COMMENTARY: Among the glitz of this week's re-launch of the Atari Australia's website are signs that the game publisher, and maybe the industry at large, is coming to terms with the fact that video entertainment is more than entertainment -- it’s a lifestyle.
To this end, the new site features two interesting additions to its lower navigation bar -- a link to the Office of Film and Literature Classification website and an FAQ containing a bunch of curly questions that would make even the most sturdy of PR folk weak at the knees.
"Atari thinks it important that consumers are made aware of game classifications and ratings to make an informed choice, this particularly applies to parents that may not be aware of game classifications," said Chris Eade, PR manager for Atari Australia. "Atari is doing everything we can to ensure that this message is communicated."
OFLC classifications have been a thorn in the side of not only mature gamers, but also controversial developers like Rockstar and its Grand Theft Auto series. It seems Atari wants to provide site visitors with at least a chance to gain a better understanding of why games are classified the way they are.
But that's not all that awaits users of the new site.
"How much is the computer game industry to blame for increased levels of obesity in the community, particularly among children?" the FAQ asks. It even contains rebuttal to the above question: "But you are encouraging children to stay indoors and play computer games rather than playing sport and having physical exercise?" One would think Atari would be better off shooting itself in the foot than confronting these very valid and debatable points.
The responses, while a little canned, are still above and beyond the call of duty for the publisher. Most website FAQs, especially those of game publishers, are vacuous of anything particularly meaningful.
Not so for Atari.
"We also posted replies to common questions we are asked from the public, and have posted the stance of Atari accordingly in the answers. There are many misconceptions about gaming in the media, and society in general, and we just wanted to make available our point of view on these subjects," said Eade.
Vivendi Universal Games is also in the middle of redesigning its Australian website. It would only be a good thing if it was to follow in the footsteps of Atari, and more publishers should take it upon themselves to educate their younger consumers as well as parents.