Summermatter Anouk NB

Spécialiste des jeux vidéo

Avocate, diplômée de La Sorbonne, King's College of London et Cornell Law School, Anouk est passionnée par l’industrie du divertissement ayant travaillé dans celle-ci pendant + de 10 ans; plus récemment comme membre du conseil d'administration de Take-Two International GmbH et Directrice Juridique, l'éditeur de la célèbre franchises Grand Theft Auto, et comme experte externe chez Pro Helvetia. En 2020 elle a créé gVentures fournissant des conseils stratégiques aux acteurs du secteur.

National Video Game Debate in Switzerland

The Swiss government is currently debating a youth protection bill in the film and video games sectors.


The Swiss government is currently debating a youth protection bill in the film and video games sectors

Members of the National Council on June 9th 2021 issued their respective recommendations, moving the debate the Commission of the Council of States (La Commission du Conseil des Etats).

To date there is little regulation pertaining to the video gaming sector in Switzerland.

The aim of this new legislation is to align Switzerland to its European counterparts.

In its essence the proposal brings positive values to our society. It delineates key elements such as age control mechanisms and content notifications, and proposes for the creation of a youth protection organization composed by key industry players that will be in charge of drafting a regulation that needs to encompass the said key elements.

This proposed legislation will later go to the Federal Council for approval and implementation.

This legislative proposal requires that all gaming platforms take the necessary steps to protect minors from unauthorized content and put in place age control mechanisms. A fine of 40,000 Swiss francs will be imposed on anyone who intentionally breaches the law and makes an adult film/video game available to minors and on anyone who intentionally uses data from minors for purposes other than age control.

Though the bill refers to both the film and video game sectors, the national debate has focused primarily on the gaming sector reverberating many misconceptions that surround the gaming industry.

THE GAMER'S AGE

Many people seem to think that only “the new generation” plays video games.

That may have been true some thirty plus years ago, but today these people have grown up and many of them are still playing.

According to a study from Newzoo on gamers' segmentation (a segment of 2.9 billion people) the average age of a gamer today in the world is 37.4 and the average age will only keep getting higher mirroring the changes in our demography.

In Switzerland according to a study published by the ZHAW University, the average age is indicated as being 34 and over 33% of the Swiss play video games. 

The bill seems to make no differences between film and video game festivals, stipulating that a minor can only gain access to a film or video game at a festival/event after his/her age has been controlled, while providing 3 exceptions. The principle is good, as minors should not be exposed to adult content but the implementation as reflecting in the proposed language is not realistic. 

If you have ever been to a game festival, you’d know that these are very different to film festivals. For one, a lot of the audience actually dresses up in their favorite character. It is fun.

Second, unlike a film festival where you can purchase one entry per film you want to watch, at a video game festival you purchase 1 entry per day. That entry gives you access on any given day to the festival main lobby where many games are being shown. At some festivals you can also book sitting for specific talks but that is in addition to the main entry fee that gives you access to the games in exhibition.

You move from booth to booth, each showing different games, and do rarely spend 200 minutes focusing on one game, unless a celebrity is present or there is a competition, as you’d do when watching a feature film.

The games are not segregated the same way films are at a festival and therefore the current proposed language should be modified to take into account this reality.

Gaming besides just an entertainment avenue have been shown to be force for good.

GAMES AS A FORCE FOR GOOD

A fundamental part of being human is connecting with others and learning and games do that.

It is a universal language, a culture without borders and organizations such as the World Health Organization ("WHO") and the International Olympic Committee ("IOC"), both headquartered in Switzerland have understood and embraced that.

The #PlayApartTogether campaign launched by the WHO has travelled the world and has educated gamers on how to take care of their own health through this pandemic; while helping them to stay connected with their loved ones and communities.

Governments are also taking notice of the positive value video games bring to our societies.

Earlier this year, the US Department of State and Games for Change, a US not-for-profit organization, announced their collaboration on a diplomatic initiative using video games. They have put together a virtual exchange program that will bring together students across the US, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain and focus on teaching, developing, and creating games collaboratively that have a social impact.

In Switzerland, the university of Lausanne (UNIL) has created a short program to teach secondary school teachers how to use video games as a teaching resource.

In Europe in 2020, the Polish government announced that This War of Mine, a war survival game developed and published by 11-bit studios, was added to the recommended reading list in Polish high schools during the academic year of 2020–2021. This game focuses on the civilian experience of war, and not the front-line combat, where players need to make difficult decisions on how to survive a war-torn region.

In Belgium, the Flemish Department of Education and Training has recognized the value of integrating video games into the classroom, and commissioned a toolbox to serve as a practical guide for elementary and high school teachers to integrate gaming education into their classrooms.

Private initiatives are also on the rise focusing on multiple social causes, such as :

  • Scientific research through gaming :

Last year Gearbox Software launched Borderlands Science in its Borderlands 3 game, partnering with the Swiss gaming studio MMOS and scientific researches and universities. Borderlands Science is a game within a game where players' mission is to map the human gut microbiome to advance medical research while earning in-game rewards. Play time generates data that scientists and researchers can use for their microbiome studies ranging from diabetes, autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer and more.

Sea Hero Quest is another game launched in 2016 created to help scientists diagnose dementia early and eventually find a treatment. This mobile game tracks players’ spatial navigation abilities as they guide a virtual ship through a maze of waterways. To date it has created the largest study on spatial navigation capabilities in history, played by +4.3 million gamers.

  • Climate Change:

Earth games, brings together a community of researchers, game developers and students that use gaming as a vehicle to raise awareness across a host of climate change-related topics. Their new game Deal: A Green New Election helps you understand what it takes to pass new climate change legislation. 

In Switzerland the universities of Fribourg and Zurich have collaborated on an augmented reality game to show how rapidly the Aletsch Glacier is melting.

    • Education :

    Civilization allows players to build their own empire and learn about strategy, ancient and modern cultures and the fundamentals of a human society. 

    Reader Rabbit helps children learn how to read through fun mini games. 

    National Geographic Challenge helps kids improve their geography knowledge and explore the world.

    There are many more games that are a force for good and associations such as Mashable, Ables Gamers that are using video games for social good initiatives including to help players with disabilities to gain confidence in their abilities through gaming. 


    Research has been conducted on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction and I am not suggesting that this should be ignored, but to understand the impact of video games on children's development and have a constructive national debate, a more balanced perspective is needed and research has also shown that playing video games, including shooter games, can boost children's learning and social skills.


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