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It's A Small World... But Which One?

There’s been some developments from yesterday’s story where assorted organs have implicated the board-game Smallworld in a child-neglect tragedy. As we updated, the erroneous Warhammer shot’s been pulled but the makers of both games have spoken out about the tragedy, both actually denying it’s their game. You’ll find the statements and my thoughts below…

Days of Wonder, maker of the board-game and its ipad version, blogged about it and then issued a statement. Here it is…

Newspaper editors across the Atlantic seem to be living in a fantasy world – perhaps to the point where they will write anything.

Contrary to incorrect reports published in several English newspapers and their respective websites, Days of Wonder’s Small World board game is not connected to the tragedy that occurred in the London suburb of Swanley, where a mother reportedly let her children starve and the family dogs die while she played in an online virtual world whose name might be similar to, but is totally unrelated to the family-friendly Days of Wonder board game.

Apparently journalists and editors of some British newspapers can’t be bothered to check facts and distinguish between “smallworlds.com” and the family board game “Small World”, created and marketed by Days of Wonder.

“Since when are board games a source of danger and cause for addiction?” asks Eric Hautemont, CEO of Days of Wonder, the publisher of the Small World board game, who prefers to take such journalistic mistakes with a sense of humor, even if he regrets this unfortunate news item. “One wonders if reporters check their sources! The information published on the websites of the Daily Mail and the Sun has spread like wildfire on the Web. The copyrighted images attempting to incriminate our Small World game have circulated from England to Australia and no one bothered to check if this was indeed the right game in question.”

Contrary to the misinformation relayed on the web, the board game Small World cannot be played online and there is no invitation to play it on Facebook. Launched in April 2009, Small World was originally only available as a physical board game, with a digital version (non-online) released on the iPad to critical acclaim just six months ago. Winner of the Games Magazine 2010 Game of the Year award, Small World is a two player game on the iPad and plays with up to five players in the physical version.

“Our philosophy has always been to create family friendly games that are fun to play with others, not alone. It’s the total opposite of an online game that would isolate the player in a virtual world.” said Eric Hautemont.

Days of Wonder is currently considering legal action regarding this misrepresentation of the Small World board game and hopes the newspapers responsible for these defamatory statements will give similar coverage to a retraction. To help the editors of the Daily Mail and The Sun to make up their own mind of any addictive nature of the real Small World, CEO Eric Hautemont invites the respective editors to contact Days of Wonder to receive a complimentary game – either as the physical board game or the iPad version.

However, Mitch Olson, from the online social MMO Smallworlds who seemed the most likely candidate for the game in question, comments…

I was made aware of this tragic story just this morning, and I see that other concerned citizens have posted about it on the SmallWorlds forums. As with any form of addiction, individuals who become addicted to an online game need support to help them break the cycle of addiction they become trapped in.

In the story which is currently making it way around various media sources, the game in question has been cited as Small Worlds. We wanted to take the opportunity to clarify to our community that this is not SmallWorlds.com. A few news agencies have used SmallWorlds.com images erroneously when the story is about another game entirely.

Internet addiction is something that we need to take very seriously indeed. Do you know anyone that you feel spends what you would consider to be an unhealthy amount of time on the internet? If you do, I’d really encourage you to help; here’s a good place to start – http://www.netaddiction.com/

With best wishes to all our players – and with a sincere reminder from all of the team at SmallWorlds.com to look after yourself around the time you spend playing online games. SmallWorlds is great fun.. when its part of a healthy balanced life.

What to make of this all? Well, it’s clear that Days of Wonder game can’t be involved. It’s simply not an online game. Mitch, however, appears to have simply bought what the press are saying. However, if we can’t say for sure that means Smallworlds is the game which the lady neglected her children in order to play. It is entirely possible there’s another Smallworlds out there, which is somehow beneath the radar of google. I don’t think it’s likely, obviously, but it is possible.

I don’t think the exact character of the game matters, for the general point. When presented with a depressing real life, a retreat into an online game with a social element is something that can happen no matter what the character of the game. It’s not about the game. It’s about it not being their life. The press reaction to turn this into a story about gaming – and gaming of a traditional fantasy sort – rather than engaging with the sadness at the heart of this is the problem.

UPDATE: Mitch has made another statement.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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