**Please note that the news story Wii Gamers Vulnerable to Crime appears to have been removed from the ABC17 website.** Updated 03/21/09
I was astounded to read yesterday that adults who play Animal Crossing: City Folk and similar games are more than likely up to no good. I'm not making this up. Here is an excerpt from a story, Wii Gamers Vulnerable to Crime, reported by ABC17 in Missouri:
" "There is no reason an adult should have this game," says Andy Anderson, Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force.
Anderson says adults playing "animal crossing" and similar games are likely doing it for the wrong reasons. "
What? I was equally astounded that a news source would include something like this in a news story. I was under the impression that I was allowed to play games that are rated E for Everyone by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. I did not realize that E stood for Everyone but adults.
I wrote to both the reporter and the News Director. The story leaves out important details. Most egregious in my view is that FACT that in order to play Animal Crossing: City Folk (ACCF) with another person there MUST be an exchange of ACCF friend codes. Each person must have the other person's friend code and each person must put the code in the Friend Roster in their game. No mention of this was made. Nope, no mention at all. Why did they not report that parents should pay attention to where their children are getting these friend codes?
Here is the text of what I wrote to the reporter and copied to the News Director:
I must say that I find the reporting in this article to be sub par. While it is true that you can speak to people while playing Animal Crossing: City Folk via the Wii Speak accessory microphone, you can not play the game with or speak to anyone with whom you have not exchanged an Animal Crossing: City Folk friend code. Yes, that's right. If children are being contacted inappropriately by an adult, where did they get the friend code of that person? Why did their parent(s) or guardian(s) let them register the code of someone that they don't know and share their friend code with a stranger? It would certainly help if Andy Anderson knew what he was talking about.
Let me also point out that you do not have to play the game with others to build your town and "to really reach the next level." First, the game does not have levels. Second, you can play the game without any downside without ever interacting with another person. While it is fun to visit other towns, it is not necessary for game play.
There are many, many adults who play Animal Crossing and games like it solely because they enjoy video gaming. Animal Crossing: City Folk is the 3rd iteration of the game to make its way to North America. The first was Animal Crossing for Nintendo Game Cube (2002), the second was Animal Crossing: Wild World for Nintendo DS (2005), and the third is Animal Crossing: City Folk for Nintendo Wii (2008). I think that Andy Anderson does not have the vaguest clue when he states that adults who play Animal Crossing: City Folk and games like it are likely doing it for the wrong reason. This conclusion is completely spurious and unsupported. Are adults only supposed to play First Person Shooters? or games rated M? Ridiculous.
It's also obvious that Andy Anderson has no hands-on knowledge of the Nintendo Wii. In the future, I hope that when you report on issues like these that you not only gather all the facts, but you report them as well.
The response from the News Director:
Thanks for your comments. I realize it's rare for sexual predators to make contact with kids through the game. I still thought it was important to let people know it was possible, though. We decided to do the story to let viewers know children had been contacted. It was not intended to be an indictment of the game or a smear piece on any form of interactive entertainment. The point of the story was to make parents aware so they could decide whether or not they needed to keep a watchful eye on their kids' activities. We could have been a little more discerning in the comments we used from Det. Anderson as well. Unfortunately for some, they seem to have taken away from the intent of the story. Again, thanks for taking the time to write. We'll consider your comments when we cover similar stories in the future.
My response to the News Director's response:
I believe that you failed to be accurate in your reporting. As I pointed out, a child simply can't power up a Wii and connect to other people. In order for there to be interactions with another ACCF player the 12 digit ACCF Friend Codes must be exchanged and those numbers placed in the Friend Roster within the game. Without a mutual exchange of codes, there can be no interaction. Parents can simply not allow the exchange of Friend Codes. They are easy enough to remove from the child's Friend Roster as well.
In addition, in order to have interaction with friends on the Wii itself a 16 digit Wii Code must be exchanged and then entered into the respective address books. Again - no exchange of Wii Codes; no interaction. I think that you missed an important point when you failed to point out that parents need to be wary of where their children are getting these codes both for ACCF and the Wii itself.
I don't believe that you smeared the game. The disingenuous comments made by Det. Anderson that you reported smeared every adult who plays ACCF or similar games. Balanced reporting without inflammatory comments and with a solid factual basis would have served the purpose of alerting parents much better.
And the response from the News Director:
I appreciate the follow up. Once again, you make very good points.
I looked at the story again this morning and no changes have been made.
Do I think that parents should keep an eye on any interaction that children have over the Internet whether it is via IM, email, a video game, or other means? Absolutely! Do I think it's a good idea to let parents know that they should know who is associated with a Friend Code their child uses in an online game? Absolutely! While I believe that there are some adults playing video games for the wrong reasons, I don't think that labeling as suspect every adult who plays ACCF and similar games serves any purpose. It's inflammatory, unsupported, and for the most part wrong.
Qwill's Qwestion: What do you think?