In an effort to stop younger gamers from spending too much time on their brand new Nintendo 3DS, CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, has revealed that the company are exploring ideas to ensure that parents have control over their children's gaming time.
During the company's recent Investor Relations: Q & A, a worried parent asked Iwata about Nintendo's recommendation for console usage, stating that his son had been set limitations as to the amount of time he could spend playing games, yet these parental guidelines were having no effect:
"My son is enjoying the competitive games very much. I made a family rule that he is allowed to play games on a few days per week, for a maximum of two hours each day, but it doesn't work well. My wife is getting angry as this situation is hindering his studies. Although this may be just what Nintendo intends, could you please explain Nintendo's recommendations for usage?"
Iwata's response started by focusing on a recent study Nintendo had completed, finding how socially acceptable gaming is as a form of entertainment. As you can see from the image below, it appears to be lagging behind the likes of sports, music, movies and, most interestingly, television watching -- I would argue that video games, requiring thought and at least partial hand-eye co-ordination, would trump sitting watching TV mindlessly, but hey ho.
This then led to Iwata discussing how Nintendo could help gaming become more socially acceptable -- "our long-term goal is to change people's minds from 'gaming disturbs study' to 'gaming is unexpectedly good.'" This, he believes, is only possible if parents believe they can monitor their child's gaming habits, and control it in some way. After all, a parent can't complain that gaming is disturbing their son/daughter's study if they are doing it in moderation, as a break from studying.
He then revealed that:
"Nintendo once seriously considered adopting a function which would force games to stop mandatorily, to prevent children from playing the game, at the time that parents had previously decided. However [...] we finally determined to integrate a function to record the playing time instead of making the game shut down."
This was designed to encourage communication between parents and children, hoping to ensure that both sides could reach a compromise that would satisfy both of them. This feature wasn't in the original Nintendo DS because it was developed two years prior to the Wii. Now, however, it seems it may be making a comeback in the upcoming 3DS:
"[...] in the case of Nintendo 3DS, we are contemplating incorporating some kind of system. Whether it will be similar to the one for Wii or we may add something more has not been decided [...] Nintendo is seriously considering such measures - probably the most earnestly in this industry. Our arguments are so serious that people might be surprised if they were aware that a video game company like Nintendo is having such arguments internally."
It's important to point out that, like Child-safety locks in cars and PIN codes for those TV channels, this feature is to help parents monitor their children's behavior. As a well-reasoned, mature adult (as we know you all are), this probably won't affect you. As gamers, we're always fighting to prove our validity as a worthwhile entertainment industry, and if this helps Nintendo push our frontline just that little bit forward, then I'm all for it.
It would have to be carefully implemented, of course. After all, if I had finally managed to reach Bowser back in Super Mario 64, and my N64 had then shutdown, I certainly would've been a little annoyed. Perhaps a system where the game automatically pauses and asks for a code to continue playing would be a fair compromise to both sides.
What do you think of this idea? Do you think it would work in helping gaming become a more acceptable pastime? Let us know in the comments below.