Video Gamer Files Complaint Against National Institute on Media and the Family
Gamer asks Better Business Bureau to investigate organization
Long time video gamer, David Polus, has filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) asking them to investigate the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF). The following is the complaint Mr. Polus has written the BBB:
I am filing this complaint against a
non-profit organization called The National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF).
The NIMF is an organization whose mission is to “maximize the benefits and
minimize the harm of media on children and families through research, education,
and advocacy.” However, the members of the NIMF, in particular Dr. David Walsh,
president and founder of this organization, have been using many deceptive
tactics to bring attention to themselves, whether it be through the news media
or policymakers. I have been on this organization’s tail for more than a year,
and in that time span, they have refused to answer my letters and my phone calls
questioning some of their statements made about video games and video gamers. I
would hope that after reading my complaint that you indeed take action against
this organization. Without further ado, I now give you the reasons behind my
Just last week, the NIMF released a statement regarding their “National Summit on Video Games, Youth and Public Policy”, claiming it was a success and that numerous individuals signed a joint statement which included a sentence that said video games have “devastating effects” on children and youth. Gaming websites like gamepolitics.com picked up on it and questioned the use of such harsh language to describe video games, and it immediately created discussions about the credibility of the NIMF. Aaron Stanton, a journalist who attended the summit, was able to contact 80% of those who signed the joint statement and found out that they never agreed to the portion that says video games have “devastating effects” on children and youth. Those individuals also claimed they would not have agreed with the statement had they known the NIMF would include such harsh language (you can read more about this at the following website, which includes a 20 minute audio of the individuals discussing how to word the joint statement: http://gamesfirst.com/?id=1458). It was after this revelation that the NIMF decided to edit their statement this week and re-release it, leaving out the word “devastating” and adding the word “violent” so that it specified they were speaking out against violent video games as opposed to video games in general. No apologies were offered. No statement, which described the change and the reasons for the change, were offered either. It was as if the NIMF swept this under the rug and hoped no one would notice. I noticed and a lot of other individuals noticed as well.
This is not the first such incident where the NIMF falsely used peoples’ or groups’ names to make bogus accusations. When they released their annual Video Game Report Card last year, they advertised the above summit, and claimed groups such as the National PTA would attend. Days after the report card was released, the National PTA slammed the NIMF, claiming in a press release that NIMF’s report “contained erroneous statements about National PTA’s position on the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) rating system. In fact, National PTA does not endorse NIMF’s report. Further, it does not agree with the report's characterization of ESRB and its rating system” (you can see that press release here: http://www.pta.org/ne_press_release_detail_1133460190390.html). In a podcast interview done by gamepolitics.com, Dr. Walsh had nothing better to say about this incident other than it was a misunderstanding between the National PTA and the NIMF. But if it truly were a simple misunderstanding, one has to question why no one from the National PTA attended the summit. Dr. Walsh has repeatedly stated that only gamers and members of the gaming community oppose and criticize the NIMF’s statements, but the National PTA is not a gaming organization, nor are they comprised of gamers. They are a group of parents and teachers from across the country.
Last year’s Video Game Report Card also brought much shame to the NIMF. They made a bogus claim that there is now a cannibalism trend in video games. They used a video game called “Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse” to showcase their claim that the video game industry was now promoting cannibalism. Not only did they mention the game, they actually showed video clips of the game, hoping to “convince” the public that there was indeed cannibalism depicted in the game. Scores of individuals picked up on this false claim, including the news media and members of Congress. Both Senator Joseph Lieberman and Senator Hillary Clinton echoed the nonsense put forth by the NIMF that there is now cannibalism in video games, having assumed the NIMF was a credible source. When asked about the bogus claim that there is cannibalism in games in the same podcast interview by gamepolitics.com, Dr. Walsh unbelievably blamed the gamers for the flap, claiming the gamers essentially tricked him into thinking there was cannibalism in the game. Instead of doing the noble thing of admitting mistakes were made and assuring the public that mistakes such as this one will not be made again, Dr. Walsh laid the blame directly at gamers. The gamers didn’t release the video game report card, nor did they show video clips of the game during the report card’s release, but somehow the gamers are to blame for it. This was absolutely inexcusable, but at the same time, not unexpected. The NIMF has already been known for using deceptive tactics, and now we see that after they are caught, they blame the gamers for the flap.
Video games and video gamers seem to be blamed for the woes the NIMF has endured as well as the woes of society. For example, Dr. Walsh has even gone as far as trying to blame video games for the Washington D.C. sniper incidents in 2002, claiming the shooter may be a frequent gamer because the tarot card found at the scene had the message “Dear Policeman, I am God” written on it. Dr. Walsh falsely stated that gamers use these words when playing video games, using this claim to bring attention to his organization while people were in a very vulnerable state during that time of crisis. I have played video games for 20 years and in those 20 years, I have never used such words, nor have I heard anyone else use them. One could have, just as easily, claimed the shooter was a religious fanatic, but since this is the NIMF, they are obviously going to blame video games and video gamers. This is how low the NIMF is willing to stoop. Bogus claims used to bring attention to this group. As you can see, this is now a recurring theme when describing the NIMF. When the sniper was caught and found to have received training to use similar rifles in the military, Dr. Walsh never apologized for being wrong in claiming the shooter may be a frequent gamer.
This is why the NIMF has lost all credibility. They are obviously an anti-gaming organization, hoping to use their distaste of the video game medium to further their agenda. They even blamed video games for causing childhood obesity, stating that video game playing involves exercising only thumbs (they gave video games, even the good ones, an F grade for causing obesity). I questioned what grade they would give other activities that involve less exercise, such as book reading, and I even questioned why they never took a game like "Dance Dance Revolution" into consideration when blaming video games for obesity (a game people have used and are using to lose weight), but of course, they never bothered to respond.
It is for these reasons above that I feel the need to file this complaint. Parents out there are actually using this group as a credible source regarding video games and I cannot stay silent knowing that those parents are being deceived by this organization. That is why I ask and implore you to take action against this organization. In the upcoming weeks, the NIMF will be releasing their annual report card, undoubtedly using more deception, as has been the case already. Parents who have a hard task of raising children deserve better than what the NIMF has given them.
What I would like done, at the very most, is to see Dr. Walsh step down as the leader of this organization. I do not believe he has what it takes to lead this group, nor do I trust him anymore. At the very least, Dr. Walsh should publicly apologize for the nonsense he has spread about video games, and apologize to the gamers for blaming them for some of his group’s flaps, and reiterate why he is making these apologies so that parents and lawmakers can assess whether or not the NIMF is credible to them.
I will do whatever it takes to help spread the word that the NIMF is not a credible group. I can be contacted by your staff, at your convenience, if you wish to learn more about this organization or my complaint (believe it or not, the above is actually just a fraction of what I have regarding this group).
I thank you for your time and look forward to seeing a positive solution to correct this problem.