Mega Brand Takes Heat from UK MP Keith Vaz and Advocacy Group Over 'Call of Duty' Play Sets

April 7, 2014 - GamePolitics Staff

Late last year Activision announced a licensing deal with LEGO competitor and toy maker Mega Brands to make building toy sets based on its popular mature-rated action game series, Call of Duty. The toy sets, which were launched in January, are finally getting the attention of children's advocacy groups and one outspoken UK MP - UK Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee.

UK MP Keith Vaz Uses Breivik Trial to Table Early Day Motion

April 30, 2012 -

Keith Vaz, the United Kingdom’s most vocal critic of video games in Parliament, is now urging the government there to look "more closely and first-person shooters" using the trial of accused Oslo, Norway mass murderer Anders Breivik as an example of how games can influence people to do evil...

Select Committee Chairman Vaz has tabled an early day motion in Parliament urging the government to take action. Luckily only he and four others have signed on to the motion.

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UK MP Keith Vaz Calls for Debate on Video Games Buoyed by Indiana University Research

December 2, 2011 -

Leicester East MP (United Kingdom) Keith Vaz is at it again, now buoyed by research released last week that found that violent video games change the brain in young adult males. The MP has called for a debate on the harmful effect of violent games just as parents are considering buying them as presents for their children during the holiday shopping season.

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Lack of Mandate in UK Elections Causes Confusion

May 7, 2010 -

With the emergence of no clear party winner in yesterday’s UK elections, the country effectively has a hung parliament for the first time since 1974.

The unclear election results may have contributed to yesterday’s free-falling stock market, as results showed, via the BBC, that with most of the votes counted, the Conservatives scored 301 seats, Labour 255 and the Liberal Democrats 52, with the latter figure being termed a “disaster” by the AFP.

The Conservatives had needed 326 out of the 650 total seats in order to govern alone.

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EGTV Examines State of UK Gaming

May 5, 2010 -

The latest episode of Eurogamer’s EGTV show is entitled The Videogames Election and scrutinizes just how important—and necessary, perhaps—government support is to the UK games industry.

The piece features interviews with pro-game MP Tom Watson, ELSPA’s Michael Rawlinson, Peter Molyneux of Lionhead Studios, EA Sports President Peter Moore and TIGA’s Richard Wilson, among others.

Rawlinson took time in the piece to note a toning down in the anti-game rhetoric from MP Keith Vaz, who reacted some years ago to the UK’s Manhunt tragedy with a call to ban all violent videogames. When responding to the violent scene from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Vaz wanted to ensure that the game could not fall into the hands of children, to which Rawlinson replied, “That’s our message.”

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Has MP Vaz Mended His Anti-Game Ways?

March 31, 2010 -

According to a handful of his associates in Parliament, anti-game MP Keith Vaz has softened his often bristling views on the videogame industry.

In his role as MP, Vaz has called for cigarette-style warnings to be affixed to videogames, condemned the violence in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, called for a ban of RapeLay, expressed outrage over the home-made game Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game and even alienated other anti-violent game crusaders.

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MP Simon Stepping Down

February 3, 2010 -

The U.K.’s Digital Economy Bill may have been dealt a setback as one of the reports main backers and authors has announced his intention to resign from Parliament.

 Labour MP Sion Simon (pictured), Junior Minister for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport will leave his post during next week's February recess according to the Financial Times.

Simon plans to become a city councilor in Birmingham and hopes to eventually run for Mayor reports the Birmingham Post, if he can convince the town to adopt an elected mayor system. He stated, "It has become clear to me that the answers to Birmingham’s problems do not lie in Westminster and Whitehall. We need to take back control of our own city."

The videogame industry may also be losing a supporter within Parliament, as Simon has often demonstrated a level-headed approach to dealing with game critics like Keith Vaz. Simon had also endorsed fellow MP Tom Watson’s pro-gamer Facebook group (Gamer’s Voice),  leaving the following message for the group:

The government understands the importance of video games. we make games better and play games more in this country than anywhere else in the world. It’s an important industry and an important part of millions of people's lives. But it's a very young industry which is still finding its voice. I think this group is an important step in that process, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

The Digital Economy Bill proposed adopting the PEGI system as the sole means of classifying games in the U.K., and was also designed to strengthen the region’s digital backbone, thorough programs such as universal broadband. The bill also proposes a tough three-strikes law to deal with Internet pirates.

