Video games are often portrayed in a very negative way by general media, politicians and even government-funded institutions, and this is precisely the case that we’re going to examine today.
Back in 2015, the French Institut National de Prévention et d’éducation Pour la Santé (National Institute for Prevention and Health Education), a public administrative institution under the supervision of the local Ministry of Health, launched a campaign named “Consultations Jeunes Consommateurs” (Young Consumers Counseling), aimed to provide counseling to youngsters and their parents when affected by various kinds of addiction.
You probably guessed, it, video games are part of the bunch. A series of posters, cards and pamphlets was launched to advertise the campaign (brought to our attention by Twitter user Aurelien), and you can see some examples in the gallery below.
One of the slogans says: “Alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, video games, tobacco… To talk about it and assess the situation, it’s here.” As you can see, video games are bunched up with a merry group of nasty stuff right there.
Don’t get me wrong: addiction to video games, like basically everything partaken excessively, can be a problem, and even a serious one. Providing a consulting service to kids and their parents is a positive idea. What definitely isn’t positive, is misleading parents and kids into thinking that video games are, in any shape or form, comparable to things like cocaine and ecstasy.
And it gets worse: INPES released a series of ads to advertise the campaign, one for each of the addictions mentioned in the poster. Video games get a quite flashy one.
The video starts by showing young “Nico” as he sees himself, a screaming sci-fi fighter wearing an exoskeleton and shooting around randomly in the middle of a city devastated by war. Then he’s portrayed ignoring his mother as he plays a portable console. Things go downhill fast, as he’s shown gambling, and finally as the usual obese, alienated and unkempt first person shooter player surrounded by the mess left in his room.
Yeah. They went there.
The negative effect of this kind of ad is made quite evident by the reaction to the video, which is the only one of the series that managed to get slapped with over 1,800 dislikes as opposed to only 66 likes. An antagonistic approach to people’s hobby almost never gets constructive results.
Again, helping out those afflicted by a serious addiction is a positive initiative, but the way it’s being publicized is nothing short of a train wreck. Instead of approaching the problem rationally and realistically, it goes down the sensationalist, “high impact” route of pushing artificially negative stereotypes, demonizing games and gamers. This is never a good way to establish a discussion. And establishing a discussion is exactly what this initiative theoretically aims to do.
According to INPES, consulting is handled by doctors, educators and psychologists, but it’s really difficult to trust an institution that goes out of its way to portray gaming and gamers with squalid stereotypes, with providing the right answers to those who actually need help.
In order to properly tackle a problem, a deep expertise is necessary not only on that problem (which in this case is addiction), but also on the basic elements that are involved in the issue. Given the way the initiative is advertised, INPES’ competence in talking about video games at all is definitely debatable.
What’s saddening is that, if you live in France, part of your tax money goes into creating sensationalist and misleading (but quite flashy, and most probably not cheap) ads like the one above. That’s doubtlessly quite depressing.