Don't Tase Me, Bro... Second Life Zapped by TASER Lawsuit

April 21, 2009 -

TASER International, which manufactures the controversial electric stun guns that bear its name, has given a jolt to Linden Lab and a number of its corporate executives with a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona.

TASER, which faces numerous lawsuits of its own filed by individuals who have been tased (or, in some cases, their survivors) is concerned that virtual TASER replica items are being sold in Second Life as gear for SL avatars (see pic at left).

TASER also alleges that its brand will be damaged via association with virtual sex and virtual drug use occuring within Second Life. From the 102-page complaint:

All of the defendants that sell virtual property like Plaintiff's real ones, under the mark TASER for use in Second Life programs and grids, also sell adult-only explicit images and scenes... thus attaching such content to the TASER mark... and also sell unlawful drug materials... thus attaching such content to the TASER mark...

TASER 's claims are primarily based on trademark considerations. The company seeks damages in excess of $75,000.

Via: Massively

UPDATE: New World Notes has more...

UPDATE 2: GamesLaw offers a legal analysis of the TASER suit.

UPDATE 3: New World Notes reports that Linden Lab, owner of SL, contacted an in-world vendor of virtual items and requested that "Taser" be replaced with "stun gun."

60 comments

Report: Dad Finds Ecstasy Tablets in Used Copy of Grand Theft Auto

April 8, 2009 -

A British man who purchased a pair of used Grand Theft Auto games discovered what appeared to be ecstasy tablets wrapped in plastic and hidden in one of the game manuals.

The Telegraph reports that Richard Thornhill, 34, bought the second-hand games at a GameStation in Gloucestershire:

When I opened the box up, the cling film wrap fell out. I could not believe it. I have two children and my son plays Xbox all the time. He could easily have opened the box and found them.

I dread to think what the consequences would have been if he had. He is only 12. He could have died. It was a pre-used game, but that should not make a difference. My wife is beside herself over this because she keeps thinking about what could have happened and so do I.

The retailer and local police are investigating.

Online Game Addresses Steriod Abuse in Major League Baseball

April 7, 2009 -

Baseball's back, but fans' lingering anger over steroid use by MLB players has cast a bit of a cloud on Opening Day.

Baseball *Juiced, a new online offering from Addicting Games, examines the steroid issue, although unfortunately without much depth. For example, if your player works out at the gym in the off-season instead of taing steroids he will hit well.

But if you choose to dope your player, he seems to hit a home run every time up. Eventually, however, he will flunk his random steroid test.

The message is: steroids may increase performance but at cost in reputation. Player who juice could be indicted, ala Barry Bonds, or banned from the Hall of Fame.

3 comments

Bavaria's Interior Minister Likens Violent Games to Drugs, Kiddie Porn

April 3, 2009 -

In the aftermath of last month's horrific school shooting rampage in Winnenden, criticism of violent video games by German government officials has been on the rise.

In the latest political attack, Bavarian Minister of the Interior Joachim Herrmann (left), a frequent critic of violent games, upped the ante by likening such games to illegal drugs and child pornography.

Herrmann made the charge in a Tuesday press release (Google translation) which was issued to coincide with the government-sponsored German Games Award as well as a video game conference in Munich.

German GamePolitics reader David Ziegler provides this translation:

The statement contains the usual accusations that "such games are one of the causes for youth violence and also for school shootings, where images from killer games become reality",and that "more and more children are getting mired in this virtual world of violence", so that "they have no time left for school or job training,  and are lost to our society".

 

However, this time, he's taking it a bit further. The last sentence states: "In regards to their harmful effects, [violent video games] are on the same level as child pornography and illegal drugs, the ban on which rightly is unquestioned"

However, a second German official, Commissioner for the New Media Thomas Jarzombek, criticized Herrmann's remarks:

The comparison is completely inappropriate... anyone making such statements is unqualified to participate in any further debate [regarding the] protection of minors from harmful media.

GamePolitics reader tibuka, also German, adds:

[Herrmann's] statement was released on the same day as the first German Videogame Awards ceremony took place in Munich. In return, all important German game-associations (G.A.M.E., BIU, ESB) released statments of their own, demanding an apology.

29 comments

Rev. Jesse Jackson Downplays Influence of Violent Media in Testimony to Parliament

March 27, 2009 -

The Rev. Jesse Jackson downplayed the influence of violent media yesterday in testimony before the British Parliament's Home Affairs Committee. The committee, which has been investigating knife crime, is chaired by longtime video game critic Keith Vaz.

