Texas Game Development Incentives Come with Political Strings Attached

June 11, 2007 -

As reported by the Austin American-Statesman Gov. Rick Perry recently signed into law a bill providing incentives for film producers and video game developers in Texas. 

Game companies are eligible for up to $250,000 in grants. But content restrictions have caused some concern. According to the newspaper report:

To appease some concerned legislators, the incentive program was structured to guard against paying companies that make violent games. The state will be allowed to pick and choose projects, eliminating those that have "inappropriate content" or are "obscene." Game companies are left wondering which projects could be deemed "inappropriate."


Additional guidelines say that the project cannot 'portray Texas or Texans in a negative fashion.'

The Daily Texan notes that:

 

The bill requires the office to consider "general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the citizens of Texas" when considering grant applications. The bill also requires submission of a final script to determine if changes occurred during production would conflict with these standards.


Gov. Perry (seen yukking it up with actor Dennis Quaid at last week's bill signing) commented:

What we're trying to do here is pretty straight forward. It's trying to get the film industry to come and reinvest, and invest in a big way, in the state of Texas. And if the first thing that happens is we start seeing some type of censorship, then it's not going to happen.


Ultima series creator Richard Garriott (aka Lord British) said:

This is a great first step in trying to support developers who already are in the state of Texas or might consider developing projects in the state of Texas... Our industry doesn't have a very sophisticated lobbying process. I do believe the legislators that have carried this through for us have done so in spite of the utter lack of lobbying.


Rodney Gibbs, an exec with Austin-based Amaze Entertainment (Lord of the Rings Tactics, The Sims 2 DS) said that Texas developers struggled to distance themselves from the mainstream image of games as excessively violent.

What we do is mass-market mainstream family-friendly stuff. [The incentive program] is helping to overcome that stigma we still suffer from: 'Oh, games; that's shooting people.' That's just like saying all films are Quentin Tarantino films.


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Comments

Oh god I am so going to get a funding for a Walker Texas Ranger game.

Interesting as this comes out. It's one way of turning the liberal media around and getting more positive things coming out of things, but it does somewhat shoot down indie developers working on "excessively" violent projects. And saying that all films are Quentin Tarantino films is just plain funny.

So this will allow movie makes to make movies like Hostel 3 and Saw 4 but game makers can't make stuff like GTA or Postal?? WOW that is stupidly backwards.

While i am totally against any form of government regulation, restrictions and censorship of Free Speech material i DO believe when it comes to government subsities (bad spelling i know) or incentives, they do have the right to decide whether or not they want to help fund a project due to it's content.
This is not censorship in my opinion as it does not bar the creation or distribution of the games in question, it just makes so that the state doesn't have to fund your project with taxpayer's money if they happen to find it offensive. When they want to start banning, censoring, restricting or regulation video games altogether, then i'll be pissed, as that would be a violation of the First Amendment and Free Speech.

The question is: Can this bill be found unconstitutional ? This bill discriminates against violent content, thus gives incentive to make "non" violent games. Yet I do not see such restrictions on violent movies.

This pretty much is a legislative bill in reverse: Instead of punishing "violent" games, they are rewarding "non-violent" games.

What's wrong with Quentin Tarantino movies?

I doubt it since they are not restricting in the strictest sense of the word. Then again I am not a constitutional lawyer or a judge that has any say on the issue.

Something vaugley tells me there is precedent for this.

@DoggySpew

That's actually a very interesting point you got there. It is a kind of anti-violent game legislation if you think about it, but then again it's not really doing anything AGAINST Texas game companies, retailers, players, or developers.

It just says "If you make a game that's not over the top violent and doesn't stereotype Texans and Texas, then we can give you some extra cash to make the game."

The thing that concerns me most is the quote:

"The state will be allowed to pick and choose projects, eliminating those that have “inappropriate content” or are “obscene.” - Austin American-Statesman.

