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How far should violent video game ads be kept from schools?

School officials in Toronto asked Sony Canada to take Killzone 2 ads near their school down. Should violent video game ads be kept away from schools?

Should this picture be placed near schools?
Sony Computer Entertainment America

Killzone 2 is being celebrated by video game journalists as one of the greatest first-person shooters ever released, but the game--which takes place on Planet Helghan as war erupts all over the world--is catching some fire of its own here on Earth, around Toronto.

According to a report in The Star, a Toronto newspaper, Pauline Johnson Junior Public School officials e-mailed Sony Canada after seeing more than 300 Killzone 2 ads placed on bus shelters near their school. Citing poor placement and suspect images, the officials demanded Sony remove the ads immediately out of concern for students.

"My kids, who come from a lot of different countries, who have to experience violence, who basically come here to seek shelter and safety, that's the stuff they don't need to see," Davis Mirza, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at the school, told The Star.

According to Mirza, the ads featured a "menacing head with glowing eyes" that was wearing a mask with a breathing tube as a war zone "like Iraq" was depicted behind the figure. Citing Sony's responsibility to the community, Mirza told The Star that he was upset the company wasn't doing its part to "promote any kind of community renewal or even responsibility."

Once Sony Canada received the e-mail, the ads were taken down immediately, company officials told The Star, and from now on, it will establish an advertising-free radius around schools. Sony representatives didn't indicate how far that radius would reach, but the company wants to be "sensitive to community concerns."

The idea of moving ads away from schools is probably a smart decision on the part of Sony and every other video game developer that doesn't want to upset an entire community. School officials have a point when they complain about violent video game ads around kids who aren't even old enough to buy them and Sony did the right thing by bringing the ads down and in effect, admitting it was wrong.

But if Sony will start creating an advertising barrier around schools, how far away should it be? Some might say that one mile is far enough, since most kids will be on the bus by then. Others might say the advertisements can be placed within a few hundred yards from a school.

Either way, Sony has made the pledge to keep violent video game ads away from schools. But developing the proper radius might be difficult, since there are so many schools in most communities, leaving only certain areas available to ads. And then there's the likelihood that ads placed in these areas won't be effective because they won't be viewed by the target demographic. After all, the ads in the bus shelters were placed there for a reason: kids would see them and want the game.

While I applaud Sony for taking the ads down over community unrest, I wonder how it plans to implement its advertising-free zones, since a standard distance probably won't work around every school. In fact, I'm not even sure what a fair distance would be. Does Sony know something we don't?

In trying to do good, I wonder if Sony has hindered its ability to effectively advertise.

Do you have a good idea of how far Sony should keep violent video game ads away from schools? Vote in the poll here and let us know.

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