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Speakers downplay computer games' influence on kids at conference

E3 graphic

May 14, 1999
Web posted at: 12:50 p.m. EDT (1650 GMT)

by Keith Shaw

LOS ANGELES, California (IDG) -- The video game industry is at a threshold of a converging marketplace of interactive entertainment, work and learning, author Don Tapscott told the 1999 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) Thursday.

"The video game industry, which is already larger than Hollywood, is poised for even much greater growth as it expands into areas such as education," he said.

The Internet is changing the way children play, learn, work and interact with each other, Tapscott said. Young people between the ages of 2 and 22 (the "echo" generation, children of baby boomers) are the first to grow up with computers and the Internet.
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"This is the first generation of people that work, play, think and learn differently than their parents," Tapscott said. "They are the first generation to not be afraid of technology. It's like the air to them."

And that brings new opportunities to companies trying to sell entertainment.

Tapscott predicted that the Internet, in addition to changing the way companies do business, will also change the way people play games. "In 2005, the biggest games will be online," he said. In fact, Tapscott challenged the audience of game producers and content providers to use the Internet so users can help create new games.

As the video game and PC gaming industry unveiled its offerings for the year, conference speakers downplayed the role of violence in video games in the wake of the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

"No one has shown any connection whatsoever between these games and tragic incidents such as Littleton, or to youth violence in general," Tapscott argued. "But countless studies have shown a linkage of youth violence to factors such as poverty, lack of parental involvement, family violence, untreated mental illness, the proliferation of guns, substance abuse and illegal drug wars."
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Tapscott's comments echoed those of Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), the major sponsor of the E3 trade show. More than 1,900 entertainment software products were being unveiled at the three-day conference, which started today.

"The entertainment software industry has no reason to run and hide," Lowenstein said. "We do have responsibilities to consumers, and we've been proactive in meeting them."

Industry critics argue that a constant diet of graphic video game violence can desensitize children to the tragic impact of real violence.

Lowenstein said children are no longer the driving force behind the purchase of video games and PC games. In a recent survey of 1,637 U.S. households where there is a computer or video game, only 46% of video game players are under the age of 18, and nearly 25% are over the age of 36.

According to the IDSA survey, nine out of every 10 games are bought by adults.

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