In the United States, privacy is something that is becoming less and less achievable. Anything we do or put online is tracked, recorded, and filed away in a digital safe for eternity. The government is all about freedom of speech, yet the National Security Agency is an entire office of government dedicated to code breaking and checking up on people, even on American citizens. Even though the United States isn’t the only government to keep a watchful eye on the private lives of its citizens, and it’s certainly not the worst offender, companies have been doing the same thing.
We might not think anything of it — so what if ads on Amazon are based off of our recent purchases or Netflix recommends new shows and movies based on things we’ve watched? It makes it convenient and enjoyable. I know I don’t have a problem with it. But that’s me, and I’ve grown up in this world of media immersion and expect it to be this way. Last week, NPR released a story written by Steve Henn about video game developers spending more time and money on tracking players online and using the data to make games more enjoyable. Third grade teacher Mary Beth James shared this story with her class at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School in Washington, D.C. The kids did not react well to the fact that strangers are tracking online play.
“The theme of being watched and tracked was pretty scary to the kids. And they wanted to know why they were doing that.”
— Mary Beth James
The story from NPR can be listened to here. James encouraged the kids to share their thoughts with NPR.
“Dear video game designers, yesterday we watched the NPR program about video games. I thought it was kind of creepy when I found out that you watch people play video games and know all of their data. Also, I never knew why video games were so addicting. Now I do! No wonder my brother never stops playing Wii! Honestly, I think it’s wrong to watch people play and collect their data.”
— Katie Troupe
“Dear video game designers, I think it is as good idea making it very addictive, but the game is eventually going to get thrown in the trash if the people who are playing it can’t turn it off. I think you should make it so the game automatically shuts down when they have played it for a long time.”
— Ryan Harrison
As a video game news site run and written by gamers for gamers, it’s difficult to not include personal and professional bias in this story. Do the kids have a point? Is collecting data like this an invasion of privacy, or just another way to do business? Have any of you felt violated because a company might know how many hours you’ve spent on a game? Let us know in the comments.