While Jackson said that violent video games, music and movies could have some influence on behavior, he placed far greater emphasis on poverty, drugs, domestic violence and inequality as factors which lead to increased violence.

For the benefit of our readers, GamePolitics has transcribed the portions of Jackson's testimony which relate to media violence issues:

Labour MP Martin Salter: Rev. Jackson, we've been taking evidence on the effects or the increasing effect of violent media images on young people, whether it's in video games, whether it's on TV, whether it’s the cinema. It seems the evidence were hearing, that there's a general danger that young people can be desensitized to the concept of violence by the images that they see, but there's a greater predisposition to violence if those young people are brought up in families and households and communities where actual violence is the norm. Do you have any lessons from America for us on this issue?

Rev. Jesse Jackson: For a long time we challenged music artists and movie makers to be sensitive to the impact that their music and their movies have on children and they have some force... But those who grow drugs in Afghanistan and poppy seeds – they don't listen to music. This thing is not about music and movies. It’s about a form of economy... we’ve lost more lives from [the drug] war than the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we seem to see it as something marginal but it is in the center of our security and it’s getting worse in my judgment... the structural crisis of poverty and drugs and guns is more real than just movies and music.

Labour MP Keith Vaz: Do you accept that there is a link between violent video games and violence that is perpetrated by individuals? Do you think that those images do have an effect on young people?

Rev. Jesse Jackson: There may be some link of imitation. The question, Mr. Chairman, is art imitating life? Is life reflecting art?  There’s always a big debate there. What we do know in these troubled times… there’s increased domestic violence in the home. [Children are] more likely to imitate parents fighting physically. Domestic violence is maybe even a bigger factor on violent behavior than the movies and the worst games that are played. So, yes, we urge artists to not use their considerable skills to desensitize people to violence. Sure, these games that think that killing is a game must be challenged. But the economic impact of life options determines whether one is headed up towards university or down toward prison.

VIDEO LINK: 
Rev. Jesse Jackson Testifies

16-Year Old GTA IV Gamer Charged with Grisly S&M Murder of NYC Newsman

March 25, 2009 -

A 16-year old New York youth has confessed to the stabbing murder of a veteran New York City radio newscaster, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

The suspect is an avid video gamer who lists Rockstar's controversial Grand Theft Auto IV as his favorite title.

The NYPD has charged John Katehis (left) with repeatedly stabbing George Weber, 47, last Friday. The pair met after Weber posted a Craigslist ad offering to pay for violent sex. Katehis was to earn $60 for the sleazy encounter at which alcohol and cocaine were reportedly used. Weber, apparently as part of his sado-masochistic fantasy, supplied the knife with which Katehis eventually killed him.

That's not to say that Katehis was a stranger to edged weapons. The New York Daily News, which refers to Katehis as "emotionally disturbed," displays a picture of the teen posing with his exotic knife and sword collection.

Gawker has posted Katehis's MySpace profile, in which says the suspect wrotes:

I enjoy long conversations, drinking, bike riding, hanging out, roof hopping, hanging off trains, any type of Parkour exercise. Extreme violence (chaos, anarchy, etc.) Video Games, Violent Movies and listening to my ipod...

 

I like to do crazy and wild things. I am like an adrenaline junkie. I'm a big risk taker and like to live life on the edge...

The MySpace profile references an account on ibeatyou.com. At that site, Katehis lists Grand Theft Auto IV as the "Hottest PS3 or Xbox 360 Game You've Ever Played" and includes a picture of himself holding a copy of the PlayStation 3 version. Katehis holds up Far Cry 2 in a separate photo.

Additional coverage: Gawker

GP: There are just so many dysfunctional pieces to this story, but video games will certainly be blamed in some quarters.

109 comments

Retro "Just Say No" Commercial Features Wrestler as Mario

March 21, 2009 -

By way of What They Play comes this bit of gaming/TV/war on drugs nostalgia:

Depending on how old you are, you might recall the Super Mario Bros. Super Show. It was a television show that aired on the cusp of the '90s, featuring wrestler Captain Lou Albano as Mario...

America's airwaves in the '80s and '90s were also thick with anti-drug Public Service Announcements. These were usually doled out by celebrities or cartoon characters. It so happens "Mario" warned kids away from drugs, too--in a manner that was a little harsher than the norm...

