Epilepsy warning for videogame developers

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The Independent Tech

Videogame developers in the UK are being urged to consider how their titles could potentially trigger photosensitive epilepsy among players.

Large numbers of developers have been given access to a booklet containing a set of guidelines aimed at preventing the condition, which is triggered by visual stimuli such as flashing lights or regular moving patterns.

Conservative MP John Penrose has long campaigned for greater awareness of photosensitive epilepsy, believing video game publishers should face the same regulation as television broadcasters.

He raised the issue with gaming industry body TIGA which agreed to make a booklet on the issue available on its website to members. It will be accessible for independent and in-house publisher-owned games developers, outsourcing companies, technology businesses, universities and students.

Mr Penrose said: “The film and TV industries have had a set of guidelines in place to prevent the onset of photo-sensitive epilepsy and I am delighted that information is now in place for UK games developers.”

The booklet has been produced by Newcastle-based publishing giant Ubisoft Reflections which produced Rayman Raving Rabbids, a game which was said to have triggered photosensitive epilepsy in the son of one of Mr Penrose's constituents in Weston-Super-Mare.

A link between gaming and photosensitive epilepsy has long been established with the first case of seizures related to a game being reported in 1981.

Many publishers, such as Nintendo, warn gamers that a small portion of players may experience epileptic seizures or have momentary loss of consciousness when viewing certain kinds of flashing lights or patterns.

Such warnings tell players who experience dizziness, altered vision, eye or muscle twitching, involuntary movements, loss of awareness, disorientation, or convulsions to seek medical attention.

Gareth Edmondson, managing director of Ubisoft Reflections said: “Ubisoft takes the issue of photo-sensitive epilepsy prevention very seriously and we provide all our development studios with information on this issue.

"The company is very happy to share this information with TIGA’s membership, especially smaller studios that perhaps do not have the resources to research this issue.

"We hope this will lead to the widespread adoption of best practices in photosensitive epilepsy prevention among all UK developers.”