You may have seen this ad floating around your social media channels this morning. Just take a second to read it, because if you’re an adult gamer, it will probably see you spit out your corn flakes. What you don’t know about the image is the broader campaign behind it, and the South Australian government appearing to say one thing while doing another, systematically demonising video games and those who play them.
GAMBLING STARTS WITH GAMES
That’s the slogan on the ad, written in big ugly bold letters, above a young girl with pigtails, sitting at a poker table with what is clearly an original iPad. The insinuation is that now in her impressionable youth she’s playing a game with simulated gambling, which means that she’ll become a future gambling addict when she reaches adulthood.
Shocking logic leaps aside, the ad demonises games and gamers alike, especially those who encourage their kids to play games.
The ad, as we understand, is being prominently featured in Adelaide right now in prominent Ooh! Media outdoor placements. This one in particular was snapped Colonnades Shopping Centre in South Australia the photographer tells us, and it has since been shared to Reddit and Twitter, with gamers going nuts about the content.
So what’s at the core of this scaremongering?
At the heart of this piece of advertising collateral is a relatively well-thought-out policy from the office of South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill.
It’s part of a gambling education and awareness policy which South Australian politicians at both the State and Federal level have been pushing ahead with for some time, and for good reason. Gambling addiction is a problem which costs states their taxpayers millions of dollars each year, and it’s a problem which has the potential to destroy livelihoods if left untreated and unchecked.
Premier Weatherill is looking to break the cycle of gambling by making sure that kids who play games with simulated gambling don’t become problem gamblers themselves when they reach legal age. Enter the Children, Technology and Gambling Policy (PDF).
Penned last month, the policy proposes a massive crackdown on games offering simulated gambling to kids, while leaning on a state-wide roll-out of so-called “cyber safety” education programs and a public awareness campaign.
That’s all well and good if you’re the sort of person that thinks the government should be responsible for the raising of children and not parents, but demonising gamers is just not on, no matter what problem you’re trying to stop.
The Premier in his message about the campaign actually outright states that he’s not out to make gamers the enemy this time around:
”We don’t want to stop children from having fun. We also don’t want to ban these games or stop adults from enjoying them, but we do want parents, teachers and others who care for children to have the information they need to make informed choices about what children access and play…”
South Australia has had a pretty shaky history with the impact of video games, from the stalling of the R18+ legislation, through to proposing that some games be submitted for reclassification. This is the latest salvo in its ongoing pseudo-war against gamers. Gamers aren’t out to undermine traditional family values, South Australia. We just want to play.
We’ve reached out to the South Australian Premier to find out how the advertising message went from education to demonisation, but we haven’t heard back as yet. The crux of our questioning? Why is South Australia demonising gamers, and when will it stop?
Update: We now have a comment from the South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill. We have reprinted it in full.
Our Children, Technology and Gambling policy is about ensuring young people experience the fun and social interaction of being online, while keeping them safe from harm.
It is not about being the fun police. It is not about demonising people who play online games.
The campaign is confronting – it depicts some of the very real dangers of gambling-like games and apps.
But the key to our policy is working with parents and teachers to ensure young people make good choices about the games they play.
It was never the intention of the campaign to target gaming and gamers.
The campaign is about targeting those games that lead children into gambling and to help parents be better informed about the games their children are accessing.
The Government will ensure that the future phases of the campaign make that clear.