Video Games Uninsurable Because They’re ‘Too Violent’?

Over the last few months, we’ve covered a lot of different insurance product types that are available for purchase in some capacity. People have everything from their pets to their legs insured, and for the most part, they’re able to do so with little trouble. But tell that to a Seattle-based gaming company that specializes in violent video games, and you’ll hear a different story entirely.

According to the makers of Takedown: Red Sabre, a tactical shooter for the PC and Xbox 360 that was launched and funded through Kickstarter, they were told their venture was “uninsurable.”

Christian Allen of independent developer Serellan shared his tale with IBA in a recent post.

“We have made some phone calls and, unfortunately, we do not have a market that will offer a premium proposal for your operations,” the insurance broker wrote. “This is due to the violent nature of the games you are producing.”

Allen called the letter he received a “shock” and said that it delayed some of his business development until he was able to get the situation sorted out. (Yes, a carrier did eventually take him in, but it wasn’t before he’d heard a lot of No’s.)

IBA speculates that world events like the Columbine High School shooting and Sandy Hook have made a not-insignificant portion of insurers to feel similarly to those who rejected Serellan’s request, noting that “defense costs mean insuring violent video games requires a special approach.”

Many commenters were shocked by the issues that Serellen was having in its search for insurance. Some felt that maybe the violence element should influence the premium but that a company should not be denied insurance based on the nature of their product.

“I have mixed feeling about this,” explained one, saying that he hated “the violent turn many video game makers have made in their games and believe some of the action in some of these games do unleash violent activities in certain individuals.” Making game developers “at least partially responsible for such actions is not a bad thing and not being able to purchase insurance will hinder them and perhaps stop them from making such violent games.” Still, the commenter didn’t like “the impact this has on free speech.”

“The game makers do have a a certain right to release such games, and the person who commits a violent act possibly caused in part by viewing such games is the one truly responsible or at least their parents.”

Another commenter compared the argument that violent video games make violent people to the ’50s argument that rock-and-roll music would do the same thing.

“What is happening is: parents want someone to blame, rather than accept blame. Lawyers see a quick dollar to be made. And video game makers, are the easy targets. In my opinion, you can’t isolate violence to just one media type. It lingers across not just games, but television, movies, books, and music. … Software developers should pay a premium based on risk, and perhaps that risk should be based on the ESRB rating (or similar rating). But they, in my opinion, shouldn’t be denied the ability to purchase insurance.”

 

In Summary

It’s sometimes unpredictable the risks that a business can run into, as illustrated in the above example. While insurability may not be up to you when it comes to examples like Serellen, it is a good idea to emphasize to clients that risks associated with their businesses will ultimately determine their insurability, and so it’s best to minimize that risk as much as possible. What types of complicated business insurance clients do you assist in your work? Share in our comments section.

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