23 comments

U.S. Anti-Marijuana Ads Focus on Reduced Gaming Skills

March 10, 2009 -

Above The Influence, the youth-oriented, anti-drug media campaign run by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, has a new, avatar-based ad campaign which warns gamers that their skills will be negatively impacted by smoking pot.

From the Huffington Post:

To dramatize how bad a stoner can be at video games, the site interviews a computer-generated character who laments the demise of a gamer friend of hers. "I used to have a good time with Lyle. We made a good team. He had skill. He had swiftness," she says. "Well, he used to, anyway. Then our last fight, Lyle decided to get high. And it was simply: sayonara skill, sayonara swiftness."

The Above the Influence campaign points out that perception, memory and eye-hand coordination are all reduced by marijuana use.

Via: Kotaku

155 comments

Swedish Youth Advocate: WoW is Crack Cocaine of Game World

February 28, 2009 -

A youth advocate in Sweden has likened World of Warcraft to crack cocaine in terms of its supposed addictiveness and the Swedish National Institute of Public Health has endorsed that view.

As reported by the UK's Daily Mail, Sven Rollenhagen of Sweden's Youth Care Foundation has authored a report describing WoW in ominous terms:

The most dangerous game on the market... There is not a single case of game addiction that we have worked with in which World of Warcraft has not played a part...

It is the crack cocaine of the computer game world. Some will play it till they drop.

35 comments

Drunk Japanese Minister Lampooned in Mobile Phone Game

February 24, 2009 -

A Japanese finance minister who appeared to be drunk and sleepy during a G7 press conference earlier this month is the subject a new parody game for mobile phones.

As reported by the Telegraph, Shoichi Nakagawa delivered the less-than-stellar performance at left during G7 in Rome:

Now [Nakagawa] has become the latest target of Japan's mischievous game industry. Players are invited to wake a likeness of Mr Nakagawa as he fields questions at a press conference and then let him nap to increase his energy reserves.

Players gain points in "Drowsy Presser by Drugged Minister" if they boost Mr Nakagawa's "support rating" by having him answer journalists' questions. But if the minister is caught sleeping by journalists, he falls off his chair and the game is over.

6 comments

BYU Profs Attempt to Clarify Study Results... Sort of.

January 27, 2009 -

Late last week GamePolitics reported on a Brigham Young University research study which linked video game play to a variety of negative behaviors in college students (see: BYU Study: Video Games Are Bad For You in So Many Ways).

The research, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found gamers more likely to drink and use drugs and to have poor family and friend relationships. Among women, game play was linked to reduced self-esteem.

While Edge Online and Kotaku are reporting somewhat conciliatory comments by the study's authors, their research findings remain unchanged. For example, Edge spoke with BYU's Dr. Larry Nelson, who stressed that the study found correlation between gaming and negative behaviors, not causation:

The study absolutely does not find that videogames cause this behavior. We've repeatedly tried to emphasize that in the study itself. It was all correlation...

 

One factor [of increased substance use] could be the experimentation that goes on with [drugs and alcohol]... If we had done a study specifically on videogaming ... I'm sure [benefits] are there. There's no doubt they're there. We're not saying there is nothing at all positive about videogames.

Nuclear Geek details an exchange with BYU's Laura Walker. The professor, who previously told the Deseret News, "Everything we found associated with video games came out negative," attempted to clarify her remarks and indulged in a bit of the media blame game:

One study does not claim to be representative of all gamers, and we were in no way making that claim. We are not even claiming generalizability to the 18-25 age group, this is just what we found in our sample.

 

Media has a way of really spinning these stories that are not always accurate. However, in our study, we did find that video game use was related to only negative behaviors for students this age. Does that mean this applies to all gamers? No. Does that mean video game use causes these outcomes? Certainly not. It is possible that video game use could be positive in a number of ways, but given the variables we measured in our study, it was related to only negative outcomes...

GP: To be perfectly honest, I don't see the BYU authors backpedaling, as Kotaku reported. Nor do Dr. Nelson's comments to Edge explaining that the research team found correlation vs. causation change anything.

25 comments

BYU Study: Video Games Are Bad For You In So Many Ways

January 23, 2009 -

A study published today in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence maintains that video games - including the non-violent kind - are linked to a variety of negative findings among college students.

According to the Deseret News, the study, conducted by a team of faculty and students at Utah's Brigham Young University, concludes that:

  • the more the students play video games, the worse their relationships are with friends and parents (although this effect is modest)
  • those who play video games daily smoke pot twice as much as other players and three times more than those who never play
  • young women who play often have lower self-esteem

BYU prof Laura Walker, the lead author of the study, told the newspaper:

Everything we found associated with video games came out negative... [But] I don't want parents to go out and yank all video games. It's like TV. We have to choose what's good and bad and practice moderation.

