Industry PR must improve further, says Morris

Audiomotion MD has seen changes in recent years, but believes there's more to be done

Audiomotion MD Mick Morris has told that although the industry has managed to improve its perception in recent years - particularly among MPs - he still feels there's more work to be done to help move the general public on from stigmatising games with past controversies.

Morris first discussed the matter in late 2009, referencing the reporting of the Stefan Pakeerah murder which was incorrectly linked to Rockstar's Manhunt game, as well as the NHS campaign for Change4Life that featured a boy playing a games console and the slogan: "Risk an early death, just do nothing."

He questioned at the time whether or not the trade bodies - then ELSPA and TIGA - were being pro-active enough in changing perceptions of video games, saying: "It's all very well having a Manhunt fiasco, ill-informed and incorrect as the reporting actually was - at that point we trot out somebody to make a comment, but should those trade bodies be more proactive and be doing a bit more about the good side of the industry... and not just shouting about tax credits? Although I do think that's important."

But speaking last month Morris acknowledged that improvements had been made, particularly within the halls of government.

"Since my rant the last time, I think TIGA and UKIE have taken some steps to try and change that perception," he said. "I find it amusing - but really encouraging - to see high profile MPs playing Wii Sports and keen to be photographed messing around with Wii controllers. It's a step in the right direction.

"Companies like Special Effect, and the fact that David Cameron - it's his constituency anyway - but the fact that he turns up to open the new premises is a big turning point for us. The stuff that those guys are doing is incredible, it really is fantastic."

However, said Morris, the industry's image to the wider public is still defined by certain negative stereotypes.

"I think we still need to PR ourselves better. There's a big movement at the minute called Play for Japan - all the big publishers are putting up mega items for auction and all that money's going to the Japanese.

"We need to make more of the fact that there are positives in the industry, and we are doing positive things. And forget about hookers in GTA," he added.

Meanwhile, speaking on the government's Budget statement, he said he hoped the R&D tax credits expansion - which TIGA estimates could benefit games companies to the tune of £7 million - would be a positive step, but felt that further political progress could stall until the video games business boasted more powerful lobbyists, citing film industry proponent Lord Puttnam as a primary example.

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Latest comments (10)

Alex Wright-Manning Head of Recruitment, Splash Damage Ltd10 years ago
Hear hear. For what is the now UK's biggest and most lucrative entertainment medium, we sure do get a bad rap. The media have long used the games industry as a whipping boy to fill their pages with reactionary, ill informed and downright damaging reports. Perhaps it's time to fight back?

Ultimately, ours is a highly creative, technologically advanced business that also happens to be one of the most important and successful industries in the world. That influence should be used to promote all of the good things about games development. I'm a staunch supporter of the tax breaks campaign, but given the very negative stereotype of the industry, perhaps a bit more of a positive PR drive would be useful in both raising it's profile, and in doing so making a financial support package more palatable to middle England and the government?
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Chris Walton Account Manager, Uber10 years ago
Hear hear hear, I couldn't agree more, we in the industry complain when the 'press get it wrong AGAIN' but we seem to do little to fight back. Mick mentions Play for Japan - i've never heard of it, despite reading most of the industry websites on a daily basis and what about Gamesaid?, another really great cause doing fantastic work week in week out to make children's lives better. these things should be PR'd more.

Once the general public realise that the industry is more than hookers in GTA they won't believe the negative press reports so much, so the press will be forced to stop reporting it because it won't sell the rags in the first place.

Trouble is, who has clout to release these stories and have them printed?

Just my opinion.

Chris Walton.
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Alex Wright-Manning Head of Recruitment, Splash Damage Ltd10 years ago
You've rather hit the nail on the head there Chris. Unfortunately there aren't enough high profile supporters of the games industry that are known outside of it. Ian Livingstone is probably our most recognised spokesperson (and a bloody good one too), but he doesn't have the sort of clout to get the positive news into the mainstream press. Ian's a case in point actually; the Livingstone/Hope review was an extremely well executed research and recommendation document, that I have no doubt was a major driving force behind the government's recent education reforms and budget allocation. Where was the reportage on this? Certainly not in many mainstream news channels I can find.

Ultimately, bad news and fearmongering are the mainstay of all news these days. Good news doesn't sell papers. You only have to look at the furore churned up by News International over the 3DS to see exactly how the mainstream media will use any hint of a negative story against us. I'm hoping there'll be a gradual shift in the coming years as the current generation of games players hit maturity, and there'll be more of acceptance of the industry as the world's population will have more of an affinity with games in general.

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Chris Wilson Communications Officer, University of Abertay Dundee10 years ago
Great article, and spot on comments from Alex and Chris.

Sadly, despite being an incredibly positive, high-skilled, high-growth industry (and for all the fantastic work done by organisations like SpecialEffect) there remains a very strong bias against the computer games industry in some areas of the mainstream media.

Securing space in any major media outlet is always easier for negative stories. "If it bleeds, it leads", as the naff old cliche has it. Sad, but true, and doubly so for the tabloids. Witness the recent efforts on 3DS to remove any doubt on that front...

