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L, R, L, A, A, B, Jump (to conclusions) June 23, 2006

Posted by joshg in Christianity, morality & ethics.

Kotaku, the game news blog of offensive colors (and often, language; don't say I didn't warn), points out news of what they refer to as "spyware" in Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

More after the break on why I think that's stretching the terminology a bit far.
The 'spyware' label actually is being shouted out by our good friends at Talk to Action, who I will not actually link to because they don't make sense. You can follow the link from the Kotaku piece if you really want to wade through their lengthy article.

Streaming ads in-game is a controversial new bandwagon in the game industry, although static in-game ads negotiated into specific titles have been around for over a decade at least. However, reporting the tracking of ad exposure and in-game player behaviour as spyware seems inconclusive. The first obvious question is whether any of the data being collected is tracked at an individual level, or whether it's simply stored as a pool of demographic and statistical data which can't be traced back to individuals.

But, even if the info is tracked to individual accounts, is tracking information about someone's in-game actions a privacy invasion? If you want to argue that, so be it, but then why hasn't anyone been up in arms against Valve? Or look at Battlefield 2, where stats are not only collected on how much time an individual spends playing different maps, when they've logged in, etc, but it even allows that information to be shown publically – talk about an invasion of privacy! Except, wait, most gamers saw that as a feature. Wait, isn't that sort of privacy invasion a major selling point for a next-gen console?

It's too bad that Talk to Action is so eager to put Left Behind in disrepute that they leap onto the most extreme conclusions they can reach. There are real questions here worth considering: should a Christian game incorporate advertising? What effect will that commercial message (or message promoting commercialism) have on the overall message of your game? Does that message contradict the message of the Christian Bible? (Many would argue it does.) It'd be nice for some real discussion to rise up above the noise.

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