Monday, June 27, 2011

Free speech wins out over impressionable children in Supreme Court ruling over violent interactive games

Free speech advocates have got to be thrilled with a Supreme Court ruling today that overturned California's attempt to ban sales of violent video games to children.
Personally, I think it's another indicator that we need to get a lot more proactive about how we flag and review this sort of interactive, digital content. Frankly, our laws woefully ill-equipped to the level of sophistication and imagery that is now possible through even the most basic of games.
Need evidence? Play "Angry Birds" for a few minutes. Incidentally, think about the premise of that game for a minute — attempting to kill a bunch of pigs. The stuff that the California law sought to nix was way more graphic and violent. An example: "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," which includes depictions of terrorists killing civilians. (Its rating is pending.)
The 7-2 ruling deemed that the law — ironically signed into existence in 2005 by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (yes, he of the very violent Terminator character) went too far in its attempt to protect children. It didn't set out a new code of rating of this sort of content. Rather, it sought to find retailers that sold the games to anyone under that age of 18. In the ruling, the court wrote:
"This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. And California’s claim that 'interactive' video games present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its out-come, is unpersuasive."
While I'm no legal expert and I'm a writer, so I appreciate the free-speech defense, I believe we DO need tighter scrutiny of the regulations governing how video games and other digital content are marketed.
It is one thing as a parent to watch a movie or other form of linear content and decide whether or not your child is mature enough to view it. It is another thing entirely to expect a parent (or an aunt like me) to try out these interactive games beforehand and make that decision.
That's because, frankly, I am not nearly as good with the joystick or game control devices as my young nephew. That's a fact, and it's a problematic one for those of us who would like to filter the images exposed to impressionable children.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Survey: Consumers seek integrated support for tech on the fritz

At least once a week, I get to play tech support department for my husband, often when he discovers a new feature on his iPhone. My husband is distinctly non-tech-savvy, as opposite from my technophile self as you could possibly get. But that's my only qualification as a support specialist, so usually we both end up frustrated and short-tempered.

Tech support remains the bane of many an consumer gadget-phile's existence, apparently, if a recent survey from Accenture is to be believed.

That poll tapped the opinions of approximately 3,900 consumers in 21 companies at the end of 2010. It found that most of us (63 percent) would love to find a single source of support for all the gadgets we use in our lives. The trouble is that often the support scenario on a gadget, especially a connected gadget, involves not just the device itself but some sort of Internet or communications service. In fact, there are a broad range of services involved which usually come from different companies: satellite radio, cable TV, mobile/wireless services, cable broadband connectivity, landline telephone, satellite TV, DSL broadband, and wireless Internet.

The reason that communications services enter into the two-fold: first, it could be part of the problem. But more important, it could be part of the solution, ala remote managed services that address device problems. 

Noted Accenture analyst Kurt Hogan:

"Although consumers we surveyed are concerned with computer-related issues, our research shows that they are recognizing the value of integrated support to help manage their home and mobile devices, ranging from in-home support, including remote access, to live call-center and web support, to email. We expect this concern to broaden, especially as people integrate their business hardware into the home network environment and use smartphones much the way they use computers, to browse the web, pay bills, play games and more."

Common refrain: just make it easy.

Who fixes your tech when it goes on the fritz? Right now, you probably have to take it to several different places or place several different calls and then endure plenty of fingerpointing. There's definitely appeal in finding someone who can do it all, even, if you didn't buy all your stuff in the same place. Does such a service exist? If not, it should.