ABC ignored "Gamer Dad"


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American Ninja
Some of you may have seen this story doing the rounds on various Internet forums and even on Slashdot. Channel 6 Action News in Philadelphia, an ABC affiliate, ran this story on Tuesday. It's about a little girl who was apparently contacted by someone who was aggressive in wanting to talk with her via Pictochat on the Nintendo DS. According to the story, the screen name was so offensive they could not show it on television. The girl is eleven years old. There are comments from her mother and "Internet Security Expert" Keith Dunn, a New Jersey man who does public speaking on the dangers of the Internet.

What's not in the story is anything explained by the GamerDad this reporter consulted before going to air. On Monday morning, I received a call from Nydia Han of Channel 6 Action News, asking me about this exact story, the workings of the Nintendo DS, Pictochat and Wi-Fi. I was at first sort of dumbfounded by the idea of a child being contacted by someone through Pictochat because it's not Internet enabled in any way. In order to talk to someone through this application, you must be within 30 to 100 feet of the person (or persons... it supports 16 person chat rooms) you're talking to. When you're in that range, you can either type or draw pictures that are sent line by line to the people in the chat room. The most important point is that you have to be in that range, meaning you could probably see whoever it is you're talking to if you just got up and walked around looking for someone holding a Nintendo DS.

When contacted for the story, I talked for a good fifteen minutes about the possibility of this situation occurring and what might have to take place to facilitate it. I specifically explained that turning on the DS in a public place has never turned up a Pictochatter. Never. I've tried a bunch of times to see if anyone attempts to use it in public. I also said at least three or four times that Pictochat was not Internet enabled, even after I received a call-back asking if it were possible for this to happen at one of Philadelphia's "Wi-Fi hotspots" which are also mentioned in the article. I stated specifically that Pictochat would still not work because it doesn't ever make any connection with a network as it has no means of connecting to an Internet Service Provider (ISP). I thought I did a good job of relaying this information. I went even further and speculated that the child would almost certainly have to have prior contact with a person about where to meet in order to make this possible. Whether that were a relative or someone met through an Internet messageboard on a PC, it just didn't seem likely that this was a random thing.

Finally, I talked to her about the games and how they require Friend Codes to be exchanged between players outside of the game in order to play with people you know in the games. I also explained that Mario Kart DS doesn't even have the capability for chat of any kind. You simply connect to the game, race against the other people, and that's it. I did say that chatting in Animal Crossing is possible, but only if you're both in the same town at the same time and only after you've exchanged Friend Codes to even get to your friend's town online. I did not mention the fact you both had to have your DS turned on and online at the same time, with the gates to your town open for visitors. That seemed like even more convoluted information for this reporter to grasp as she seemed to be looking for a way that this little girl's story could be made even more plausible.

Unfortunately, the story is written in such a way that nothing I said is made clear at all. The story essentially makes it sound like your kids can be contacted on the DS by anyone at any time and that you should beware of predators with Nintendo DS lurking on every corner and on the Internet.

I'm both angry and disappointed but I'm also happy that if she was going to ignore what I said, that she ignored it entirely. I'm glad my name wasn't included to bolster the ignorance in the article in any way. I wish the truth of how the DS works were correctly stated and the "threat" of predators using it contact your kids were explained properly (which is to say it's minimal unless your kids are reading Internet messageboards and chats on a PC), but if that wasn't the plan from the beginning, then leaving out my part is ok with me.

As Andrew (owner of GamerDad) told me after this all went down, sex sells, but in the news media scary and frightening sells even better. This story, as presented, will frighten many parents and for the most part it will alarm them unnecessarily. Most unknowledgeable folks reading the article will assume the DS is an online device capable of exposing their kids to the horrors of the Internet when that couldn't be further from the truth. In the real world, the Nintendo DS handles Internet connectivity in a way that is safer than any other game maker's software has even come close to emulating. Nintendo are actually at the forefront of security for children online. They've waited the longest to even implement a plan for it given the possibilities of security problems and yet they're going to take a lot of heat from this story. It's not even that the reporter and her news service weren't informed, they simply chose to ignore the information so they could keep it scarier. The "Internet Security Expert" they quote makes it even more frightening.

If there's one thing I could do over again, it would have been to be even more forceful with my facts and opinions regarding what she was asking me. I needed to make this "expert's" side look a little bit kooky by saying unequivocally that the likelihood of your child being contacted through Pictochat was somewhere around a million to one, at least. I need to be even more prepared to answer these kinds of questions and be ready to respond to this kind of stuff in the future. I was caught a bit off guard by the call since I hadn't heard from anyone at Channel 6 since the story back in November on which games beware of at Christmas time. The more GamerDad is looked upon as an authority on gaming with children, the more I have to be on top of these kind of situations with the facts of how the products work and be able to relay that in a succinct and easily understood way.

I hope I'm consulted again for a story like this. It's still good to know that I gave them the technical information properly even if they decided to ignore it with the final story. It's disheartening that an "Internet Security Expert" would be ignorant of how the Nintendo DS works and that he didn't tell them exactly the same information I did. You would think an "Internet Security Expert" would be aware of exactly how the Nintendo DS functions and know that even at a "Wi-Fi Hot Spot" that the child wasn't online, but was instead communicating with someone right there in the room with them. But that just makes it all the more important that I be prepared as the videogame expert to better explain the real workings of these products so that companies like Nintendo aren't overrun by angry parents, unless those parents are completely misled by a story that conveniently didn't take into account all the facts.

Source: http://www.gamerdad.com/detail.cfm?itemID=3047

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BroChaos

wow, that is pretty sad. we're supposed to trust the media, but all it seems they do is spread lies.

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mopper
wow, that is pretty sad. we're supposed to trust the media, but all it seems they do is spread lies.

you barely noticed? :blink:

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DAaaMan64

yeah the us media is ****ty, the public has known there were WMD's in Iraq for 6 days. Nothing yet from the media those jerks.

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RootWind

yeah the us media is ****ty, the public has known there were WMD's in Iraq for 6 days. Nothing yet from the media those jerks.

Uhh... what now? :huh:

First of all, that isn't even remotely the same as this situation (easy fact-checking).

Unless by "the public" you mean you are an Iraqi who happens to live next to a WMD, or that "the public" parachutes unseen into Iraq at night and sees WMD, yes you might know something. Otherwise, "the public" knows nothing. Which is why the heck this mishap is so bad. The public doesn't know the DS can't connect to the internet.

Edited by DefensiveCore
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Nexus

wow, that is pretty sad. we're supposed to trust the media, but all it seems they do is spread lies.

Ahhh, nothing like telling a half truth story without getting all the facts. The media is not concerned with such frivilous research. $$$$$$$$$$ As long as the the story is attention getting and makes headlines $$$$$$$$, they are all becoming like the National Enquirer, nothing but sensationalism.

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S550

i sent a complaint to 6ABC..i have a lot of free time..i can stop in and make a formal complaint lol

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IceBrewedBeer

wow, that is pretty sad. we're supposed to trust the media, but all it seems they do is spread lies.

Trust the media....you're joking right?
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webeagle12

Trust the media....you're joking right?

I hope he is :blink: :blink:

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The Teej

Never mind the fact that there are games like Counter-Strike and Halo that have been around for years enables you to talk to people randomly, without any type of security warning or way of blocking what they're saying.

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