We at Abertay have certainly seen the media come around to the positive stories about games education, but there remains a good distance to travel in terms of correcting some wider media misperceptions.

George Osborne set out in his emergency Budget shortly after taking office that the UK economy needed to be rebalanced away from financial services, looking for industries with high growth potential across the UK. As reports from NESTA, Livingstone-Hope and many others have shown, the games industry is incredibly well placed to do just that.

Rest assured we'll kept plugging away at convincing the media of exactly that, and correcting some of the more 'inventive' reporting...
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Soma Content Creator 10 years ago
What I really liked is this event: <a href="
Besides, we all know that every day actually a whole lot of lives are saved through jobs in the games industry than destroyed through false projections or overconsumption by their customers. For me, as a director working once for the Fraunhofer Institute, the bigger challenge and the real advantage for the gaming industry is the total e-cave-like place to be virtually unlocked for travels beyond 2-d or stereoskopic view in the near future. This is the real dimension for me in which people, parents, organisations should invest worries and answers. Nice article and thanks for sharing.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Soma on 6th April 2011 8:41pm

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Joe Winkler trained retail salesman, Expert10 years ago
Great article!
Is it good to see that the "witch hunt" isnīt just a german but a global problem? A lot of games get banned over here (mostly of violent causes, as good as never for sexual content). But some games just "slip through" the ratings. Take GTA 4 for an example: Absolut mature content, headshot-executions in cut scenes, taking the service of a woman for payment and killing her afterwards (to get the money back).

The thing with GTA 4 was just economically based. If a million seller like GTA wouldnīt be released for the public (=getting banned) the whole retail industry would have suffered. Ergo the taxes wouldīve been low. Therefore our Goverment let slip through games like GTA and Dead Space with normal USK 18 ratings and Games like Fallout donīt even contain blood anymore.

So when any pupil goes on a rampage, the first thing to blame are videogames. One of the latest "rampage" was in Ansbach (not to mention the Wimmenden case) a little town in bavarian. The media blamed video games at first and after nearly two weeks after the incident the police stated that the guy didnīt even play any video games. After that they just took the next thing they could find. In this case it was Heavy Metal. So, if you donīt play video games, music must be the next "bad" hobby that will infect your kids.

Quote: "Risk an early death, just do nothing." This add isnīt as wrong as it seems. We all know that video games donīt kill people. The problem are most of the parents. They donīt give a damn what their children are playing and if a child cries enough, they might be able to get their parents to buy the latest GTA or Call of Duty. A decent education would prevent a lot of damage to most children. But as long as the newspapers and magazines got their punching bag, the games (and therefore their developers and users) can be blamed for nearly everything.

Sad world..

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Joe Winkler on 6th April 2011 11:09pm

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Tony Johns10 years ago
I did have a feeling even as far back as 2007 when the Manhunt 2 issue was raised and even before when Columbine was an issue (back then I was in school and I had not internet to try and get accurate information on the gaming side) I felt that the perception of videogames had become so bad and so negative that allot of those stigmas were mostly made in the 90's and even in the 80's about games just being for kids...

I never knew about the situation until I told a few people at my junior high school that I liked playing games like Mario and Zelda, and suddenly this teacher told me to stop playing games and focus more on study so I don't accidently learn about how to shoot up people...

and from that feeling of being socially alone and isolated at a school where nobody ever was into the games I liked, or most were not into gaming at all, the negative comments some people would say...

It was this what people really thought about something I liked?

I only hope that the next generation of gamers won't have to put up with the things and the comments that I had to face when I was in school about videogames in that negative way.

I had always thought that more should have been done by companies like Nintendo and SEGA and SONY.

Perhaps there were efforts by those companies...but most of them were in Japan, a whole completely different culture away from the world where I had to live in.
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Robert Clarke Content Manager, Green Man Gaming10 years ago
I'm actually writing my dissertation on this exact topic! I'm just finishing a PR course and after years of trying to get many of my lecuters to understand that Gaming PR is a real job, I still sometimes struggle to fight negative perceptions myself - or at least ignorance.

I'm eager for interviews. If anyone working in the industry is interested in helping out and answering a few questions on the topic, please get in touch :)
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Joe Bognar PR Specialist, Asus10 years ago
Nice article. Very good points in the comments too. But we knew these already... :( We have to start putting some work into it. My idea for this is to change the CSR strategies and focus on Gaming issues and companies only! There are plenty of them!
I still believe that PR as a profession (obviously meaning the people within it) done a lot for the industry already. I would even say that more than any other medium out there. (@Robert: That was the topic of my dissertation. :)

@Robert: "...Gaming PR is a real job..." It is! And quite a tough one at that!
Also, I would suggest that you go out there and ask people for interviews as I don't think that they will contact you like this. There are a lot of helpful people out there who would give you an interview happily.
Good luck! :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Joe Bognar on 7th April 2011 2:08pm

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Robert Clarke Content Manager, Green Man Gaming10 years ago
@Joe I have - Including Mick Morris :) But it doesn't hurt to let people know on a wider scale on the off chance of finding a super willing interviewee :D
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