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Vaizey: Conservatives in Power Would Delay Game Tax Breaks

January 22, 2010 -

While Keith Vaz being mocked in absentia at this week’s eForum roundtable on the state of the UK games industry was a humorous aspect of the proceedings, there were also some deep insights to emerge from the meeting as well.

Jas Purewal attended the forum and wrote up a couple of the more interesting notes on his website. Among them, a comment from Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey (pictured) that if the Conservative party comes into power this year, there would most likely be no movement on creating tax incentives for game developers for two to three years. Vaizey reasoned that a focus on correcting the current recession would take top priority and push any talk on incentives to the back burner.

Vaizey also disclosed his hope that TIGA and ELSPA could work together more closely in the future, or even merge.

More coverage from the forum on the topics of tax breaks, digital distribution and education can be found on this page of Purewal’s site.

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Vaz Bails on Debate with Game Biz Foes

January 21, 2010 -

Outspoken anti-game MP Keith Vaz pulled out of a scheduled debate with game industry luminaries and politicians at the last minute, much to the chagrin of everyone involved.

Vaz was scheduled to appear at the Westiminster eForum debate, reports MCVUK, alongside Electronic Arts’ Keith Ramsdale, TIGA CEO Richard Wilson, Eidos’ Ian Livingstone and fellow politicians Tom Watson and Ed Vaizey, but did not show, leaving organizers to explain to the assembled crowd that Vaz could not make it.

Vaz then became a subject of ridicule, with just about everyone in the room taking pot shots at the AWOL MP.

Livingstone attempted to fill in for Vaz, mouthing phrases like “Games are evil, games are terrible, games are turning children into killers,” while Vaizey added that perhaps Vaz should now be known as “Keith Chavez” in deference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Vaizey added that he thought Vaz’s stance on games was “totally wrong,” noting that a game currently appears on the Parliament website and “no one has been killed yet.”

Ramsdale lamented Vaz's absence, saying, "You want to understand where his head is now after being so negative about the videogame industry."

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Vaz Continues Anti-Game Rhetoric

January 7, 2010 -

Anti-game crusading MP Keith Vaz once again took to the House of Commons floor to harangue videogames.

NegativeGamer reports on the debate, which took place in the House yesterday as part of a discussion over the invalid 1984 Video Recordings Act. Vaz once again called for cigarette style health warnings to be affixed to the front of videogames, justifying the need for special warnings because the interactive nature of games sets them apart from movies:

A film with inappropriate content is not interactive. The point about video games, which is backed up by research from America, is that the player is part of the process. Players shoot and stab people in a videogame, and that is different. I accept that inappropriate content is wrong, wherever it is found, but videogames are different.

Vaz attempted to bolster his claims by mentioning the “No Russian” Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 level and the 2004 Manhunt murder case that dominated British tabloids in 2004.

Head over to NegativeGamer for more on Vaz’s remarks.

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Labour MP Vaz: Games Should Have Health Warnings

November 17, 2009 -

In a recent radio interview, Labour MP Keith Vaz again took videogames to task.

Vaz thinks that rating information on the front of games should be larger, reports GI.biz, and also adopt health warnings currently found on packs of smokes:

If you look to the packaging of an 18-rated videogame, it's [the size of] a tiny 10p coin. What it should be is the same as cigarettes - it should be splashed across the front: 'This has the potential to damage your health' - and that is not happening.

Vaz indicated that he would like to see 18+ rated games sectioned off at retail and put in their own section. Parents who buy games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for their kids who are under the age of 18 are “psychologically damaging” their children added Vaz.

When it comes to keeping violent games out of the hands of children, Vaz put the onus on parents, before noting that he didn’t really know what games his own 14-year old son was playing, “I have a son who is 14 years of age - I don't know what games he looks at, but I shall ensure that in future I will look at the covers, to make sure that these games are not over the age of 18.”

The full interview is available on SubCity’s website.

At least as a partial response to Vaz’s continued anti-game rhetoric, fellow Labour MP Tom Watson recently set up the Facebook group Gamer’s Voice, an advocacy assemblage designed to promote the rights of UK gamers.

Watson recently penned a column for The Guardian, inviting other MPs to play a game with him.  From Watson’s article:

British politicians should stop whingeing and learn to love video games. Whether the political classes like it or not, video games have changed the cultural landscape of the nation.


Thanks Andrew

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MPs Facebook Group Gains Support of Additional UK Pols

November 12, 2009 -

Gamers’ Voice, the pro-gaming Facebook group set up by West Bromwich East Labour MP Tom Watson, has drawn support from another pair of UK politicians.

Watson, who setup the group in response to comments made by Leicester East Labour MP Keith Vaz, invited Sion Simon, Minister for Creative Industries, and Shadow Minister Ed Vaizey to check out the online group, which they both did. Both left messages of support for Watson and the group.

Vaizey wrote, “Tom, congratulations on setting up the group. It's about time gamers had a voice to represent the huge success of the UK video games industry. We spend too much time attacking games and not enough time celebrating their huge success and contribution to the economy.”

Simon added, “The government understands the importance of video games. we make games better and play games more in this country than anywhere else in the world. It’s an important industry and an important part of millions of people's lives. But it's a very young industry which is still finding its voice. I think this group is an important step in that process, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

The group is also now fielding questions that Watson hopes to direct towards Vaizey and Simon for responses.

Watson wrote of the pair, "Sion and Ed are a little bit different to other MPs though. They both have responsibilities in Labour and the Conservatives for policies towards the Games Industry. And I think they're both genuine in wanting to help.”

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MP Showdown Transcript and Video

November 10, 2009 -

In a follow up to yesterday’s news of a brewing Boss battle between Labour MPs Keith Vaz and Tom Watson over Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the BBC has a short video online which captures the exchange between the two in Parliament yesterday.

A GP transcription of the video follows:


Keith Vaz: At midnight tonight, a new and violent videogame called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is to be released. It contains such scenes of brutality that even the manufacturers have put in warnings within the game telling people how they can skip particularly scenes. Given the recommendations of the Byron Review, specifically paragraphs 32 and 33, what steps is the government proposing to take in order to ensure that these violent games do not fall into the hands of children and young people. It’s not about censorship; it’s about protecting our children.

Sion Simon (Minister for Creative Industries): The clearest recommendation of the Byron Review is that content suitable for adults should be labeled as such and sold as such, that it should be an offense to sell such content to children. That’s the case under current law. It will be the case under the law when it changes in the Digital Economy bill. This game the honorable gentleman refers to is a certificate 18 game. It should not be sold to children and the governments job is to make sure that adults clearly labeled can get what adults should be able to and that children are not in danger of being subjected to adult content.

Tom Watson: I’ve seen the content in this video game… it is unpleasant, though no worse than in many films and books. It carries a content warning; it is an 18+ game and carries a BBFC 18+ rating as well. Does the Minister agree that it would be better for members of this house to support the many thousands of games designers and coders and the many millions of games users rather than collaborating with the Daily Mail to create morale panic over the use of videogames.

Sion Simon: I was in Dundee last week visiting the videogames industry. I can certainly agree with him that videogames is an industry…  a very large…  a very important industry, in which we have a national competitive advantage in this country, which it’s important that all members of this house and he government continue to support.


In response to Vaz’s public comments about the game, Watson set up a Facebook group called Gamer’s Voice, as we noted yesterday. That group has grown from 478 yesterday to almost 9,500 at the time this story was written.

GP: It appears Vaz’s comments about paragraphs 32 and 33 from the Byron Review reference the following two bits from the report’s executive summary:

32: There are some possible negative effects of violent content in games, but these only become ‘harmful’ when children present other risk factors…

33: However, we need to approach unequivocal claims of direct causes with caution – there is a strong body of ethnographic research which argues that context and the characteristics of each child will mediate the effects of playing video games. This means considering the media effects evidence in light of what we know about child development. We can use this to hypothesise about potential risks to children from playing some games….

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British MPs Battle Over Modern Warfare 2

November 9, 2009 -

Noted anti-game politician Keith Vaz is up in arms over Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

The Leicester East Labour MP made comments to the Daily Mail about the title, saying, “'I am absolutely shocked by the level of violence in this game and am particularly concerned about how realistic the game itself looks.” Vaz said he would let his concerns be known in Parliament this morning.

Meanwhile, West Bromwich East Labour MP Tom Watson told the BBC that Vaz’s remarks had pushed him over the edge. Watson responded by setting up a Facebook group called Gamer’s Voice, which is billed as “unashamedly pro-video games.” In recruiting people to join, the group asks, “Are you sick of UK newspapers and (my fellow) politicians beating up on gaming? So am I. The truth is, UK gamers need their own pressure group. I want to help you start one up.” 478 members have already joined. Watson writes on Twitter that he’s looking for a logo for the group.

In regards to Vaz, Watson stated:

Everything that comes out of Parliament in relation to video games is relentlessly negative. There are thousands of people employed in this industry, there are 26 million people playing games. We should have a much more balanced view of the industry, indeed we should be supporting them through difficult times.

While noting that he found the MW2 content in question “deeply repulsive,” and that he would not play it himself, Watson thinks that as long as a classification is in place and policed, there is no issue.

Thanks wardrox

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Game Critic Keith Vaz Supports PEGI Ratings, Says ELSPA Head

July 24, 2009 -

Labour MP Keith Vaz (left), a longstanding critic of the video game industry, is apparently lending his support to the use of PEGI as the UK's sole rating system.

At least, that's the word from ELSPA. A press release issued today by the UK game publishers group reports on a "quick meeting" between ELSPA boss Michael Rawlinson and Vaz:

London, United Kingdom – 24 July, 2009: ELSPA’s Director General, Michael Rawlinson, met with Keith Vaz MP this week. During the meeting the Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman made it clear he supports the single rating system being introduced for videogames and also commended the improvements to PEGI.
 
“We had a quick meeting with Mr Vaz and he made it apparent that he believes it is important to have a single, rather than a confusing dual, rating system in the UK,” said Michael Rawlinson. “Mr Vaz added that he was keen to see the changes being made to the PEGI system and acknowledged the UK games industry’s commitment to an advertising and education campaign around the new age symbols and content descriptors when they are introduced to further protect players.”

"Quick meeting" leaves a lot to the imagination: Hallway? Elevator? Men's room? We've asked ELSPA for clarification and whether we can expect any type of announcement in which Vaz states his position for himself.

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In Parliament, Suggestion of "Global Regulatory Future" For Video Games

July 21, 2009 -

In Parliament yesterday, longtime video game industry critic Keith Vaz (Labour) quizzed Siôn Simon (left), Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport about PEGI ratings and the controversial Japanese game RapeLay.

Conservative Mark Field jumped in on the topic, appearing to suggest the pursuit of a global content rating system for video games. Surprisingly, Simon said that the UK's recent adoption of the European PEGI system was viewed by the Gordon Brown government as "the building block to moving towards a global regulatory future."

The conversation went something like this:

Keith Vaz: What recent discussions has [Simon] had with pan-European game information on the age classification of video games?

Siôn Simon:
I have spoken to the Video Standards Council—the current UK agents for the PEGI system—about the classification of video games and have another meeting scheduled with it very soon. I have also had discussions with the British Board of Film Classification. Both organisations are working hard to ensure the success of the new system.

Keith Vaz:
I thank the Minister for his answer and welcome the steps that the Government are taking on this issue. However, it is still a matter of concern that a game such as "RapeLay", which shows extreme violence against women, can be downloaded from the internet. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that such games are not accessed from the internet, so that children and young people are properly protected?

Siôn Simon: We should be clear that [RapeLay] was not classified, but was briefly available on Amazon and then was banned. The point that my right hon. Friend is making is about games that, like other brutal, unpleasant, illegal content, can be available on the internet. All steps that apply to any other content on the internet will apply to games. Specifically, as part of the Byron review we set up the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to work with content providers, internet service providers and all aspects of Government to make sure that such content cannot be accessed, particularly by children.

Mark Field: The Minister will know that Britain is a great leader in video and computer games, and while I take on board many of the concerns expressed by Keith Vaz, will the Minister recognise that this is a global industry, not simply a European one, and in so far as we are going to have the safeguards to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, we will clearly also need to have global regulation along those lines?

Siôn Simon: The system of regulation for which we have opted—the PEGI system—is pan-European, and as such, we see it as the building block to moving towards a global regulatory future. The key principle is that the markings on games should make it clear to parents which games are suitable for adults and which are suitable and unsuitable for children and young children. Adults should be allowed to access adult content; children most certainly should not.

GP: Readers, what do you think of the idea of a global content rating system? Is it even possible? If so, is it desirable?