So let's say a game is submitted for funding, and it comes back from the state as "Obscene" in the denial for funding. Now basically, there is no punishment for receiving that label since the game can still be made and no movements will be made to restrict the game's sales.

But it still gets called "obscene" by the state! The STATE! Does that mean that this label qualifies it as non-protected speech then? I can understand the state not sponsoring a game based on what they call "Inappropriate Material", but to all out call a game, or part of a game, "obscene" from a GOVERNMENTAL standpoint could be harmful.

If the state calls a game obscene, even with no action taken against the game, does that mean the game is now no-longer protected by free speech and therefore falls under the same restrictions placed on pornography?

THAT is what I want to know.

Other than that, everything else seems okay.

~Otaku-Man

Hey, someone figured out that you can fight video game violence with economics rather than draconian censorship laws. This just in: duhhhhh

Interesting, although I don't like how they treat games and movies differently.

I just hope Retro Studios doesn't go for this should they make something original after Corruption.

Texas Game Development Incentives Come with Strings Attached...

...

@DoggySpew
I'd agree with Otakuman, it's not really unconstitutional. They're offering incentives for making certain games, not banning them.

@JQuilty
I think the same restrictions fall on movies as well.

One point though. 250000 grant is NOTHING today.
This is probably only viable for very small time game companies. The big shot game companies will not care.

I *wish* all films were Quentin Tarantino films. Or at least that level of quality. Amusing comparison actually.

That said, i do wonder about the constitutioness of this. I'm guessing no problem but hey, I'm not even American, let alone a constitutional lawyer, so what would i know? Could be interesting if it becomes seen as promoting certain *religious* values...

On a side note - does anyone know if the sims 2 DS was interesting at all?

I'd like to have 250,000 to develope a game under these restrictions. If I lived in Texas it would definately motivate me to start a small game development company. It will be a great opportunity for many people. Sure I'd much rather make a violent game, thats just what I'd prefer, but that doesn't mean I can't or don't want to make non-violent games. Its a possitive way to say you support non-violent games. Its also a great way to motivate companies and designers to create non-violent games. I'm impressed... its a good idea. If you want to make a violent game then simply don't ask for the grant.

This bill doesn't seem to restrict violence. Indeed, if it did, nothing would get the grant. All stories are driven by conflict. Shakespeare, movies, video games, books, the Bible, even history. I'm guessing they wouldn't give the grant to games like God of War and GTA.

Still, would a game like Final Fantasy (take your pick), Tekken, or Shadow of the Colossus qualify? Sure, none of those games would need it and they'd laugh at 250 thousands dollars to create them, but would they qualify as obscene or inappropriate? There's a woman in Georgia who has been trying to have the Harry Potter books removed from her public school because they promote witchcraft (she's never read any of them). Reading some of the parent reviews on CSM for various games and shows is almost laughable what some people are offended by.

So the question remains: How will the review board decide what to give a grant to?

I agree with BmK. This is not censorship. The Texas government has the right to distribute THEIR tax payer money how THEY see fit.

It may cause problems if movies aren't under the same restrictions. But I doubt they would do that. I would not put it passed them, but it would be very bad if they did. And judging by the wording of the bill, it applies to all media that the bill applies to. So they probably won't pay subsidies to Saw 4 or Hostel 3.

I am glad for this bill. I am am glad that it will give the incentive for game developers to explore more gameplay options besides fighting.

to be fair, this is Texas. their standards for violence are slightly more lenient than, say, California.

make a shoot-em-up that involves playing as a Texas Ranger (historical or Norrisian), and you'll be fine.

I like this legislation. I have no problem with the government having a say as to how they spend their money when it comes to the arts (as long as the standards are applied evenly ... no funding violent or offensive games, should also mean no funding for violent or offensive movies, plays, art exhibits, etc. If you want to be edgy or offensive in the arts, get private funding.

