The Ryan Lambie Column: Change4Life and the BAFTAs

The recent Change4Life campaign has meant Ryan's been putting his life at risk, apparently. And then there's the BAFTAs...

Mr Ryan Lambie's amazing joypad.

I never knew I was so brave. All these years I’ve spent with a game controller in my hands, and I was risking death without even realising it. Foolishly, I thought that playing games was a comparatively harmless way to spend a quiet few hours – far more healthy than, say, smoking crack, squatting in a hedge and sniffing glue, setting fire to disused warehouses or throwing fireworks at swans down the local park. It turns out I was wrong – video games are a complete and utter menace, and every minute I spend tapping buttons instead of doing something outside nudges me closer to a cold, damp grave.

I am, of course, referring to the ridiculous Change4Life advertising campaign masterminded by the government’s department of health. ‘RISK AN EARLY DEATH, DO NOTHING’ blares a decidedly tabloid headline, while a small boy wearing too much lipstick and Jeremy Clarkson jeans sits slumped underneath, controller in hand. His expression is glazed, as though he’s watching a Labour party conference; God only knows what game he’s meant to be playing. His thumbs aren’t even touching the controls.

It’s a dreadful, half-arsed piece of propaganda, conceived by people who know little to nothing about games, and less still about the people that play them; as ever, gaming is being singled out as the cause of a social problem that it has little to do with. The fact that children aren’t getting enough exercise isn’t the fault of the games industry, any more than it’s BMW’s fault that kids are being chauffeured to school in X5s instead of on foot.

And besides, a vast percentage of gamers aren’t children at all – and as a grown-up adult gamer, I reserve the right to lie sprawled across my couch for as long as I like, the fat fizzing over the top of my jeans, a can of beer balanced teetering on one knee and a bag of chips spread out a few inches under my chin, gorging myself on hours of deliciously deadly, decadent gaming. 

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But I digress – the Change4Life campaign is merely an entree to this week’s main topic: the BAFTA Video Game Awards, which were held on Tuesday at London’s Hilton Hotel. Unlike their movie equivalents, the Game Awards are surprisingly low-key affair – you’ll have seen larger, more raucous crowds at a pub quiz, and the proceedings are curiously glamour-free.

Thanks to a blip in the space-time continuum, there wasn’t a Game Awards at all last year, which meant that games released in 2007 were eligible for a trophy. This explains why Super Mario Galaxy – a game that most people have probably already played to death by now – won the top Game of the Year gong. Other awards went to Dead Space, Left4Dead, Spore, CoD4 and LittleBigPlanet, while GTA IV, a colossally successful game produced by a UK company, didn’t even get a mention.

Watching the BBC’s unenthusiastic, dreary reporting from the event online, I’m reminded of the Change4Life adverts; it’s clear that Rory Cellan-Jones, the correspondent covering the story, has no knowledge of games at all, and precious little interest. Here are a few random examples of Rory’s in-depth reportage:

Call Of Duty 4 – that’s a very big title. Very popular.”

To Codemasters, the UK’s most successful independent games company: “600 members of staff. That’s quite big.”

About last year’s best driving game: “So what is Race Driver: GRID? A basic, er, racing game?”

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“So what sort of people are playing games these days? Are you moving beyond the teenager playing in his bedroom?”

It’s depressing stuff, and merely highlights the reality that, irrespective of how popular they become, there remains a large section of the media that regard video games with either disinterest or outright hostility. This week’s Change4Life adverts and Game Awards coverage demonstrate just how far games have to go before they’re given the respect they deserve as an industry and as an artform.

Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.