrastructure07/18/2014 - 5:24pm
Matthew Wilsonhere is the thing the average user does not use enough bandwidth to justify usage based billing at most they would be allowed to charge 10c a gig. the avrage user would need to use around 600 gigs a piece.07/18/2014 - 5:23pm
james_fudgeThe FCC can apply what rules it sees fit and ignore rules that make no sense under Title II.07/18/2014 - 4:57pm
Sleaker@MW - ahhh thanks for the info. I still don't see how Title II or reclassifying would benefit industry or do what people are asking the FCC to do.07/18/2014 - 2:43pm
 

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