The ABC’s 4 Corners program has announced it is launching an investigation into Australia’s relationship with video games, and is turning to the public for information about how time spent gaming this year “has impacted people”.

A form appeared on the ABC website over the weekend, titled “Do you play video games too much or know someone who does? Four Corners wants to hear from you”, with a series of questions about video games and video game usage.

The direction of the questions is fairly negative lens, with a explainer paragraph outlining the main thrust of it all:

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association says gaming can be a fun, educational activity that helps people connect with their friends and families.

This can range from free-to-play mobile games to traditional console games.

But there is a dark side to gaming, with the World Health Organisation officially recognising video game addiction as a mental health disorder in 2019, with some people finding their use of games significantly impacting their personal and social lives, education and work.

The questions also don’t seem to acknowledge any benefits or social elements of gaming, instead only focusing on whether users spend too much time playing video games, whether gaming is inhibitive towards other activities, and whether it has “created issues in your relationships with friends and or family”. Outside of a couple of free-form questions, the only question that indicates some sort of positive benefit from gaming is a question about how gaming affects ones’ moods.

Here’s a snapshot of the questions:

Image: ABC

Understandably, the publication of the survey was met with a fairly strong reaction. A common complaint amongst detractors was a refusal to acknowledge the social connection and good provided by video games. Shadow Assistant Communications Minister and Shadow Assistant Cyber Security Minister Tim Watts, who recommended Animal Crossing to parents dealing with lockdown earlier this year, highlighted how the 4 Corners survey refused to acknowledge gaming’s positive effects on mental health.

The chief executive of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association said they “arranged some people” for 4 Corners to interview “hopefully to ensure a balanced view“. But it’s no surprise that there’s already a bit of concern — especially since this is the kind of tone that mainstream networks, like Channel 7 and Channel 9 in the past, have taken with video games.

One of the reporters on 4 Corners offered a more even take on Twitter — “We know there are many positive stories” — and if anyone has their own personal stories or experiences with video games, you can submit those to the ABC here.

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There are a couple of questions in the form that offer a really good opportunity to highlight personal experiences and moments you’ve had with gaming. 4 Corners has a strong reputation for fairness, so provided people are respectful and reasonable in their submissions, you should feel fairly confident that your stories will be heard.

I’d still like to see a lot more balance in the questions and fixed answers — the implication of in saying “yes” to a question that reads “Has your gaming affected your financial situation, spending or employment” is always going to have a negative undercurrent. It’s not likely to immediately trigger the positive possibilities, like its potential to lead to jobs for the entire esports industry, or the country’s thousands of video game developers or adjacent industries.

But this is an opportunity to put forward your experiences. We’ve reported before on how the World Health Organisation’s official classification of gaming disorder can be the impetus necessary to help some people, and there would undoubtedly be some Australians in a similar situation. So keep that in mind if you do choose to make a submission to 4 Corners, and for the love of all that is good in the world, don’t go after individual journalists or start lobbying invectives at the 4 Corners social media accounts. That doesn’t help anyone.





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