Yes, believe it or not, Nintendo's global smash hit Animal Crossing has caused a bit of a panic in the North East of Scotland. It seems that a young girl reached an 'advanced' level of the game only to find that the cute little creatures that inhabit the world began swearing at her and using offensive language.
The Dundee Courier (9 May 2007) reported this on its front page with a picture of the young girl, with accompanying unhappy face, and the moral corrupting evil DS lite! Her mother was 'outraged' that such language should be in a game that her daughter would play, and quite right too. However, when you consider that Animal Crossing has a PEGI rating of 3+ then something is not quite right here. Could it be that those fine chaps from Nintendo would really want to cause such a furore with one of their products, that they would ever consider destroying their reputation by programming a child's game to swear at the player or that there would be one game out of millions sold that would show this???
But wait, if you read to the very end of the article you find out what really has happened. It seems that when the player in Animal Crossing gets to an advanced stage then they can add dialogue that the creatures will speak. This can then appear in the game. Could it be that someone has taught the Nintendo DS to swear....
Nintendo were interviewed regarding this and they categorically state that the game was either a copy or the player or someone must have input the offending text. If this is the most likely case then why did this make the news?
It's quite right that parents and educators should protect young players from inappropriate material in games but it does help for the facts to be looked at more carefully before any lazy sensationalist claims can be made. On this occasion may I thank the Dundee Courier for giving me yet another example of how the media can fuel moral panics associated with games.