Some players don’t want seizure protection

video games seizure safety

The UK division of Ubisoft announced in 2007 that the company would voluntarily pre-screen and pre-test all video games developed in-house to check for seizure safety. The announcement came in response to discussion in Parliament regarding proposed measures to protect the public from video game seizures. Ubisoft had a particular interest in the matter because the mother of a 10-year-old boy who had a seizure while playing Ubisoft’s “Rayman: Raving Rabbids” brought the issue to her MP.

Ubisoft doesn’t always develop the games it distributes, however. Shortly before product release last week, Ubisoft placed an “anti-seizure” filter on “Cliffs of Dover,” the long-awaited fight simulator game developed by Russia’s 1C Company. Game forums have been filled with nasty rhetoric from users who resented the filter’s effect on game performance. Inaccuracies about game-induced seizures abound in these posts. Ubisoft acknowledged that the filter can slow the action by about 10 frames per second, depending on the user’s hardware configuration. After a few days of uproar in the forums, Ubisoft relented by allowing users to opt out of the filter. When they opt out, they will see the following message:

    WARNING: disabling this filter may induce previously undetected epileptic symptoms even in persons who have no history of prior seizures or epilepsy. Please read the complete warning on the game’s splash screen.

Ubisoft says the filter is a temporary approach to taming the flashes that are produced by active propellers, muzzle flashes, smoke puffs, explosions, falling bombs, and flying or taxiing between buildings, among other things. In the future Ubisoft plans to release patches to its software that correct the problem sequences in a less intrusive manner than the real-time filter.

Despite the stumble, Ubisoft is to be commended for publicly addressing the seizure problem and apparently extending its pre-testing to games they distribute but didn’t develop. Other game developers may be doing the same but would prefer not to disclose it. The problem with developers going public about fixing the seizure problem in their new releases, of course, is that the company’s entire backlist of products becomes a target for potential liability.

The video game industry needs to discuss the seizure problem publicly as it works to bring games into compliance with photosensitive seizure safety guidelines drawn up by researchers for image safety.

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