Poor reporting

I just read an article that makes me angry. The amount of mis-information and fear mongering is just amazing. The article starts out

We have an important warning for parents. Today marks the three-month anniversary of the launch of the Nintendo DS Wireless Connection. But Action News has learned this popular gaming system could put kids in harm’s way.

Huh? Right away, the red flags are going up. I assume they’re going to talk about the WiFi Connection. Sure, there is always the possibility of gaming with unsavoury people online, but Nintendo’s friend code system does a decent job of filtering those type of people out. So far, there are three games that use the Wireless connection (Tony Hawk, Mario Kart, and Animal Crossing) so right off the bat we’ve got some poor research being done:

It has built-in wireless capability. That allows kids to battle fellow Nintendo DS players across the room or across the world.

“They can play somebody they’ve never met.”

While this is technically true, my guess is that most kids aren’t playing with people they haven’t met over the WFC. I’m guessing most of these kids are playing with real life friends. (Let’s not forget that connecting to the WFC isn’t exactly simple. I’d say most kids under the age of 14 would struggle to get on without parental help). So what exactly is endangering the children? The super-horrible Picto-Chat!

Theresa’s 11-year-old daughter, Emily likes to doodle so she’s using the Nintendo DS Pictochat feature. Pictochat puts you right into a chatroom and let you send messages wirelessly – and on this day we are in one of Philadelphia’s many Wi-Fi hotspots.

Theresa Keel/Center City: “This screen name pops up and asks her what her name is and how old she is, and she answers.”
Emily Keel/Center City: “And I just felt a little scared and confused.”

This has happened to the Keel’s once before. But this time the screen name is so offensive, we can’t even show it to you.

“It frightened me. It really did.”

Wait one minute! Pictochat is not WiFi-enabled. At all. In fact, in order to chat with someone, you’d have to be in close proximity to the other DS your chatting with (about 60 feet). Unfortunately, this parent is so clueless that they have no idea what the technology in their child’s hands is capable of. All the mother has to do is tell her child to turn of the DS. If she was worried that they might be in danger, they could alert mall security and have them look for the scary person with the offensive screen name. But turning off the DS instantly severs any connection to the bad person. That’s all it takes. No one is “in harm’s way.” But of course the reporter couldn’t be bothered with the facts.

This is simply a case of not doing due dilegence with your research before you run a story. Sowing seeds of fear accomplish very little.

Even when we’re thinking of the children.

(via Digg. Slashdot, too.)

Gaming Parents: good little citizens.

It’s been passed around a lot already, but I couldn’t pass up the news story reporting that 35% of parents game. Not only can I include myself in that 35% (even though no one asked me), I loved this little tidbit:

Gamer parents are also likely to be voters, according to the study, with 73 percent of those surveyed claiming to visit the polls regularly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 85 percent think that monitoring the appropriateness of what kids play should be the job of the parents, not the government or game publishers. Similarly, parents believe by a two-to-one margin that it isn’t the government’s job to regulate games at all.

See that? Are all parent gamers conservatives? Nope. We’re just well adjusted and we’re involved. Involved in our kids’ lives, involved in politics (some of us more than others), involved in rational thinking.

It’s something we picked up while we were gaming.

Parenting is good!

I should start a running tally of bad vs. good portrayals of gaming in the media. Sure, the ratio would be 20 to 1 but it sure seems like the good ones are really good ones. The latest to go on the “Good Pile” is from the Washington Post, by Sebastian Mallaby, titled, “My son and I, Game to Learn.” (hat tip to BM reader Bobster).

The article starts off with everything we’ve heard before – studies can’t prove a link between violence and video games (even though they’re trying their darndest!) and all the benefits of playing games – better problem solving, you know the drill. But there’s more to it than that. It gets good when he starts talking about his son’s passion for RuneScape. I’ve never played RuneScape, but after reading this article, I’m intrigued. A little clip:

But the game’s main attraction lies in its business challenge. My son has been buying logs, making longbows and selling them at a profit; he says the margins in the bow business fluctuate around 10 percent. Lately he’s moved into buying magic herbs in bulk and retailing them individually. This is a dicier business, but the risk is balanced by reward. Herb-trading margins can be 100 percent or fatter.

Sounds fun. As a big fan of crafting, this sounds right up my alley. But the article is more than just the fluctuating markets of RuneScape. It’s about history and Age of Empires 3 and medicine and America’s Army.

All this coming from a confessed non-gamer. Keep the good publicity rolling!

Update: Joystiq has linked buttonmashing.com with this story. Thanks! Even with the wonky feed issue, I still dig the Joystiq crew.

V-chip for the Xbox

So there’s going to be parental control on the Xbox 360. I think is a good feature to add, in case little Johnny finds daddy’s pile of AO-rated GTAs when daddy’s not home. There are, however, two problems I see immediately. One, most parents are too technically ignorant to figure it out, their kids will be smarter than they are and will turn it off. Two, just because it’s there doesn’t guarantee parents will use it. We’ve already seen how little parenting is going on with this generation of young gamers.

But, in the end, it will probably be a moot point that the feature exists. Why? I’ll just quote the article:

Working out how to bypass the feature will probably the first thing every young European hackersí to-do list.