Dr Tanya Byron today called on critics of the games industry to "stop panicking, get a grip, move on in the debate and just be sensible about who plays what at what age, and what's appropriate."
The author of the government-backed Byron Review into the effects of digital media content on children believes its publication represents a watershed moment for the sector, branding media fears that gaming poses a threat to society as "a complete load of nonsense".
In a wide-ranging interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Byron revealed how she was:
- Pleased with the general response to her Review despite "completely wrong" early reporting
- Promised publicly and privately by ministers that the government will act on recommendations
- "Taking a step back" from gaming while considering her next move
- Discussing with ELSPA head Paul Jackson his fears over BBFC's role
- Assured by parts of industry that they would help fund awareness campaign
Speaking 24 hours after the Review's publication, Byron expressed her relief at the general response to its contents. "For me, the reporting of it is always a challenge. When the papers first started they were saying things that were completely wrong – the health-scare warnings from one paper were wrong – but as the coverage continued throughout the day, people were getting it much more accurately as they were getting the report and reading it."
Referring to her exhausting schedule of media appearances in the wake of the report, she commented: "It gave me the opportunity to put the balance back into videogames – let's stop blaming industry for things industry isn't responsible for."
Byron, a psychologist and TV presenter hand-picked by the government last autumn to carry out the review, said she accepted the concerns expressed by sections of the games industry, but stressed the importance of the public consultation to ensure the industry's interests were served as well as the public's.
"I think [ELSPA] is concerned about the BBFC and I understand that, and I saw Paul Jackson yesterday and we talked about it," she said. "The reason I phrased my recommendation in the way that I did is that I emphasised a period of public consultation, and I emphasised a lot in the media that during that period the industry very much needs to be talking about how these recommendations can be implemented in a way that works for the industry as well, because that's really important."
Although the classification issue has become the main focus of the report, Byron revealed initial misgivings over handling the complex issue.
"The original remit was just very broad, on harmful and inappropriate material," she explained. "And literally within the first week of starting the review, this whole classification thing dropped in my lap. At first, although I was an independent reviewer, I did go back to ministers and say, look, I don't think I should be making this decision or making recommendations about it.
"But there was a real sense that this was a good opportunity, and certainly the industry was saying we've just got to sort this out, we've got to discuss this and come to some kind of decision about it. So I have."
Claims made by Culture minister Andy Burnham that the proposed ratings awareness campaign would need to be industry-funded have provoked an angry response in certain quarters. Byron said she would be "disappointed" if the games sector allows funding concerns to obstruct her detailed roadmap.
"Certainly when I've had discussions with the industry, and certainly when there has been the possibility that it could have completely been the PEGI system, in some areas of the industry there was the suggestion that there would be a willingness to fund an information campaign," she stated.
"So I suppose on one level I'd be disappointed if there was a preparedness, but because I didn't quite deliver on the system I was hoping for, that that is not going to happen. Fundamentally - who [pays for] it? - it just has to be done."
The first part of the in-depth interview with Dr Byron is available here, with the second part to follow next week.