Texas is already positioned as a great place to make games. There is no state income tax. There's an available, experienced talent pool. There are schools with solid game development programs taught by people who have worked in the industry or know its needs to develop new talent. Large urban areas like Dallas, Austin and Houston have cultural opportunities. The climate may not be as attractive as that of California, but if you can handle the summer heat, the moderate winter is great. And compared to many areas of the country, nice housing that is convenient to work is VERY affordable.

I don't see how this program could be considered unconstitutional, and I wouldn't think less of any developer who took advantage of it. Selling out is selling out, whether it's to the market forces that drive mega-publishers or to the moral sensibilities of tax-paying Texans.

I don't live in Texas and it's not my place to question the tax-dollar funding of this project, but I am reminded of all that business with Robert Maplethorpe and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Considering myself culturally liberal, I'm in favor of any exposure to new art and ideas. Considering myself a libertarian, however, I'm against any government funding of private or commercial art.

I'd always figured Texas to be friendlier to the libertarians than to the culturally liberal. Maybe I need to reconsider that…?

To appease some concerned legislators, the incentive program was structured to guard against paying companies that make violent games. The state will be allowed to pick and choose projects, eliminating those that have “inappropriate content” or are “obscene.” Game companies are left wondering which projects could be deemed “inappropriate.”

and

What we’re trying to do here is pretty straight forward. It’s trying to get the film industry to come and reinvest, and invest in a big way, in the state of Texas. And if the first thing that happens is we start seeing some type of censorship, then it’s not going to happen.

But censorship of videogames, that's OK.

Isn't there a large group of game devs in the Austin are some times referred to as the Austin mafia. Isn't id software one of them?

Not every title needs to be a 20+ million one...and even then 250k can ALWAYS be put to use in development....i don't think there's any company that would turn their noses at a quarter million dollars.

Some things that that 250k can buy you:

5 salaried positions at 50k a year

The overhead of setting up an office and/or equipment needed to start up your company if you were planning on working without pay

a little over 200 SAG voice actors

2 senior salary positions at 125k to being in top dev talent

mocap shoots

licensing music

etc.


As for how unconstitutional it may be.

That's just silly. There are plenty of grants/scholarships that are only eligible to a certain cross section of projects or people. Now if they said "No game company based in Texas can make X type of game" that would be bad...this is just an incentive.

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[...] Texas Game Development Incentives Come with Political Strings Attached [Game Politics] [...]

To all you who think this applies to only games:

IT APPLIES TO ALL MEDIA THE BILL APPLIES TO. THAT MEANS MOVIES, GAMES, TELEVISION SHOWS AND COMMERCIALS. IT IS NOT JUST FOR GAMES.

Sorry for the yelling, but people complain without reading the bill and that just annoys me.

@brokenscope -- id Software is located in Mesquite, TX ... just outside of Dallas, not Austin.

@Stinking Kevn -- I do live in Texas (and work in the game industyr here) and taken broadly, it is a conservative state. Those with Libertarian leanings aren't always on board with some of the extreme positions taken by Libertarian politicians. Even the Democrats here are more conservative on the whole than what much of the nation would consider Liberal. Given that, large cities lean more Liberal in their politics and policies (as is the case with most of the rest of urban America).

I'm pretty certain that this bill has far less to do with government sponsoring game products, than it has to do with increasing the size of game development and film industry in Texas. Generally speaking, people in the entertainment industry earn and spend above national averages, making them attractive people to have in your state.

@verbinator

Sorry Its Dallas mafia, was thinking about something else when typing that.

"Additional guidelines say that the project cannot ‘portray Texas or Texans in a negative fashion."

*imitating Robbin Williams imitating a texan*
- Sh*t, where the fun now?

You've got to be kidding me.
I hope game companies just give him the finger.

And making fun of Texans is quite popular in America these days.

I have a question, does this grant go towards individual games or does it go to the company and then have the rules apply to thme forever?

For example: Let's say a new game maker called, green peach productions gets a grant from Texas, they make a game that doesn't violate one of the texas laws and because of the cash are able to complete it. Now let's say the game sells really well, they are rolling in dough and don't have much financial concerns anymore. Now green peach wants to create a very violent game, one that is somewhere between god of war and manhunt. Would they be allowed to do that or would the Texas contract forbid them even if they don't apply for another grant?

