Back in the mid-1990s, when David Walsh first started urging the culture — especially parents — to pay closer attention to what their children were absorbing in video games, he probably got some of the same reactions Tipper Gore had evoked just a few years earlier.
Gore had become concerned about the graphic sexual imagery, violence, misogyny and general raunchiness in the rock music to which her and husband Al Gore’s then-adolescent daughters had ready access. She began speaking and writing on the subject, touring the country (including a stop here in Columbus at Brookstone School) to raise awareness of popular music’s lyric content.
She was frequently ridiculed as an uptight bluenose bent on censorship. Not so, she insisted; her goal was simply truth in labeling and advertising. Parents had a right to know, she said, just what their children were consuming. In hindsight, the alarm and scorn she elicited look absurdly misplaced.
For the last 13 years, Walsh has been providing this consumer culture with the same kind of service in video games, an industry that directly or indirectly accounted for $22 billion in U.S. sales last year alone. Through his National Institute on Media and the Family, he turned a concern similar to Gore’s into a regular reporting service. About this time every year, when sales of video games are at their peak, the institute would issue its “report card” on video game violence and other questionable content.
We won’t have that service — at least not from the same source — this year or hereafter. Walsh’s nonprofit organization, which has operated on a budget he said averaged about $1.8 million a year (in sponsorships and donations), will be closing its doors Wednesday, a victim of the economic downturn.
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