How a small number of Parents could stop Mobile Gaming

There is some dangerous rhetoric being bandied around – with ideas which if they are allowed to take off could ruin the very start of something wonderful which will make money for England.

I am talking about how the mistakes of a small minority might make it impossible for creativity to blossom, how the irresponsible can control the minds of the many responsible, how governments can really hamper a growth sector – our sector – the mobile gaming developers of this world.

And so many reporters are jumping on the bandwagon mainly due to high PR profile cases, for example the story of one young boy who spent £1700 on his father’s iPad in less than an hour. Ok that is bad but let’s get a dose of reality here i.e. I would guess that only 1 person in a million has done this (*the exact analytical stats are not known.)

Shouldn’t it be, ultimately, the parent’s responsibility to check what their children are doing. Or to know about opt in and opt out choices work as according to Charlie Osborne of ZDnet, “not every parent understands how an application works, the fact you can turn off in-app purchases in settings, or even that in-app purchases exist.” Isn’t this like saying people don’t know that you can call people on mobile phones, that your child, unless you chat to them about it, could call a premium number on a landline? And that you can block children from access to things?

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This is the nanny state gone mad. As of now, the OFT has launched an investigation into whether children are being unfairly pressured or encouraged to pay for additional content in ‘free’ web and app-based games, including upgraded membership or virtual currency such as coins, gems or fruit. So mobile games developers and the industry is to be pressured into NOT creating engaging games and getting them paid for with upgrades? This IS Dangerous!

We understand that as part of the investigation, the OFT is looking into whether these mobile phone games include ‘direct exhortations’ to children – a strong encouragement to make a purchase, or to do something that will necessitate making a purchase, or to persuade their parents or other adults to make a purchase for them. Again isn’t this an attack on basic freedoms. I don’t hear anyone picking on the toy industry for advertising on Nickelodeon.

People use Google for free as other people’s advertising pays for it, you use Facebook for free and give them your personal details, you use apps for free and you can upgrade your experiences, you watch ITV for free and advertising again pays for it. You can get a free piece of a cake at a shop – and the shopkeeper hopes you buy some more later on. Surely everyone knows this by now – and trying to stop this is counterproductive to productive people – people working hard to make a new way of living. People who are making great mobile games and doing great things.

With this weak thinking, the OFT should look into whether parents who give their children their credit card details and pin numbers should be reimbursed? Madness! Or should the government investigate whether shopkeepers are allowed to entice people in with sampling their wares? Should all “so called” freebies be stopped – whenever you can “try before you buy” we should monitor the effects on people, of course not.

Sampling, freemiums, try before you buy, test drives, upgrades, the ability of the customer to make a decision are all things we should praise and triumph. STOP this madness! Didn’t we go through this before with credit cards and the internet? And before then with landlines and naughty numbers!

It is simple. If it is connected to your finances, if it can take money out of your wallet, if you give access to it to your children, in ANYWAY, the responsibility for your child’s action have to lie with you, as the responsible adult.

One simple solution rather than smashing the whole mobile phone games industry, throwing the baby out with the bather water, might be as reported in ICT Innovate, to “Make sure you’re logged out and don’t give your password to your children in the first place.“ I find this works every time.