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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Child plea made to games industry
Children playing videogame (Science Photo Library/ L Bsip)
Experts have warned that children spend too much time gaming
A government minister has made a plea to the games industry to get involved in the debate surrounding children and playing videogames.

Experts recently warned that young people were spending too many hours in front of consoles and missing out on healthy childhoods.

Creative industries minister Shaun Woodward said the industry had to deal with its image problem.

He added that videogames also had a vital role to play in the UK economy.

Parent power

Last month, 100 signatories, including neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield and author Philip Pullman, wrote a letter warning that today's children face an unhealthy childhood, partly because they are spending too much time playing videogames rather than engaging in "real play".

You have access to around 23 million people in this country who are gamers; many of those are young people
Shaun Woodward

Mr Woodward told delegates at the London Games Summit that they had to take the authors of the letter seriously, and realise that there was more to life than videogames.

He said: "This is an important debate because you have access to around 23 million people in this country who are gamers; many of those are young people.

"How do we reach into homes where games have become a substitute for parenting? You [the games industry] might say that this is not your responsibility, but if you say that I think that is the response of a nascent industry."

But he praised the industry for its response to complaints about children being exposed to adult content in videogames, and urged them to also positively participate in this debate.

Michael Rawlinson, managing director of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (Elspa), agreed with the minister.

He said: "We have already made contact with the Children's Society and we want to engage with them in their research in this area. We want to help parents have the facts to help them in their parenting, and we want games to be a responsible part of this mix."

'The establishment'

At the meeting, Mr Woodward also said the creative industries were critical to wealth creation for the 21st Century, but he added that the games industry needed to join the "establishment".

He said: "This industry is barely 25 years old... you may feel you are revolutionaries, but, in some ways, you are not. You need to take up a place in the establishment and there are huge benefits to be had in doing so."

Mr Rawlinson said: "We have come a long way. Some people have been edgy in the way they have promoted their products and the way they have viewed themselves, but I do think there is a maturity now within our industry."

Nikkan Woodhouse, chief operating officer of Tiga, the independent games developers association, said: "If joining 'the establishment' means something that people will respect, then that is a good thing. But I hope it doesn't curtail how we work.

"Games have truly been established now as a legitimate creative industry. Perhaps it is time now for games to move out of the silo and begin trading in what our USP is: interactivity."

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