A percentage of the price of Football Manager, a computer game that sells 500,000 copies in its strongest sales quarter at Christmas, will go to War Child in the UK to fund the charity's support for children displaced, orphaned or injured by war.
The game is created by Sports Interactive and published by Sega, and is the successor to the hugely popular Championship Manager, which Sports Interactive lost when it parted company with a previous partner. Sega and Sports Interactive will give equally to the War Child deal, and will also donate money from the sale of a hockey game and any future sports games developed through the companies' partnership.
Both Sega and Sports Interactive declined to name the percentage they would donate, but said the first cheque for sales runs from February 2004, when they joined forces, and will be for at least £100,000. Sega and Sports Interactive went so far as to include a clause detailing future donations to War Child in the five-year contract they signed in February last year. Their links with War Child will run for the full five years of the contract.
Sports Interactive spokesman Ciaran Brennan said: "One thing that particularly attracted us to War Child was the ratio of money spent on aid compared with money spent on administration. The chief executive is a very, very impressive man and tells stories of the charity's work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. You'd almost want to get on the plane and go out there yourself."
On Sega's website, the news release about the partnership is placed next to an update on the game House of the Dead III, described as "Sega's legendary arcade shooter". The game calls on players to "gather up your shotgun and re-enter the house of the dead to take on pure evil with disproportionate prejudice".
But War Child marketing manager James Topham denied there was any conflict of interest inherent to the partnership.
Drawing an analogy with the rapper Beenie Man, infamous for his homophobic lyrics, he said that a music fan could still ethically buy music made by other artists on Beenie Man's label.
"We're not getting any money from shoot 'em up games," Topham added.
DR PETER SQUIRES, lecturer in criminology and member of Gun Control Network
Sega prides itself on the realistic violence achieved within many of its games. Many concerns have been raised, especially about 'first-person shooter' video games, because of the alleged de-sensitising effect they are said to have on frequent players.
Critics in the US have suggested such games "teach kids to kill", linking violent video games to a number of school shooting incidents. They note that the accuracy with which adolescents have killed their classmates could derive from hours of shooting at on-screen targets. More generally, commentators have questioned the contribution of violent video games to a wider gun culture among young people.
I think people might be confused that a charity dedicated to supporting children harmed by violence should raise funds on the back of people playing games that re-enact the sort of violence from which its clients have really suffered.