Father Time, we have plenty of crazy laws here in Texasand some aren't even enforced. I think by the time it comes for another game to be developed, the law may be forgotten, or the leniency will grow and such a title will be allowed to apply for the grant. The fact is, if the company is successful, they will likely accept the title.

$250,000 would be good for a small company, but it isn't that bad for a company like Retro Studios.

The only thing I'd worry about, is how the term "very violent" can be applied to some games. If a head got cut off, but no blood came out, how would they dub that?
What if some doll dismemberment happened in the game during production.

That's all that would confuse me about this. However, considering some laws that are deemed stupid still exist here, and aren't enforced that contractual obligation may just vanish in a decade or less.

This is an extremely reasonable bill. There is nothing wrong with, while encouraging a movement of game developers to Texas, that the state also will not subsidize any game that is not offensive to the taxpayers.

@ Father Time

From the wording of the bill, it sounds like it could be for every game you make. I will have to read it again to be sure, but that is how it sounds.

@ Wookie

What in the world are you smoking? Grow up and learn to read.

From my take on the bill, developers in Texas that make offensive games will be exactly as they always were, no help from the state, but no harm either. Only the developers that make non-offensive games, and all other movies aparently, will get the grants. Sure, it is unfair that violent movies can get the grant that violent games can't, but, it's a start, right?

[...] There be much gaming going on in the great state of Texas. Many MMOs have a connection to Austin, just a sample list includes: BioWare’s studio, some Sony Online Entertainment stuff and Blizzard setting up camp there too. Recently, Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill providing game developers up to $250,000 in grants … with a few little addendums, provisos and other such caveats. [...]

ok so ive been working on a game thats not violent how do i sign up for this?

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@ChadaChada

Read the freakin' bill. The no offensive stuff applies to all forms of media the rest of the bill applies to. So a really violent movie will not receive state funding.

How many times do I have to say this to you people. READ THE BILL!!!!

Brokenscope
Only if it was rated E for everyone (Walker Texas ranger game) now theres something to be afraid of!!

altho thinking about it it could make a nice teen level game basic combo based hand to hand fighting with guns...sadly it be as "good" as the Xmen games :P


Robert
what in the hell can be offensive to gun toting,death pentaly loving,hard riding red necks?!!?
Its not normal Texans they are "protecting" but the pampered rich who get offended by reality!! and sadly they get to look good for the camera for being "good politicians".

This bill piratically automatically supports puzzle,sports and learning games and dumps on the rest because it all will "offend".

Oh ya it also prevents giving help to western themed games like GUN or Call of Juarez ,look at every other good solid western theme theres going to be good and bad about Texas anythign that might be bad is auto fail for this, moronic setups like this dose not help create games.

Thought as much. While this website was stupidly celebrating the original bill, I was telling ya'll that with government money comes government regulations. The industry and the country are better off without subsidies for favored and easily controlled insustries.

Don't invite government in. It won't want to leave!

@Zippy

Dude, a Round House Kick delivered by Chuck Norris is a thing of terror and beauty, all the art in the world pales in comparison to Norris delivered kick connecting with someone jaw. The ground from which Chuck delivers the kick from becomes a state park automatically and is added to the register of historic sites.


..
...
I have to go beat my self with a key board in penance for typing that.

@ John

Fine you can go along and play by your self, while I go andd make games with free money from the government.

I laughed at the "historical or Norrisan" Texas Ranger bit.

Just thought I'd say that.

I see nothing wrong with this little program.

The bill requires the office to consider “general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the citizens of Texas”

Hmm. Perhaps its a little late for snark, but, Texas is pretty froggin' diverse. How on earth are they going to make a game that simultaneously acknoweldges gay relationships to respect the beliefs of gay Texans, and also promotes child abuse to respect the beliefs of Texas Republicans?
 
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