Student Alex Jensen, who participated in the research project, added:

I assumed violent video games would be related to lower relationship quality with friends and family. I didn't expect regular video games — nonviolent video game use — would be correlated to lower relationship quality...

An abstract posted on the website of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence offers some information on the methodology of the BYU study:

Participants included 813 undergraduate students (500 young women, 313 young men, M age = 20...) who were mainly European American (79%), unmarried (100%) and living outside their parents’ home (90%).

GP: It is quite interesting that this study would appear in conservative Utah at a time when a renewed effort to legislate video games is underway there.

182 comments

MADD Canada Objects to Game Designed to Discourage Drunk Driving

January 16, 2009 -

Surprisingly, the head of MADD Canada has flatly dismissed a game designed to teach users the perils of DUI. As reported by the Globe and Mail, CEO Andrew Murie has "no interest" in Booze Cruise, a drunk driving simulation developed at the University of Calgary.

While MADD Canada sees no value in the game, the U.S. Army is in the process of adopting Booze Cruise as a tool to educate military personnel on the dangers of getting behind the wheel while impaired. 

MADD Canada's objection appears to be that the game lets players know - based on body weight - how much they can imbibe before becoming intoxicated. That would seem like a pretty valuable thing of which to be aware. However, Murie said:

We've spent decades telling people not to drink and drive, and this simulator, one of the skills it teaches is to drink so much, and then drive.

GP: In some ways, Murie's objection to Booze Cruise is reminiscent of the sex education vs. abstinence debate. 

Via: What They Play

48 comments

GTA Chinatown Wars Rated 18 For British Market

January 9, 2009 -

No surprise here.

The British Board of Film Classification has assigned an 18 rating to the upcoming Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

No edits to the game were required, although the BBFC issued warnings that GTA Chinatown Wars "contains very strong language and drug references".

The game is scheduled for a March 20th release in the UK.

UPDATE: GameSpot notes that the 18 rating assigned to GTA Chinatown Wars is the first ever assigned to a DS game by the BBFC. The game's rating for the North American market is not yet listed on the website of the ESRB.

New Illinois Law Bars Alcopops From Kid-centric Games

January 3, 2009 -

In Illinois, a new law restricts certain content in video games.

However, unlike the 2005 game violence law championed by recently-indicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the video game industry is unlikely to mount a legal challenge in this case.

The new measure, aimed at keeping alcopop beverages away from would-be underage drinkers, bars their depiction in games whose audience is primarily children. Here's the language from SB2472:

No entity may advertise, promote, or market any alcopop beverages toward children. Advertise, promote, or market includes, but is not limited to the following... (4) the display of any alcopop beverage in any videogame, theater production, or other live performances where the intended audience is primarily children.

As a practical matter, the wording of the new law seems to indicate that it would only come into play with games rated T and under. Historically, we can't recall any commercially-produced games featuring alcopops.

Via: GameCulture

40 comments

Pong Toss Publisher Serves Non-Alcoholic Holiday Card

December 25, 2008 -

GamePolitics readers will likely recall the controversy surrounding Beer Pong, a downloadable game for the Wii. Following objections by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenhal (D) and others, publisher JV Games renamed the game Pong Toss.

Adding to our holiday card collection, JV has issued a slightly tongue-in-cheek reminder of the Beer Pong flap with a non-alcoholic card that features sparkling cider.


Heroin Victim's Mom Wants iPhone Drug Dealing Game Banned

December 8, 2008 -

Last week, GamePolitics reported that a soon-to-be-released drug dealing game for the iPhone had been renamed in an apparent effort to win App Store approval. Drug Lords, developed by a-steroids, had its name changed to the less offensive Underworld.

Despite new title, the mother of a British heroin user wants the game banned, according to UK tabloid the Daily Star. Thelma Packard's daughter Amy has been in a coma for seven years after dabbling with heroin as a 17-year-old. Mrs. Packard told the newspaper:

My daughter’s life has been ruined by drugs. If this game is allowed to come out, impressionable kids will play it and Amy’s mistake will be repeated over and over again. Youngsters like Amy are exactly the people who download and play games like this on their mobiles.

 

I just want to help other families avoid the nightmare that’s wrecked mine.

59 comments

Grogger Game Reminds Players Not to Cross the Road When Tipsy

December 5, 2008 -

It's like the arcade classic Frogger, but with a beer buzz.

Grogger, an online game developed by, believe it or not, the city council of Melbourne, Australia, is designed to remind players that it's dangerous to stagger across the road after drinking.

As reported by news.com:

The character can pick up beer bottles as they go, which slow their reaction times, while water bottles help the player continue on their way. They win if they make it across the road without getting "smashed" by a vehicle.

 

Melbourne City Council commissioned the game in an effort to reduce the amount of pedestrian accidents the city sees each year, 70 per cent of which result in injuries. The council estimates around 716,000 people visit the CBD each day, with more in the holiday season.

Melbourne will be holding a live Grogger event with players competing on a big screen later this month.

GP: We gave Grogger a try - sober, mind you, at the time. It's actually a lot of fun in that nostalgic, 8-bit way.

14 comments

Will New Study Linking Kids' Media Habits to Sex, Drugs & Obesity be Fast-tracked to the White House?

December 4, 2008 -

A study released by watchdog group Common Sense Media this week strongly correlates the amount of time children spend with media to poor school performance as well as negative health outcomes such as obesity, substance abuse and smoking.

Media and Child and Adolescent Health: A Systematic Review is, essentially, a survey of research on the topic conducted over the past 30 years. The study was carried out by researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and California Pacific Medical Center.

From a political standpoint, it is interesting to note that lead researcher Ezekiel Emanuel of the NIH is the brother of President-elect Barack Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Common Sense Media CEO and founder Jim Steyer (left) discussed the Obama connection with Time:

[Rahm Emanuel] will have a strong position in the incoming Administration. And I am optimistic that you'll see a renewed emphasis, from the White House on down, on media, technology and kids. In that sense, I'm very hopeful that Barack and Michelle Obama will be parents-in-chief and role models-in-chief for our country. Barack talked about it repeatedly through his campaign—turning off the TV, turning off the video games, doing your homework, talking with your kids.

Steyer also told Time that the study deliberately stayed away from issues of violence and media:

The research team decided that there was a voluminous amount of studies that focus solely on media and violence. So they wanted to stay away from that... This report doesn't say, nor would Common Sense ever suggest, that media is the cause of all society's ills, or the sole cause of childhood obesity or risky sexual behavior or smoking or alcohol use among teens. But it is a significant contributing factor...

The study's politicial potential is also emphasized in a press release on the Common Sense Media website which quotes former FCC chairman and CSM board member William Kennard:

The new administration has shown a commitment to children and has already made important statements about how it will focus new attention on technology and media. There is a unique opportunity to make real change in the role that media plays in our children’s lives.

46 comments

Drug Lords iPhone Title is Renamed for App Store Acceptability

December 2, 2008 -

What's in a name?

App Store approval, perhaps.

Pocket Gamer UK reports that Drug Lords, a drug dealing sim for the iPhone, has been renamed Underworld by its developer, a-steroids.

The move is apparently by way of not alarming the folks who run the App Store. From Pocket Gamer:

a-steroids contacted us to announce the game has finally been submitted to the App Store. Assuming approval, you should be able to start hawking your illicit narcotics sometime in December. But, in order to grease the wheels, the game has undergone rebranding. So, like a GTA hot car respray, it's goodnight Drug Lords, good morning Underworld. The name is less controversial and certainly more App Store friendly.

The game sets you up a small-time drug pusher, selling your stash on the local street corner to other players, and even makes use of the iPhone's GPS functionality, meaning you'll be wheelin' and dealing from your realworld local street corner... the map screen now includes data on pushers in your local vicinity...

a-steroids notes on its website that the game will be free. But, when it comes to drug dealing, isn't the first one always free?

8 comments

Police Use Video Game, Beer Goggles to Warn Teens Of DUI Risk

November 19, 2008 -

Yesterday GamePolitics reported that police in Australia and Winnipeg engaged in a bit of game bashing by relating stolen cars and reckless road behavior to driving games.

Today, the Peterborough Examiner reports that cops in Ontario are using a driving game in a positive way to help educate high school students about the dangers of drunk driving. Officers there have combined an unspecified game with the shell of an automobile to simulate a real-world driving experience. Students then don "beer goggles" which warp one's vision in a manner similar to a state of high intoxication. Sgt. John Ogrodnik commented:

If anyone actually did this they would never want to get behind the wheel of their car (while drunk).

17 comments

Outrage Begins over Drug-Dealing in GTA Chinatown Wars

September 25, 2008 -

Given this week's revelations that GTA Chinatown Wars for the Nintendo DS will feature a drug dealing mini-game, it was only a matter of time before criticism began.

Today's edition of British tabloid The Sun covers the story under the headline Fury Over Drug Deal Vid Game and includes a comment by Darren Gold of support group Drugsline:

Anything using drug-dealing as entertainment is sending out the wrong message. Glamorisation doesn’t help our work trying to educate kids of the dangers of substance misuse.

Rockstar, of course, seems to revel in such controversy.

37 comments

Take-Two Cancelled Previous Drug-Dealing Sim

September 24, 2008 -

Who remembers Snow?

Today's news that GTA Chinatown Wars on the kid-friendly Nintendo DS will contain a drug dealing mini-game reminded us that as recently as June, 2006 GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive put the kibosh on Snow, a drug dealing simulator for the more adult-centric PC platform. The game had been on the show floor at E3 just a month before.

What's different now?

  • In June, 2006 Hot Coffee was still a big issue for T2 and the game biz
  • GTA Chinatown Wars = GTA + the Housers. With their contract expiring in February, T2 is likely to be quite accomodating to the creative urges of the reclusive brothers behind the best-selling GTA series.

Here's correspondent Colin McIness 2006 report on Snow from the old-school GP.

5 comments

Report: Grand Theft Auto DS to Have Drug Dealing Mini-game

September 24, 2008 -

In a move that is sure to spark controversy, the upcoming Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for Nintendo's handheld DS will feature a drug-dealing mini-game.

Although many grownups use the DS, it is widely regarded as a kid-friendly system. Citing a print story in Edge magazine, CVG reports:

Here's some news that's surely going to send mainstream newspapers (and Nintendo's PR department) mental. It's emerged that for DS features a full-on drug-dealing mini-game.

Revealed in the latest Edge magazine, the drug-dealing feature lets you flog heroine, cocaine, weed, ecstasy, acid and downers. Selling the six type of drugs makes you a ton of in-game cash and help you gain experience of market conditions, says the mag.
 

Rockstar exec Dan Houser is also quoted:

We wanted to have a drug-dealing minigame in lots of the GTA games. We played with it a little in Vice City Stories, because it worked really well juxtaposed with the main story. It works well with what GTA is, with driving around the map, and it gives you another thing to think about - another layer or piece of the puzzle to keep you motivated. It does intersect with the main story, and things you learn from it work with the story, but it mostly runs on its own.

GP: In the video at left (sorry for the poor sound quality) Nintendo exec Cammie Dunaway announces GTA Chinatown Wars at this year's E3.

The Clue that Fallout 3 Would be Watered Down...

September 10, 2008 -

Yesterday, Edge Online broke the news that Fallout 3 would ship worldwide next week with the same gameplay edits that were made to clear censorship hurdles in Australia.

The issue for Australian censors was the game's ability to use virtual morphine as a health power-up. Down Under, of course, the highest rating is MA15+.

After posting about the news, I realized that last week's GamePolitics story which reported that the BBFC had rated Fallout 3 "18" for the U.K. market contained a huge clue that the Aussie edits had gone global (a clue that I failed to fully pick up on). Here's what I wrote then:

Fallout 3 has been cleared for sale in the U.K. with no content edits required...

 

Curiously, a "consumer advice" note posted with the rating decision does not mention the drug use which got Fallout 3 banned in Australia earlier this year. The only reference to content is "Contains very strong bloody violence and gore."

So, yes, I noticed that the BBFC hadn't commented on the game's virtual drug use but didn't make the connection that it might have been edited out. Doh!

47 comments

Fallout 3 to Ship Worldwide with Cuts Made for Australian Censors

September 9, 2008 -

Until a few minutes ago, only Australian gamers assumed that they'd be getting an edited version of the hotly-anticipated Fallout 3. HoweverEdge Online has learned that everyone will be getting what we might call "the Australian cut."

GamePolitics readers will recall that specific references to morphine as an in-game power-up initially caused Australia to nix Fallout 3. After changes were made, the game was authorized for sale Down Under with an MA15+ rating, Australia's most restrictive.

The EO report quotes Bethesda's PR exec Pete Hines:

We want to make sure folks understand that the Australian version of Fallout 3 is identical to both the UK and North American versions in every way, on every platform.

 

An issue was raised concerning references to real world, proscribed drugs in the game, and we subsequently removed those references and replaced them with fictional names. To avoid confusion among people in different territories, we decided to make those substitutions in all versions of the game, in all territories.

 

I didn't want people continuing to assume the version in Australia was some altered version when it's not. There are no references to real world drugs in any version of Fallout 3.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute, eh? Fallout 3 ships next week.

GP: Thanks to Just Chris for the heads-up!

BBFC Rates Fallout 3 an 18 with No Edits

September 5, 2008 -

Fallout 3 has been cleared for sale in the U.K. with no content edits required.

That's the word from the British Board of Film Classification, which yesterday stamped the much-anticipated Bethesda title with an 18 rating, meaning that it can legally be sold to those of that age and older.

Curiously, a "consumer advice" note posted with the rating decision does not mention the drug use which got Fallout 3 banned in Australia earlier this year. The only reference to content is "Contains very strong bloody violence and gore."

The BBFC, currently embroiled in a power struggle for control of U.K. game ratings, is best known to gamers for the outright ban it placed on Manhunt 2 last year. That decision was later overturned by Britain's High Court.

28 comments

Fallout 3 Team Frustrated by International Variations on Censorship

September 3, 2008 -

The product manager for Fallout 3 has told CVG that content restriction variations from country to country are frustrating.

Pete Hines (left) said:

The frustrating thing for us is that the standards and rules can be so varied across territories, that we work with five or six ratings agencies and each one has different 'hot buttons'.

 

In one place nudity is a big deal but violence is fine, and in another place drugs are a problem but nudity is fine. I guess that's the way of the world - not every country is the same. You're not aiming at one target, you're aiming at six different ones, worrying about how each one will feel about different things.

 

We just go through and make the game that we want to make. We have our eyes wide open, mindful of the things that could be flagged up and how we're going to resolve them if that becomes a problem.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this year, Fallout 3 was refused classification (i.e., banned) in Australia over in-game depictions of drug use. The ban was subsequently lifted following edits by Bethesda.

In 2006 Bethesda suffered through an ESRB re-rating of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the U.S. market following post-release concerns about the game's level of violence as well as a user-created mod which rendered female characters topless.

GP correspondent Colin McIness served up this terrific interview with Oblivion modder Maeyanie at the time...

32 comments

Marketing 101: PSP a Successful Beer Seller

August 26, 2008 -

We all know that Sony's handheld PSP is a great system that can do a lot of things, like surf the web and play games, music and video.

But marketing blog I Believe in Adv. reports that in Australia a specially-branded edition of the system was used to market Stella Artois beer.

Although it's not entirely clear from the I Believe in Adv. post, it does not appear that Sony was involved in the modification of 50 PSPs which were distributed to beer sales personnel. The PSP case was etched with a Stella Artois logo on the back side and the systems were packaged in black velvet drawstring bags which bore similar branding.

The idea was designed to motivate the sales force as well as provide it with data via the PSP's WiFi capabilities:

Foster’s was expecting a brochure, or a folder with loose-leaf pages. They gave them 50 customised Sony PlayStation PSPs instead... they also modified the operating systems and icon sets to reflect the brand. Then they installed the Stella Artois films and artwork, plus short presentations on the history of the brand.

 

And because PSPs are wi-fi capable, Foster’s can load up new material quicker than new pages can be printed for a loose-leaf folder. Foster’s analysis has shown that every sales representative who was given a PSP met all their sales targets for the relevant quarter. Anecdotal feedback also confirmed that without exception, the PSP was regarded as the best sales presenter ever received. As a result, Foster’s is now reviewing further rollout of the tool.

12 comments

Survey: Parents Fear Kids' Exposure to Video Games More than Alcohol, Smut & Violence

August 11, 2008 -

Just-released survey data from parenal advisory website What They Play maintains that parents worry more about their kids' exposure to video games than alcohol, violence and pornography.

From WTP's press release:

Nearly 3,000 respondents in two separate What They Play polls concluded that drinking beer and watching pornography were less objectionable activities for children than playing certain video games. Further, viewing violence was more acceptable than seeing content involving sex and sexuality within games.

WTP president John Davison commented:

These poll results demonstrate that parents are as apprehensive about their children’s media diets as they are about traditional social issues such as alcohol, drugs, violence and sex. When it comes to video games, parents should know that What They Play is a resource that helps demystify one of the most popular – and challenging – forms of entertainment their kids are into.

Dr. Cherly Olson, co-author of Grand Theft Childhood, is also quoted in the press release:

Although these findings seem surprising at first, they hint at fears parents have about video games. To some parents, video games are full of unknowable dangers. While researching for Grand Theft Childhood, parents we spoke with in focus groups often bemoaned the fact that they didn’t know how to use game controls - and felt unequipped to supervise or limit video game play. Of course, parents don’t want their children drinking alcohol, but that’s a more familiar risk.

According to WTP's data, here's what parents found most offensive in video games:

  • a man and woman having sex (37%)
  • two men kissing (27%)
  • a graphically severed head (25%)
  • multiple use of the F-word (9%).

Parents apparently worry about what their kids are playing on sleepovers, too:

The second poll... queried parents on what they’d be most concerned about their 17-year-old child indulging in while at a sleepover. More than 1,600 respondents revealed they’re more apprehensive about their child smoking marijuana (49%) and playing the video game Grand Theft Auto (19%), than watching pornography (16%) and drinking beer (14%).

GP: If accurate, the data poses some interesting challenges for the video game industry, starting with building parental confidence in game content as well as the means by which mature-themed games are kept away from younger players.

98 comments

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

Should ‘sexism’ factor into a video game’s rating?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Matthew WilsonI have to admit this is kind of insane by the IGDA, block who you want,but dont use a bot with a questionable track record. https://soundcloud.com/totalbiscuit/the-igda-is-doing-what-now11/22/2014 - 12:33pm
MaskedPixelanteI suspect Howard will show up in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as a bartender on Knowhere or something.11/22/2014 - 9:52am
Michael ChandraWonderkarp, try games where you don't get interactive cutscenes and only the main character really talks to people. Or games with a silent protagonist. I think the Bechdel test is a nice indicator (though flawed) for movies and such, but not games.11/22/2014 - 7:56am
ZippyDSMleeWymorence: HTD was a fun and very messed up film I love it. A new one would be nothing like it sadly.11/22/2014 - 1:57am
Andrew EisenOnly if we lived in a world where a bad movie meant every subsequent attempt would suck. Seriously though, after the last few years, I'll give Marvel the benefit of the doubt that it could make a great Howard the Duck movie.11/22/2014 - 1:29am
Wymorenceisn't that a GOOD thing there isn't a movie after the abomination that was the first?11/22/2014 - 12:27am
Andrew EisenNo movie in sight but Howard the Duck is returning to comics! https://games.yahoo.com/news/howard-duck-series-announced-184400635.html11/21/2014 - 10:48pm
MechaCrashThe point of the Bechdel Test isn't "is this film sexist," it's to illustrate "this is an incredibly low bar and most movies STILL can't pass it."11/21/2014 - 10:11pm
mthielNew report on Adam Lanza http://tinyurl.com/pnj9os611/21/2014 - 8:07pm
Andrew EisenIf you missed the HuffPost segment I guested on, the replay is now embedded in the story.11/21/2014 - 6:05pm
Wonderkarphttps://pbs.twimg.com/media/B2__4yZCcAA9Ytp.jpg these look amazing. Peach is the only one I'm tempted to open cause her packaging is bent. get another nonbent one....man. toycollector me and gamecollector me is fighting11/21/2014 - 5:51pm
WonderkarpJust finalized my Smash Bros free Sound Track Order. Also got 4 amiibos and they look fantastic. I'm afraid to open them. they look spectacular!11/21/2014 - 5:45pm
james_fudgeCan we all agree that Andrew cleans up nicely and can go on any program?11/21/2014 - 5:01pm
Wonderkarpthank you for that line, Andrew. alot of great films fail the bechdel test. Gravity fails it and it has a female lead.11/21/2014 - 4:48pm
Andrew EisenAw, thanks James! Well, now I have to drive back to work!11/21/2014 - 4:45pm
Andrew EisenDidn't have a chance to say this on the HuffPost segment but while the Bechdel test is useful as a broad examination of gender representation in media, it's not at all appropriate as a judgment of quality.11/21/2014 - 4:45pm
james_fudgeAndrew you killed it!11/21/2014 - 4:44pm
WonderkarpMadeline Bergman. second female, they never speak of men, just a computer program. it passes the test11/21/2014 - 4:34pm
E. Zachary KnightDoes Other M have more than one woman in it?11/21/2014 - 4:31pm
Wonderkarpyet Metroid Other M, a game where people cried sexist due to the commanding officers restricting Samus, passes the test....11/21/2014 - 4:21pm
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician