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U.K. Game Industry Gets Testy Over Fitness Ad

| 19 Jan 2009 19:41

An ad for the U.K. government's Change 4 Life health initiative implying that videogames make kids fat has struck a nerve with some members of the country's game industry, who accuse the ad of "naive stereotyping."

The ad focuses on the sedentary nature of modern life and how the lack of physical activity promotes the accumulation of fat, which can lead to problems like heart disease and cancer. It suggests that a better and longer life can be had by getting outside and participating in physical activities. A valid and commendable point, certainly, but what attracted the ire of some U.K. game industry figures is the way that point was made: Through a child in a Claymation family who, it's implied, spends far too much time playing videogames.

"Any initiative that encourages people to move towards a healthier lifestyle can only be a good thing," an "insider at one of the world's biggest producers of fitness games" told MCV. "But this is just another example of naive stereotyping and scapegoating. Videogames can be a part of an active and healthy lifestyle for everyone of all ages."

"Actually, because videogames are playing such an important and fun role in people's lives, the very audience this advert is supposed to address and speak to might dismiss it purely because of the naivety and ignorance shown," he added.

Future's Richard Keith agreed that the sentiment of the ad was correct, but said that gaming wasn't necessarily as inactive as it was portrayed. "You would have to be pretty hard-headed not to support the aims of the Change 4 Life campaign. The juxtaposition of sedentary gaming against an active lifestyle is an obvious one," he said. "However, it should be noted that when it comes to house-bound activities gaming is much more 'active' than most - whether that's exercising the brain with puzzles, rocking out with Rock Band or playing a few sets of tennis with Wii Sports, there's more to gaming than sitting playing Space Invaders."

I'm never happy to see gaming take a bash, but I think it's tough to deny that Change 4 Life is on to something here. I game a lot, I sit on my ass a lot and I sure can't claim to be in the best shape of my life as a result. A wide array of factors negatively impact the health of people today, and spending some time with Wii Fit is certainly better than staring slack-jawed at the television for hours on end, but I think even the most ardent videogamer would be hard-pressed to argue that excessive button-mashing doesn't take a toll. Sometimes you have to stand up for what's right, but sometimes you just have to admit the truth and take your lumps.

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