A Circuit Court Judge for the 30th Circuit in Virginia has vacated his seat following a tale of a 2009 car crash following a night of videogames with a former defendant who had appeared before him in court.
TriCities.com carries the story of Circuit Judge Joseph Carico (pictured behind the bench) who crashed his SUV into a tree on November 21, 2009. Passenger Jeremy Hubbard was hurt in the crash, which happened after a night playing Halo 3 on the Xbox 360 and sports games on the Wii, the Judge’s “preferred gaming system,” according to Hubbard.
Hubbard’s and Carico’s paths had crossed in court as a result of a drug case against the former, in which the latter “had signed multiple orders revoking Hubbard’s bond and jailing him on the drug conviction and on a larceny case.” Carico also “signed three separate orders sentencing Hubbard to community service.”
Buried deep in last week's ESA press release which detailed a million bucks worth of grants to non-profits was word that the National Institute on Media and the Family was to be one of nine funding recipients.
NIMF is an interesting selection for the ESA, to say the least. Over the years the group has been a highly vocal, politically well-connected, and rational (in contrast to certain other critics) thorn in the side of the video game industry.
As recently as November, 2005, for example, NIMF head David Walsh, flanked by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), gave the ESRB an "F" on its Annual Video Game Report Card. In its 2007 report card, NIMF charged the game industry with "an ominous backslide on multiple fronts." Walsh has also worked with Hillary Clinton and other members of Congress on video game sex and violence issues.
Given NIMF's history as self-appointed media watchdog, it's more than a little surprising to see the group accept funding from the video game industry. Doing so raises obvious conflict of interest questions and GamePolitics put those issues to NIMF. Late yesterday, spokesman Darin Broton responded on behalf of the organization:
For 12 years, the Institute has been a leader in helping families maximize the benefit and minimize the harm of media. To continue our success in helping parents navigate the constantly changing technology, the Institute will work with organizations that support its mission to give parents the tools to make them even more successful. Reasonable organizations can disagree on principle, but can work together for the betterment of families and children.
This isn’t the first time the Institute has worked with an organization it has been at odds with in the past. As you may recall, we worked together with the ESRB earlier this year during the release of GTA IV. The two organizations issued a joint statement telling parents to beware and follow the ESRB’s rating on the box. Where there are areas of agreement, the Institute will work with reasonable organizations to help parents and families. If the Institute has concerns with a particular issue within the gaming industry, we will respond appropriately. Nothing has changed.
Broton also told GP that the amount of the ESA grant is $50,000, but did not respond to our question as to whether NIMF approached the ESA regarding funding or vice-versa. According to the ESA press release the grant will be used to "develop an on-line e-learning zone for using the latest interactive technologies to help kids and adults understand the issues and potential areas of concern with the Internet."
GP: Broton is correct to point out that NIMF worked with ESRB on the GTA IV advisory. However, there's a wide gap between "working with" and "accepting money from." Whether one agrees or disagrees with NIMF and its mission, taking funding from the industry it purports to be watching is a credibility-damaging decision on the organization's part.
What were they thinking?
The owner of public relations firm which represents video game publishers also runs a video game website at which games are reviewed.
Credit Joystick Division with bringing the situation to light.
Richard Kain, TriplePoint PR’s General Manager and Founder, in fact formed a new company – Pantheon Labs – under TriplePoint’s roof to create GameCyte, as a way to bring “quality journalism” to the gaming media – and then deliberately concealed his ownership of Pantheon and GameCyte.com using domain privacy services like Domains By Proxy, a Joystick Division investigation indicates.
Then, when it came time to put together the GameCyte team, he staffed the site exclusively with TriplePoint PR employees – his former account executive the site’s most prolific reviewer. And by Mr. Kain’s own admission, some of the highest-reviewed games on GameCyte are from Telltale Games – a company he just so happens to be invested in.
Venture Beat's Dean Takahashi offers additional info:
In a phone call with me today, Kain said, “I f***ed up in terms of the degree of disclosure.” He noted that he had links to both firms on his Facebook page but neglected to disclose the ownership in the “about” page for GameCyte. Now the “about” page has been changed to include the disclosure...
You can put this one down in the “major whoops” column. It’s going to be hard for people to give the PR firm the benefit of the doubt and to trust GameCyte’s reviews, given how the relationship was unearthed. But so far, it doesn’t look like anything worse than bad judgement.
GP: We linked to GameCyte twice last week on stories which added follow-up information to the Activision piracy lawsuits revealed recently on GamePolitics. Activision is not listed among Triple Point's clients.
The Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies on behalf of U.S. video game publishers, announced last week that it would award $1 million in grants to nine non-profit organizations. The money will be distributed by the organization's charitable arm, the ESA Foundation.
Most notable among the recipients is the Minneapolis-based National Institute for Media and the Family. The watchdog group, headed by Dr. David Walsh (left), is best known for its annual video game report card. At times it has been a harsh critic of the video game industry. In 2005, for example, NIMF tagged the ESRB with a failing grade in the wake of the Hot Coffee scandal.
According to an ESA press release, NIMF will receive funding to "develop an on-line e-learning zone for using the latest interactive technologies to help kids and adults understand the issues and potential areas of concern with the Internet."
GamePolitics has requested comment from NIMF.
Of the ESA Foundation grants CEO Michael Gallagher said:
We are pleased to help these organizations address such critical social issues. The creativity and commitment of these recipients gives us a glimpse into the countless ways technology, including video games, can be used to improve the quality of life of our young people.
Additional details on the grant awards are available on the ESA website. Aside from NIMF, other recipients include: