A Mother's 'Long-Overdue Reaction' to Brown v. EMA

September 15, 2011 -

I'm all for letters to the editor, but one written by one Tina L. Bechtel, is particularly over the top and needs to be read to be believed. The Marysville, California mother of at least one son (at least the one she mentions in her letter) delivers what she calls her "long-overdue reaction to the 'supreme sellout' of our children," referring to the Supreme Court's decision earlier this year in the Brown v. EMA case.

Star-Ledger Editorial Board Wags Collective Finger at EA over Taxes

September 13, 2011 -

The New Jersey Star-Ledger newspaper has a rather strongly-worded editorial about what they see as EA's over-manipulation of the United States Tax code. The op-ed piece, a response to the New York Times piece on Sunday that basically outed EA for its practices, calls on the U.S. government to end "unfair tax breaks" for big corporations and to offer those incentives to smaller, more-deserving start-ups.

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Bethesda and the Word 'The'

August 30, 2011 -

If you think that the cease and desist letter Bethesda sent Minecraft developer Mojang over plans to use the word "Scrolls" in its next game is ridiculous, then Andrew Eisen's latest video will make a lot of sense. After all, if one company can go after another for "Scrolls" then they can go after anyone for any other seemingly innocuous or common word. Take the word "the," for example...

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Expert Analysis: Bill S. 978

July 11, 2011 -

GamePolitics Contributing Editor and Maryland intellectual property attorney Daniel Rosenthal offers and in-depth analysis of Bill S. 978 (also known as the "anti-streaming bill") in this guest editorial.

S.978, the "anti-streaming bill" has been introduced in Congress, apparently in response to the White House's Intellectual Property Enforcement Legislation Recommendations white paper (PDF), which recommended to Congress that they should amend the Copyright Act to "clarify that [copyright] infringement by streaming . . . is a felony in appropriate circumstances." While that seems innocuous enough on its face, the bill presented by the bipartisan trio led by Sen. Klobuchar is deeply flawed for a number of reasons.

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Law of the Game Tackles Brown v. EMA Decision

July 11, 2011 -

Mark Methenitis finally delivers a Law of the Game column over on Joystiq that tackles the Brown v. EMA Supreme Court decision. First he apologizes for the delay, then jumps right into the important take-aways that impact the industry and the public.

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George A. Rose: Leland Yee Like Sisyphus

July 1, 2011 -

A San Francisco Chronicle guest editorial by George A. Rose, Executive Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer at Activision Blizzard, takes San Francisco mayoral candidate, State Senator (D-San Francisco) and anti-game crusader Leland Yee to task for his promise to continue to fight for a violent videogame law. This even after a bitter defeat and a strong rebuke at the hands of seven U.S. Supreme Court Justices, no less. The gist of the editorial is that many of Yee's misguided policies and political grandstanding costs money that California doesn't have right now.

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Editorial: Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2, But Who Cares?

February 3, 2011 -

In an editorial entitled "Your mom will hate 'Dead Space 2,' but does anyone care?," writer Tim Dunn ponders why EA's marketing department has used a technique usually used for teens and children for a mature rated game. Further, he wonders why EA would even think about using such a campaign when the Supreme Court is hearing a case about keeping ultra violent video games out of the hands of you children.

While his comments might seems a little overblown, he points out some valid concerns as well. He mentions mature games such as Heavy Rain and Red Dead Redemption, which carry a mature rating because they are telling stories and tackling topics that are geared towards adults. The Dead Space 2 campaign plays on "juvenile notions of maturity gamers have worked hard to change." In other words, the marketing for the game takes that fight a step back.

Here is more from Dunn:

Michelle Malkin: Net Neutrality like 'Obamacare' for the Internet

December 22, 2010 -

An editorial penned by conservative firebrand and regular Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin calls net neutrality "Obamacare" for the Internet. Malkin says that net neutrality is really about expanding the government's control of the Internet, and less about protecting consumers from big corporations. Speaking about the FCC's vote on Tuesday, Malkin describes it this way:

"The panel will devise convoluted rules governing Internet service providers, bandwidth use, content, prices and even disclosure details on Internet speeds. The "neutrality" is brazenly undermined by preferential treatment toward wireless broadband networks."

She goes on to compare it to Obamacare, in that it provides less access, not more:

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Opinion: Games Don't Deserve Protection

December 7, 2010 -

The Star Press (which describes itself as the "news source for East Central Indiana") writer Jeffrey M.. McCall pens a two-page editorial called "Violent video games not an issue worthy of First Amendment protection," in which he attempts to lay out a case for Schwarzenegger v. EMA.

First, an explanation as to what the author thinks the entertainment industry really wants.. apparently it isn't freedom of expression:

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Video Game Editorial vs. Editorial

November 15, 2010 -

In a response to a recent Tampa Tribune Editorial Board editorial backing California's efforts to ban the sale of violent video games to minors (called "Videos kids shouldn't play"), psychologist (and associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Texas A&M International University) Christopher Ferguson pens a strong series of counter-points.

Among the litany of valid points made by Ferguson, is the emphasis on the fact that science just does not support what the state of California is trying to prove; a conclusive correlation between playing violent video games and violent behavior.

Instead of running down all of Ferguson's points, here are a few samples from the article:

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Editorial Hopes Law against “Poison” Games Sets Precedent

November 12, 2010 -

An article penned by the Editorial Board of the Oregonian calls violent games “poison to the teen mind,” and cites “a fragmented but growing body of research,” to back its hopes that the California legislation will at least “find footing” in order to “set a promising example.”

The opinion piece states that Schwarzenegger vs EMA is not exclusively about free speech, since the law does not seek an outright ban on violent games.

The California law, according to the Oregonian, would “simply prevent the neighborhood video store clerk from deciding to sell ‘Postal 2’ to a 14-year-old.”

The editorial continued, stating:

The Politics Inside BioShock Infinite

August 18, 2010 -

An interesting post on Game | Life report (called "BioShock Infinite’s Vision of a Nazified America") takes a closer look at BioShock Infinite in an attempt to ascertain what the political message and creepy undertones Irrational has employed for its latest BioShock game. Interestingly, the topic and the underlying settings of the game seems to be focused on the turn-of-the-century proliferation of beliefs (and subsequent laws) based on "eugenics," which is described by this Wikipedia entry as "the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans with the aim of improving the species."

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The Pros and Cons of Jailbreaking

August 18, 2010 -

An interesting IGN Gear article lays out the pros and cons of jailbreaking your favorite mobile phone device, and points out that many of the things that were illegal to use before the Library of Congress ruling, remain just as unlawful. Last month the Library of Congress ruled that it was okay to jailbreak a mobile phone under "fair use." This ruling was a response to digital rights advocacy groups, who urged the Library of Congress to make a determination.

The whole point of this decision was to allow users to install legally obtained software on smartphones whose operating systems might otherwise prevent them from so doing (ahem - iPhone, Android, etc.). But a larger appeal might be with those that want to copy copyrighted materials - aps, music, moves, etc. - to phones. As the article points out, this is still very illegal.

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The Case Against Wireless Net Neutrality and Kindle

August 17, 2010 -

John P. Mello Jr. from PC World examines the topic of innovation versus regulation of wireless services and technologies, armed with quotes from Peter Suderman, an associate editor with Reason Magazine in Los Angeles. Just a little disclosure on Reason Magazine; the publication is anti-government regulation, or more succinctly, has a strong Libertarian lean. Editors from the magazine are frequent guests on such Fox Business shows as Stossel and Freedom Watch (both sporting strong Libertarian views).

So how would net neutrality rules hurt a device like the Kindle? Well, according to Suderman, Kindle moves a specific kind of proprietary data to its platform wirelessly and rules that govern the prioritization of wireless data might somehow affect it.

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Games Journalism and the 'No Cheering in the Press Box' Rule

August 16, 2010 -

A lot of journalists that cover video games do not enjoy being called the "enthusiast press." Some are even embarrassed when their colleagues cheer at press events or have a "f**k yeah!!" moment caught on film during a new game announcement. AJ Glasser from GamePro is one of those journalists that takes what she does seriously.

In an editorial about QuakeCon and journalism (where, she says, developers at the "Building Blockbusters" panel seemed to take issue with quiet games journalists), Glasser talks about the popular sports journalism rule "no cheering in the press box." The good news is that some games journalists are following the rule.

Recalling a sports journalism course she took at Stanford University and a book with the same name, she lays out the fundamentals of it:

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The Planes, Trains and MA Bell Argument

August 16, 2010 -

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal called "The Railroad Precedent and the Web " takes the "doom and gloomers" who cried foul last week concerning Google and Verizon's recommendations to the FCC and lawmakers to task.

The editorial is penned by none other than L. Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of The Wall Street Journal (saw the growth of the Wall Street Journal Online, according to his bio), executive vice president of Dow Jones and president of its Consumer Media Group. He is decidedly anti-net neutrality and anti-regulation.

In his opinion piece, Crovitz opens with the reactions to last week's Google-Verizon announcement:

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Kill Screen: Grown-Up Games Journalism at a Premium

August 10, 2010 -

Some would argue that Kill Screen magazine's price point per issue is just too much to bear. Even those that staunchly support decent game writing are taken aback by the $20 an issue price point that seems obscene in our current economy. But as Ben Kuchera (Ars Technica's Games Editor) points out in an article on the mag, Kill Screen is a great value because of the mature writing and custom artwork that creates what he calls a "sensual experience."

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Editorial: 'Net Neutrality Not a Moral Issue'

August 9, 2010 -

San Francisco Gate (by way of Business Insider) has an interesting editorial that ponders why companies and activists see net neutrality as a moral battle. The author (Henry Blodget) uses the post office (or any other company that ships packages) as a real world example of why the author thinks net neutrality is "ridiculous."

In his example, the author asks readers to imagine if a shipping company was legally prohibited from charging more for delivering some packages sooner than others. He calls this ridiculous, and goes on to point out that, like broadband service providers, those shipping and transport companies have the right to charge whatever they want because they "spent billions of dollars building their transportation networks."

More sympathy for the devil below:

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Positive Thoughts: Boy Scouts Videogame Education

July 19, 2010 -

While a good portion of the America's media and child advocacy groups jumped all over The Boy Scouts of America's video game related awards, some, like Bill Walsh, think it's a good idea. Walsh also tackles a similar media related award for the Girl Scouts that teaches about the positive and negative value of watching television.

At first glance these awards sounded like a bad idea to parents who want the scouting experience to center on learning about the Wilderness; but that's a pretty hypocritical approach considering all the awards and merit badges that deal with issues and skills that might not necessarily have anything to do with the scouting life.

Walsh points out the obvious: we now live in a media focused society, and taking the Rudolph Steiner-like approach to technology like television and video games isn't all the helpful. Instead, these awards are a motivation to teach kids about the media they consume on a daily basis. These award programs also reveal something that child advocacy groups don't want to admit: there are good things about television and videogames.

Here's a lengthy excerpt that brings home the crux of Walsh's argument:

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FindLaw.com's Julie Hilden Predicts Game Law Win

May 10, 2010 -

FindLaw.com's Julie Hilden reads the tea leaves on the Supreme Court's decision to hear arguments on Schwarzenegger vs. Video Software Dealers Association, and comes to a conclusion that many opponents of the bill will not want to hear: the court may very well uphold the law.

In a lengthy blog post dissecting the particulars, Hilden says that "it seems it seems very unlikely that the Supreme Court took this case in order to proclaim, as the Ninth Circuit panel did, that minors do indeed have First Amendment rights – rights that extend far enough to reach "violent" video games."

The biggest concern is that the court may create a First Amendment exception when it comes to video games. While the court did not do this in its recent decision to strike down the federal anti-animal-cruelty depiction statute, it did not say that it would never do so in other circumstances.

Another important point is the court's allowance of a watered-down "obscene as to minors" test when sexually-explicit material is the subject, and, as Hilden points out, the "violent" video game law clearly borrows from that test.

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Guest Editorial: Gaming and Giving—Where Is the Will?

March 1, 2010 -

Ryan Sharpe is the president and co-founder of the Get-Well Gamers Foundation (www.getwellgamers.org), a California-based 501(c) (3)-certified public charity dedicated to bringing electronic entertainment to children's hospitals for the benefit of entertainment and pain management since 2001.

It has always struck me as somewhat odd when for as much as it crows every year how much more it's making than the film industry, the game industry has what I think is an embarrassing lack of philanthropy associated with it.  When the recent catastrophic earthquakes hit Haiti, the industry did rouse itself beyond its usual torpor, but not by much.

Bungie sold a number of items from their store whose proceeds went to the relief effort, and PopCap similarly had a day where everything sold went to Haiti. From the biggest of the big (Microsoft's $1.25 Million donation) to the smallest of the small (apprelief and indie+relief), coalitions of indie developers coming together to pool the profits from their games to donate) the game industry has responded to Haiti. What’s sad is that in a single telethon the film industry managed to blow us away with fifty-six million dollars raised.

I guess the root of the problem is the lack of industry charities. Yes, there's the Entertainment Software Association, but compared to the multitude of film industry charities like the Roy Rogers Foundation or the works of Danny Thomas' St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital or the many, many others, one almost has to follow mention of the ESA with an expectant "...And?"

You might ask why I'm neglecting to mention Child's Play Charity, the Gamers Outreach Foundation, or even my own Get-Well Gamers Foundation, and it is for one simple reason:  None of these charities have to do with the actual game industry.  Grassroots in the purest sense, these gaming charities were started not by professionals, not by developers and publishers, but by the gamers themselves, who saw an opportunity to help using their favorite pastime as a vehicle.  Interestingly enough, when approached the developers and publishers seem amicable to helping out these smaller charities, but any sort of impetus on their own to use their considerable clout and resources for charitable causes is conspicuously absent.  If the game industry is doing so much better than the film industry, why are we so much more proportionately tight-fisted?  Especially in an industry so frequently and wrongly maligned by the rest of the world, you'd think it would be in our collective interests to paper the walls with our good deeds to help dispel the myths.

Where are the giants of our industry in all this?  Where is EA, where is Ubisoft, where is Activision?  Meaning no disrespect, but if Richard Garriott can spend thirty million dollars to go into space and John Carmack can field a fleet of Ferraris, where is any of that money going that's not to themselves?  If Sony can spend several million dollars on an E3 Booth, why not spend some on charity as well? 

Granted, I can't claim to know everyone’s finances and perhaps they are very philanthropic and I've just never heard about it, but that still underscores the basic problem:  There's no network in place to do good with or through the game industry, at least not anything that's getting out to the world at large. I know it's tacky to gloat about one's generosity, but there's a minimum acceptable level just so people know and can help, too.

In my opinion, the sad and simple truth of the matter is that the game industry, by and large, is stingy. Whether it's simply never occurred to some of these development and publishing companies that they are no longer working out of their garages and need to start acting like mature companies that are a part of the society they live in, or they still live in fear of the next bomb of a game wiping them out to their last cent, or they just simply don't care, something needs to start happening from the top down in this industry to unite us towards common causes, more than the ESA's once a year Nite to Unite.  Believe me, there probably aren't more than a handful of people who know what good videogames and gamers can do for this world than I; there just needs to be more collaboration, more stepping up.

Collectively, the game industry has the motive and the means.  It just needs the will.

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Game Parody of Obama School Speech Controversy a Poor Choice for September 11th

September 11, 2009 -

This week's controversy over President Obama's speech to America's school children has morphed into a rather unfortunate online game.

Obama's School Camp comes from Scottish firm T-Enterprise, which often mocks political issues with their Friday game offerings. Today's game challenges players to press letters on their keyboards which correspond to paper airplanes floating toward an animation of the President. Press the right letter quickly enough and the paper airplane disappears. Otherwise, it strikes the Obama character.

The paper airplane imagery seems to be an especially poor choice for a game published today, September 11th. It seems an even worse decision given that the game comes from T-Enterprise, which was the firm behind the now-canceled Rendition: Guantanamo project. A consultant to that game was alleged to have ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

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U.N. Steps Into RapeLay Controversy, Urges Ban

August 28, 2009 -

The debate over graphic Japanese sex games such as the disgusting and controversial RapeLay continues with word that the United Nations is stepping in.

At a meeting earlier this month, the U.N.'s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women called for a ban on explicit video games and anime. As reported by Anime News Network, the committee urged Japan to ban "the sale of video games or cartoons involving rape and sexual violence against women which normalize and promote sexual violence against women and girls."

The committee also expressed concern "at the normalization of sexual violence in the State party as reflected by the prevalence of pornographic video games and cartoons featuring rape, gang rape, stalking and the sexual molestation of woman and girls."

Via: Kotaku

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Another Used Game Whiner: Eidos Boss

August 20, 2009 -

Eidos president Ian Livingstone (left) is the latest game industry exec to complain about used game sales.

The BBC spoke to Livingstone about the issue. Here are the Eidos exec's comments:

The pre-owned market is a serious problem, because there is no benefit to developers or publishers...

A shop makes a bigger margin on a pre-owned title, and can sell them six or seven times, so there is no incentive for them to reorder and the content creator gets no slice of the action.

GP: "No slice of the action," of course, is the operative phrase in Livingstone's mini-rant.

Frankly, I have no sympathy for the industry's used game whiners and even less when I remember that digital distribution is inching ever closer. When that happens, the publishers will be in the driver's seat.

Enjoy your used game savings while you can.

Via: gi.biz

Game Features "Kill 1,000 Children" Achievement

August 20, 2009 -

UGO reports that Playlogic's upcoming Fairytale Fights has an achievement to kill 1,000 kid characters.

Sounds like a public relations nightmare in the making. It's hard to believe that anyone smart enough to design video games could be that dumb.

From the UGO story:

Fairytale Fights may be the first game that not only features the innocent murder of children, but also an achievement to reward it.

After speaking with Playlogic last week, it sounds like the achievement's on the chopping block waiting for the axe to fall, but the children and the you killing them parts, those will definitely be served in the final dish...

Playlogic producer Poria Torkan told UGO that the company does have some concerns about the achievement. The game is scheduled to release on PS3 and Xbox 360. We wonder if Sony and MS will have concerns about licensing it with the dead kids achievement.

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C&C4's Net Connection Mandate Violates Gamer's Bill of Rights

July 16, 2009 -

The video game industry continues to find new and creative ways to stick it to PC gamers.

In the latest example, EA has announced that the much-anticipated Command & Conquer 4 will require players to constantly be connected to the Internet, even for single-player campaigns.

That requirement, however, violates one of the basic tenets of the Gamer's Bill of Rights, a document released at PAX 08 by Stardock CEO Brad Wardell and Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor. EA, however, is not a signatory to the Bill of Rights. No surprise there.

Specifically, the C&C4 requirement violates this point:

Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.

Ars Technica reports comments on the connection requirement made by EA Community Leader "APOC":

As of right now, you need to be online all the time to play C&C 4. This is primarily due to our 'player progression' feature so everything can be tracked. C&C 4 is not an MMO in the sense of World of Warcraft, but conceptually it has similar principles for being online all the time.

 

While some may be taken aback by this, we've been testing this feature internally with all of our world-wide markets. We wanted to make sure it wouldn't take away any significant market or territory from playing the game. We have not found or seen any results that have made us think otherwise...

GP: This smells like backdoor DRM from here. Even if it's not, what if you're on a laptop? What if you're on an airplane? What if your Internet connection is down?

As a longtime PC gamer who has owned every version of the C&C and Red Alert games, this just sucks.

There is perhaps a glimmer of hope in APOC's comments. We note that he starts off with "As of right now..." Does that mean that this gamer-unfriendly policy is subject to change? 

It's time for PC gamers to make some noise about this nonsense.

Editorial Slams Ontario's $263m Grant to Ubisoft for New Studio

July 8, 2009 -

When Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty (left) announced on Monday that the provincial government planned to give $263 million to Ubisoft to offset the cost of opening a new game studio in Toronto, some eyebrows were raised.

Game industry types seemed understandably pleased, but an editorial in the National Post expresses shock and dismay over the amount of money involved and the fact the that those funds are going to a highly profitable company:

Ontario gives $263 million to company that makes $111 million in profit. Smart. Weren't we supposed to have learned something from the recession? Apparently not...

It’s bad enough that companies with terrible balance sheets get cash from taxpayers, but encouraging software companies that make money to play the same game is something else again. If you're losing money, Ontario wants to support you. If you're making money, Ontario wants to support you.

Commenters to the editorial were, by and large, not receptive to the plan, either.

- Soooo, do the math: That's 80 jobs per year. At a cost to the taxpayer of........ wait for it......................... $328,750 EACH !!  WHAT A "DEAL" !!

 

- Let's call a spade a spade: Ontario liberals pissing away $300.000 per job created. You know what? I am not paying any more taxes. That's it... Why paying taxes, if everything I pay is getting just given away to the foreign businesses? I'd rather move to Honduras...

A few commenters, like the one below lauded the deal, however:

The author of this article clearly misses the point.  The $263M "invested" by the Ontario government are in the form of tax breaks over ten year as an incentive to set up shop here, so no cash outlay.  Further, the tax breaks are kind of a moot point since these taxes wouldn't have been paid anyway had UbiSoft not set up shop.  The fact that they're spending $500M to open a studio, clearly they'll be here for a while, thus creating more jobs... 

32 comments

Jack Thompson Puts Best Foot Forward at SGC09 Debate

July 6, 2009 -

By all accounts, the Independence Day debate between Jack Thompson and gamer/lawyer Mark Methenitis was a froth-free success. Thompson, who can be a charmer when he cares to, appears to have impressed the SGC09 audience with a respectful demeanor and self-effacing humor.

Of course, expo attendees sampled but a small slice of the disbarred attorney's act. Naturally, he didn't compare any of them to Saddam Hussein and didn't report them to various law enforcement agencies. Tactfully, Thompson also avoided dredging up any of the various negative generalizations he has made about gamers over the years, such as our personal favorite, "Nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you're a hit man or a video gamer."

We are still hoping to see full-length video of the debate and a subsequent Q&A session, but have been tracking some of the early reactions by attendees. Destructoid's Jim Sterling live-blogged the debate:

After seeing JT's unvetted Q&A earlier, I don't think this'll be the trainwreck people are expecting. Thompson was level-headed and well-behaved earlier...

JT... calls GamePolitics his favorite videogame site. [GP: LOL]

"We are getting to the point where we will understand that adult-rated games are just as harmful as seeing two naked people have intercourse"... "I'm the pro liberty, pro personal choice guy here..."

[JT said] that he got disbarred because he went on 60 Minutes but he'd do it all again.

The normally cynical Sterling, who appears to have sipped liberally from Thompson's Kool Aid, was even more complimentary toward the disbarred attorney in his coverage of the SGC09 Q&A session:

I think Jack Thompson did an amazing job yesterday. I don't agree with all his views, and I certainly disagree with the way he's put them across over the years. I think everyone who watched him yesterday will agree, however, that if he continues the rest of his crusade in the polite and intelligent manner with which he carried himself at SGC, he really wouldn't be such a bad guy to have around.

Overly Positive offers its impressions of the debate:

It seems the audience left the presentation and Q&A with at least a small amount of respect for Jack Thompson, not just for making his points in a rational manner, but for showing up at all. It seems that even if this is to some cynics a desperate grab for relevance, that Thompson honestly believes that presenting his side of the video games violence debate is worthwhile.

SCG09 attendee Sean Hinz also live-blogged the debate.

GP: I caught Thompson's debate performance at VGXPO 07. He is, as described by various SGC09 attendees, an engaging speaker. If he behaved that way all of the time he would almost certainly still have his law license and might still be an effective advocate for his cause.

UPDATE: More in the vein of the Miami Jack we remember here at GP, Thompson e-mailed his reaction to our coverage:

Dennis, pay attention, you might learn something:
 
1.  The comment about GP being my favorite game site was a joke, and everyone knew it.  That's why the laughter.  Not a lot of folks there care for you or GP.  
 
2.  I got about a 60-second standing ovation after the Q & A.  Did you talk to Craig, who is the head of ScrewAttack, about his impression of me? [GP: we did send Craig an e-mail inquiry this morning; no response so far]
 
3.  I don't need advice from you about how to be effective. I'm the guy making a difference not you, and it bugs the Hell out of you.

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ESRB Wants App Store Rating Content Business... But What About Xbox Indie Games and Other Burning Questions

June 15, 2009 -

The recent discussion concerning the ESA's desire to have its rating organization, the ESRB, evaluate game content for the iTunes App Store brings a number of questions to mind:

1.) Why?

Having watched how corporations, lobbyists and their related entities do business for some time now, I'm too jaded to believe that ESA/ESRB wants to jump into rating App Store games for the good of society or because it's the right thing to do. This would, after all, be a significant commitment of ESRB resources. Generally such things happen because there is revenue to be made or there's power to be grabbed.

Despite its present chaotic nature, the App Store is a rising star in the game space. Getting in on the ground floor would be a coup for the ESRB. Apple has a lot of money, too, and the ESRB is paid a fee by the developer/publisher for each game it rates. Despite my cynicism, ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi told me that it's not about the Benjamins:

ESRB is a non-profit organization funded by the revenue generated from the services we provide the industry.  Given our highly discounted rate for lower-budget games, rating mobile games is not a financially attractive proposition; however we believe making ESRB ratings available for those games would serve consumers well.  Parents are already familiar with ESRB ratings and find them to be extremely helpful in making informed choices for their families.  
 
To be clear, our desire is to see Apple integrate ESRB ratings as an option in its parental controls and display a game’s rating (if it has one, the ratings are voluntary after all) in the App Store or on iTunes prior to purchase, not to require that every game available via an iPhone carry an ESRB rating (just as not every piece of video content available will carry an MPAA or TV rating). 

 

Apple’s integration of ESRB ratings into its parental controls for iPhone games would afford parents the ability to block those video games that carry an ESRB rating utilizing the same tool they are being offered to block video content that has been rated by the MPAA or carries an official TV rating.  It’s about giving parents the same ability to do on the iPhone what they are being offered with other entertainment content and can already do on game consoles and other handheld game devices.     

2.) What would it cost?

I asked the ESRB what it costs a developer/publisher to have a typical console game rated?  Would the cost to rate an iPhone game be less? Mizrachi said:

Our standard fees for getting a game rated cover the costs of providing that service.  However, to make accommodations for lower-budget product like casual and mobile games, several years ago we introduced a highly discounted rate - 80% less - for games that cost under $250,000 to develop.  We believe most iPhone games would likely be eligible for the discounted rate.

3.) Isn't this a lot of extra work for ESRB?

Mizrachi was asked whether the ESRB has the capacity to handle an influx of iPhone games for rating. His response:

ESRB has seen increases in rating submissions each year since its founding and has always been able to keep pace.  We have rated more than 70 mobile games to date and will undoubtedly rate more in the future as the market grows.  Consumers of those mobile games that have been assigned ESRB ratings should have access to rating information, and if parental controls are available, the ESRB rating should ideally be operable within that framework. 

4.) If the ESRB plans to do App Store games, what about Xbox 360 Community Games (soon to be known as Indie Games)? 

I also asked Mizrachi about the indie games on XBL. Wouldn’t they seem to be a more natural focus for the ESRB before targeting iTunes? Mizrachi said:

Once XNA games graduate to XBLA they are rated by ESRB... ESRB isn't "targeting" iPhone games.


5.) Who would pay for ESRB to rate App Store games?

Not the creators of $0.99 games, for the most part. They are apparently not making significant revenue. Apple has a deep pocket, of course, although they are not the creator of the games for sale on the App Store. Perhaps the larger industry players such as EA, Namco, etc. would foot the bill for their games. They are already accustomed to dealing with the ESRB.

6.) If only some games are rated, why bother?

But then again, if only the commercial game apps from major publishers are rated, how does that stop your kid from downloading Baby Shaker or Hot Dog Down a Hallway? The foundation for the retail employment of ESRB rating is its ubiquity. Major retailers won't carry non-rated games. Thus, parents have a reasonable expectation that their 12-year-old will be turned down if he tries to buy GTA IV. If not all App Store games are rated, such an expectation is not applicable. So, what's the point?

Hopefully we will learn more about the ESRB's plan as we go forward.

23 comments

Albany Paper Backs Free Speech Claim in Controversial Game Lawsuit

June 14, 2009 -

In an editorial published this morning the Albany Times-Union offers support for a federal lawsuit filed last week against the city of Troy, New York and its public works commissioner, Robert Mirch (left).

GamePolitics readers will recall that in 2008 inspectors invoked the city's building code to shut down an art gallery which was displaying Virtual Jihadi, Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal's controversial computer game exhibit. From today's Times-Union editorial:

What constitutes free and protected speech in Troy, and what constitutes public safety and unacceptable building code violations, aren't merely matters of fiat. They aren't simply up to the whims of Robert Mirch. They shouldn't be, at least...

 

The public works commissioner, not to mention the majority leader of the Rensselaer County Legislature, had effectively appointed himself arbiter of public morals...

Mr. Mirch, meanwhile, seems to have a new beef with the media... He's bothered that the lawsuit, which after all is a public document, has made it into the hands of the media. Let's hope he doesn't try to use the building code to further retaliate...

Free speech and the building code should be kept separate.

53 comments

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PHX Corphttp://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=176931667&postcount=12 although it's a little late, a comic strip on neogaf about the "release it now, patch it later" culture08/30/2015 - 7:37am
Papa MidnightBack to when, RedMade? A week ago? (seriously, though...)08/30/2015 - 1:55am
RedMageOh hey, a news station is trying to scapegoat gaming. That takes me back. https://twitter.com/GamingAnarchist/status/63754361236507443208/29/2015 - 1:40pm
Big PermA link to TB twitter with Matt Lees in the replies - https://twitter.com/Totalbiscuit/status/52528604482949939208/29/2015 - 12:16pm
Brad GlasgowWhy would he say the company lies about getting abuse? Oh, because people don't abuse GG?08/29/2015 - 10:38am
Big PermBrad - Matt Lees was also quick to say the company "Gamers Gate" lies about getting abusive messages thinking they were an official GG channel08/29/2015 - 9:11am
Goth_SkunkMGSV: The Phantom Integrity - A Rant by RazörFist. (NSFW on account of language). RazörFist discusses the latest batch of unethical journalist conduct, with a caveat. - http://ow.ly/RwXYT08/29/2015 - 7:10am
Goth_Skunk@Brad: I can.08/29/2015 - 6:13am
Goth_SkunkI assume "Stacy" is a pseudonym. After reading what she went through, I would not be one bit surprised if it is.08/29/2015 - 6:13am
Goth_SkunkA Year of #GamerGate: From Neutral To Anti To Neutral To Pro by "Stacy" - http://ow.ly/RwVeT08/29/2015 - 6:12am
Brad GlasgowI can't believe Matt Lees deleted his positive review of Ethan Carter because Chmielarz is sympathetic to GG.08/29/2015 - 5:30am
Goth_SkunkA GameDev's Year With #GG: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly by Adrian Chmielarz - http://ow.ly/RwSCd08/29/2015 - 5:18am
Goth_SkunkDespite not being a fan of fighting games I had to check out that R Mika trailer. Loved it. Still won't buy the game though, on account of Isuckatstreetfighteritis.08/29/2015 - 2:42am
MechaCrashI use a Dynex DX-840 headset, but it's discontinued. :( I wanted a mono headset so I could keep the other ear free for my speakers, but it has the bonus of being very light and comfortable, so you don't notice it.08/29/2015 - 12:41am
Big PermSora - I was just having a slow day at work earlier. Now I'm home with vidya!08/28/2015 - 7:54pm
ZippyDSMleeSora-Chan: Blender is easy compared to 3Dmax :P08/28/2015 - 6:51pm
Sora-Chantime to take up a hobby? maybe messing around in GIMP to make wallpapers? use qCAD to design somethin? open Blender and stare at it for a couple hours trying to figure what does what?08/28/2015 - 6:41pm
Big PermAlso, yes. I've been spamming the shoutbox. I don't have much going on today, don't judge me08/28/2015 - 3:25pm
Big PermThanks, but yeah. Not sure I wanna drop that kind of cash :P I don't even mind the sound quality of my krakens, it just hurts to wear em after a couple hours.08/28/2015 - 3:25pm
Sora-Chan@Big Perm: I'm a bit of a fan of the Omega Recon3D headset from SoundBlaster. Though it is a bit expensive.08/28/2015 - 2:36pm

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