Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Mining the Game

Sara Grimes | 27 Feb 2007 11:02
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It doesn't seem to matter that contracts made with minors are legally void. Nor has the issue of unconscionability - a legal defense used when unfair contracts place one party at a disproportionate advantage over another - come up in any significant way, even though sweeping claims like "for eternity" and "throughout the universe" are undoubtedly susceptible to such a challenge. Thus, while it's highly unlikely that the TOS agreements found in children's advergames are valid, the lack of opposition seems to have given the writers of the agreements carte blanche.

But all this may soon change. A small controversy has now erupted around Battlefield 2142, a "T"-rated futuristic wargame that not only features dynamic in-game advertisements (i.e. ads that can be updated and changed over time) but also data-mines its players. Allegations that the game contains spyware have prompted California Assemblywoman Lori Saldana to announce plans to draft a new bill making it illegal for companies to embed spyware in their games.

The irony here is this time around it might actually take some adult "victims" for these gaming practices to attract public scrutiny. While it's nice to see a game-related debate that doesn't revolve around the old "kids-in-peril" trope, it does seem like a bit of a lost opportunity for a long overdue validation of kids' contribution to game culture. The idea of children as content producers also challenges many of the underlying assumptions of political campaigns that seek to "protect" kids from videogames. The omission of child players when it comes to IP issues reveals an important contradiction: Despite their prominence within videogame debates, kids' own interests are actually rarely considered.

Sara M. Grimes is a doctoral student in communication at Simon Fraser
University in Vancouver, Canada. She researches children's culture, digital
games and the role of play in society.

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