Published on: 13.05.08
About 100 experts from the video games industry as well as from politics and academia joined the 3rd annual conference of the Interactive Software Federation of Europe on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in Brussels. The motto for the event was 'Virtual worlds meet real world' and most of the participants seemed to be quite familiar with virtuality and what is going on in the second life world.
In his keynote speech Professor Edward Castronova, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Telecommunications at Indiana University, Bloomington stressed his expectation of an exodus to the virtual world. To his opinion this virtual world is to be seen as kind of a refuge for those who would like to leave the real world. As he elaborates in his recent book 'Exodus to the Virtual World' this refuge will be ruled by a new social, political, and economic order built around fun and numerous people will join it. Prof. Castronovas thought provoking theses stipulated a vivid debate. Many participants focussed on questions about what will happen when the borders between the reality and the virtual world are becoming eroded and the consequences of acting in the virtual world will have to be considered in the real world as well as vice versa.
A second key note speech was held after lunch by Andrew Burn, Associated Director at the Center for the Study of Children, Youth and Media, University of London. He claimed the need for virtual monsters and reported from his work with children and youths playing violent games as well as learning how to produce videos and games themselves. As to his experiences children need to fight against the 'bad ones' thus being enabled to deal with their fears from the natural world. Nevertheless the question what to do when children are more likely to overtake the role of a 'bad one' instead of fighting against one remained unanswered. While from some representatives from academia it was reported that playing violent games might erase the distinction between moral values that count in the natural world and the values of the virtual world, others mentioned that killing people in a video game has not at all anything to do with tending to acts of violence in reality.
The closing speech was held by Commissioner Viviane Reding pointing out that first of all the Commission is counting on the empowerment of the young generation to deal with the digital content. A self-regulation instrument like the PEGI system is to her opinion of great value to give parents and responsible adults orientation about the content of video games so to deicide carefully what seems to be appropriate for their children. Nevertheless the PEGI system is in its infancy as well as the video games industry is. But the Commissioner stressed that other than the traditional media the video games industry has the opportunity and challenge to deal with digitalisation right from the beginning. Therefore it might be somehow easier for this industry to come up with effective instruments of self-regulation appropriate for the digital world. For the time being it has to be stated anyway that the PEGI system could come to much more effect if it would be better known to parents and other responsible adults. As for the process of regulation Mrs. Reding stressed that politics should only come in if self-regulation has shown not to work. Notwithstanding she claimed for common efforts between industry and politics to promote self-regulation as well as to help its instruments to a broader public awareness.