February 17th, 2006, 17:48 Posted By: wraggster
It’s been a week when the games industry has been forced to stand up for itself. Firstly it was Atari hitting back at the Australian government’s decision to ban Marc Ecko's Getting Up, after claims that the game incited anti-social behaviour. And now it's Nintendo, coming under fire from none other than America’s ABC news, who made some rather outrageous (not to mention totally false) claims about how the DS is a potential threat to children and a grooming tool for kiddy fiddlers.
The furore kicked off on Tuesday night when ABC news claimed that they had made an "alarming discovery" and that they had "...an important warning for parents…. Action News has learned this popular gaming system [the DS] could put kids in harm's way."
The news was in response to Nintendo’s announcement earlier in the week that it now has had more than 850,000 users logging onto their WiFi Internet service since its launch last November.
According to ABC news, a concerned parent was horrified when she found that her 11 year-old daughter was receiving offensive messages over Pictochat from a stranger.
ABC also quoted Keith Dunn, an Internet Safety Expert, who said: "Predators are using Nintendo DS anywhere in the world. And it's going to be really hard to track down those individuals because of course, they're on a wireless network from a hotspot such as a coffee shop. Or if they're in a wireless environment, say a coffee shop or whatever, they jump on the wireless network so now you have predators who are trying to get at our kids."
Mr. Dunn went on to say that parents need to teach their children to apply 'stranger danger' rules to every and any situation. "Don't talk to strangers in game rooms if you don't know they're your friends. Don't talk to anyone. Just stop talking. Stop chatting in the game room." Now this all smells to SPOnG like - well, how should we put it - like a massive pile of cooked-up horseshit.
ABC news is simply trying to cook up a bit of a moral panic storm, but has unfortunately not fully checked the facts. If the 11-year-old girl in question was being pursued over pictochat, then it was not over a WiFi Internet connection, but it was from another DS user within 65 feet. Which is of course still worrying if it happened, but is not the same as being anonymously stalked over the Internet as the story suggests.
In response to the story, a Nintendo UK spokesperson told SPOnG yesterday that the company’s line was: "Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service is a safe environment for players. The service will allow Nintendo DS gamers in the UK to link up with users across the country, and even the world, to compete against each other. Players have the option to select to play with just friends, or people of a similar skill level around the world without fear of harassment. Players do not have direct communication with each other when playing and therefore personal details or inappropriate comments cannot be exchanged."
The spokesperson went on to tell us the company's line on Pictochat and children's safety, which is this: "Nintendo takes the issue of children receiving messages from strangers very seriously. Children should be warned about receiving messages from, or communicating with, strangers through any medium. For this reason a warning and detailed privacy information are clearly highlighted in the Nintendo DS instruction booklet.
Nintendo also recommends that an adult should assist children with the system set up and instruct them not to use personal information and not to meet strangers or give personal information to anyone as it could be read by a stranger.
It should be noted that PictoChat does not connect to the internet. PictoChat can only be used to communicate with another Nintendo DS within the range of the Nintendo DS's wireless signal, which is approximately 65ft."
These are the facts. Make of them what you will.
If SPOnG's kids were getting funny messages over Pictochat, here's what we would do. We would look around us to try to see who else had a DS within a 65 feet radius. If we saw them, and successfully identified that they had been sending offensive messages to our child, we would batter them with a hammer. Or any heavy object we had to hand. If we couldn't see them we would remove the DS from our child's hands until we had left said area, and report the matter to the authorities. Seems fairly straightforward to us.
For more information and downloads, click here!
There are 2 comments - Join In and Discuss Here