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The Battle For Brazil's Game Future
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The Battle For Brazil's Game Future

October 13, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

So where is our line of defense? The simple fact that video games are an extremely effective medium of expression. A medium that excels at entertaining people, but also keeps them engaged in various subjects, such as politics, art, education and health. It is no mystery that games are already perceived (and used) by universities as a valuable means of communicating varied messages, and whether "'casual' or 'hardcore', single- or multi-player, mainstream or independent, video games have become a powerful cultural force," as they were described in a Harvard lecture.

When it comes specifically to Brazil: article 5, number 9, of the Brazilian Constitution protects works of artistic, communicative and scientific nature, by granting them free speech. Games obviously fit into this category, and thus deserve to be protected as free speech as well. Unfortunately, this will never be accepted until Brazilian society sees them as more than a pastime or toy, and recognizes their true potential.

Therefore, we need to change the dialogue and take the offensive. Most of the negative bias against games is harbored by people who have never played them, so we have to come out with an aggressive message for traditional media that even people who have never played games can understand.

Is it really beneficial to let the focus of attention be directed towards criminal incidents supposedly related to games, instead of the value of the medium as one capable of formal analysis?

Take the Grand Theft Auto series, for example. For the most part, its games are known as simply being controversial -- and assumed to cause criminal behavior and vandalism in teenagers and young adults. However, behind all these accusations, some people do see the series as valid high satire.

We need to bring opinions of men like Matt Selman and Seth Schiesel, who made public their thoughts on Rockstar's satirical version of the United States (the former compared the series to works of Tom Wolfe, Balzac, and Dickens), to the fore when defending these games in public rather than simply saying "they're harmless toys" ... or worse still, sitting silent, hoping it will all blow over.

Grand Theft Auto is merely the most extreme example. In many of the artistic indie games, such as Braid and Today I Die, we have plenty of material to evangelize.

Academics and players have seen this medium function not only as entertainment, but also as a vehicle capable of conveying narrative, exploring ideologies, promoting education, and creating and reproducing culture -- by effectively engaging its audience through interactivity.

Games are as legitimate as any other medium. Yet without us publicly defending this idea as an industry, we validate the accusation by omission and remain marginal; as a menace in the eyes of the public.

It is important to note, however, that in Brazil, the Ministry of Justice already provides, since 2001, a well-known and respected rating system for video games. This alone eliminates the need for aggressive content restriction, yet coupled with parental control-enabled consoles, these ratings can be effectively enforced by parents who will not allow their children to play violent video games.

However, these ratings need to be understood by parents, so they can effectively educate their offspring in making the right decisions, thus avoiding drastic measures.

Nevertheless, the rating system currently employed is not flawless. One of the ramifications that negatively impact the Brazilian gaming industry is that Apple's iTunes store does not provide games in Brazil, because all of them would need to be evaluated by the government. As an alternative solution, developers release their games at the App Store under the Entertainment category or simply don’t release them in digital stores Brazilians have access to.

Even if slightly problematic, rating a game and allowing access to the appropriate players is definitively the best solution at the moment, as well as a step in the right direction. At the moment, because of this issue, users need to register their accounts to other countries -- like Argentina, for example -- in order to have access to unrestricted content.

To the industry, this is very problematic because social and mobile games are a pretty big part of the Brazilian game market. In great part, they represent easier ways of breaking into the industry and, given the circumstances, it doesn't make things any easier for big social game developers, Brazilian companies, or independent developers emerge from this scenario.

When it comes to social games, however, since they are usually free-to-play, are hosted on external servers, rely on social network age restrictions, and are classified as "internet", rather than commercial games, they are not rated by the government. This allows developers to explore this market, but mainly does not cause any sort of complications, because the content is generally suitable to everyone.

After all, casual social games rarely pose themes as serious or as violent, unlike the situations many retail games delve into. The stigma that games are a medium for children remains, but no sort of news breaks out stating that social game users commit crimes that resemble games like GTA.

Furthermore, though the game medium is largely consolidated in some countries due to their mature game industries, in many other countries there are still many growing pains to be overcome. If these issues are not dealt with, and the importance of developing countries is not recognized, the medium might not only lose a potential market (bountiful with paying customers), but avid supporters, and an active worldwide community.

Therefore, it is paramount that the international video game community takes a stand and manifests its concern for the reputation and legal status of the video game medium. Instead of allowing the media to focus on hypothetical connections between shootings and games, let us remind them of museums throughout the world that exhibit games among their art works, and government grants that promote this gradual recognition of the medium as a cultural and artistic manifestation -– such as the official recognition of games as art by the National Endowment for the Arts in the U.S.

The current scenario is changing and Brazil is going through a very important, and positive, transition phase. The future holds high hopes, and the market is ever-growing. However, this current progress must continue.

Regardless of location, works of expression, art, and culture are a universal product of human nature. Laws and governments may vary from country to country, but the video game medium remains the same for everyone. Video games are not only entitled to, but also deserve free speech: now is the time to fight for the medium in Brazil and beyond.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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