Founded in 1996, the NIMF conducts research on the impact of media on a wide range of youth-related issues including bullying, school performance, obesity and “other child health and development issues.” To gamers, however, the group is perhaps best known for its harsh criticism of videogames; in March of this year it came down on Nintendo for betraying its reputation as a family-friendly game maker by releasing MadWorld for the Wii and then in April released a study saying that 8.5 percent of kids between the ages of 8 and 18 show signs of being “pathological gamers.”
Unlike certain other videogame critics, however, the NIMF managed to stay on the right side of credibility, leading agencies like the Entertainment Software Association and the Entertainment Software Rating Board to make nice with the group. Last year, the NIMF commended the ESRB for expanding its ratings by introducing “rating summaries” for games, while the ESA gave it a $50,000 grant to “develop an on-line e-learning zone for using the latest interactive technologies to help kids and adults understand the issues and potential areas of concern with the Internet.”
All of which is more or less moot now. In the end, it all came down to money: A WCCO report said Fairview Health Services, which has funded the NIMF since its inception, decided it simply could not afford to continue supporting the institute’s $750,000 annual budget. Dan Anderson, president of Fairview’s north region, said talks with the NIMF to come up with alternative avenues of funding had been ongoing for “a couple of years” but ultimately came to naught. “It was back in the summer of this year that we really said, ‘We can’t continue. Fairview can’t continue’,” he said.
“Over the past two years the Institute’s board of directors has been in strategic discussions about succession and the Institute’s evolving mission and goals,” Dr. Walsh explained. “The current challenging economic environment accelerated those discussions making this the right time to begin transitioning the programs to other organizations who share our mission and values.”
He said that the NIMF board is now in talks with various other agencies about carrying on the institutes programs and research, adding, “The work is far from finished and I look forward to transitioning the Institute’s programs to worthy organizations that I am confident will continue to educate parents and caregivers on our rapidly changing digital culture.”