Source: They Work For You

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Did MP Buy a PlayStation Game with Taxpayer Money?

June 19, 2009 -

It's unclear whether a member of Britain's Parliament may have purchased a PlayStation game with his tax-funded expense account, reports Eurogamer.

A number of MPs have been found to have used public funds for questionable expenses in recent months. Eurogamer spotted the Labour Party's Nigel Griffiths (left) among a list of MP with oddball expenditures published by The Guardian. Griffiths strongly denied that he bought a game, however, and Eurogamer can't find one with the title as given:

According to a list of the stranger expense claims... Nigel Griffiths, Labour MP for Edinburgh South and former deputy leader of the House of Commons, expensed "GBP 29.99 for a PlayStation computer game, Premiership Arsenal".

Griffiths disputes the report, however, telling The Sun that the Dixons receipt in question is misleading. "It's not a game, it's a branded memory stick," said the beleaguered MP. "I'm well past playing video games."

We certainly don't recall a game called Premiership Arsenal and can't find any reference to one, either, although it's possible the title refers to Codemasters' PS2 offering, Club Football: Arsenal 2005.

Under somewhat more of a microscope than Griffiths is frequent video game critic Keith Vaz, also of the Labour Party. Bruce on Games cites a BBC report detailing Vaz's questionable use of public funds:

[Vaz] claimed more than £75,000 to fund a second home in Westminster, even though his family home is just 12 miles away in Stanmore. The Telegraph also suggested he changed his designated second home for a single year to property in his Leicester constituency, before claiming more than £4,000 on furnishings.

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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

When Game Critics Collide: Jack Thompson Wishes Keith Vaz Would Find Another Issue

March 18, 2009 -

Yesterday, GamePolitics reported that British newspaper the Daily Mail had raised serious ethical questions about the conduct of Labour MP Keith Vaz in relation to a court case involving a political donor.

The coverage of Vaz, who has been the U.K.'s most vociferous video game violence critic over the years, prompted an unsolicited comment from Jack Thompson.

Thompson, of course, is the most strident of video game critics in the United States and one might be forgiven for assuming that he and Vaz share some common cause. Not so, apparently. Of Vaz, Thompson writes:

I had my own dealings with MP Keith Vaz regarding the Stefan Pakeerah matter. I found Vaz to be deceptive [and] unreliable...

 

He's a political opportunist... I wish he would get the Hell off the video game issue.  People like him don't help us. Boris Johnson, on the other hand, is credible, in my opinion.

The disbarred Miami attorney also questioned Vaz's ethics. Although GP asked, Thompson did not provide any specifics as to what may have soured his relationship with Vaz.

Stefan Pakeerah was a 14-year-old constituent of Vaz's who was murdered by a 17-year-old wielding a claw hammer in 2004. Rockstar's Manhunt was newly available at the time and Vaz has sought to link the game to the killing ever since. Thompson, of course, is no friend of Rockstar's, either.

Boris Johnson is a British conservative who is currently the Mayor of London. As GamePolitics has reported, Johnson has made comments linking illiteracy and knife crime to video games.

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Game Critic Keith Vaz Faces Ethics Questions

March 17, 2009 -

Labour MP Keith Vaz, a frequent critic of video games, finds himself the focus of a lengthy expose in the Daily Mail.

As GamePolitics reported last September, Vaz attempted to intervene in a court case on behalf of a political donor, Shahrokh 'Sean' Mireskandari.

Accordinging to yesterday's newspaper report, Mireskandari also lavished Vaz and his family with gifts. A former colleague of Mireskandari's told the Mail:

Vaz was frequently in Sean's office and was always after freebies. He loved the high life; football, concerts, black-tie dinners. It was really undignified for such a senior politician.

While the allegations concerning Vaz's intervention into his friend's court case are not new, the Daily Mail has assemled a staggering amount of detail concerning the relationship between Vaz and Mireskandari.

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Britain's Keith Vaz Calls for Implementation of Byron Report Recommendations

March 6, 2009 -

British Labour MP - and serial game critic - Keith Vaz spoke out against violent video game content in Parliament this week:

In a survey published last week, 74 percent of parents said that they were very concerned about the increasing level of violence in video games.  Given the fact that there is increasing availability of these games on the internet exhibiting scenes of graphic and gratuitous violence, when is the government proposing to implement the Byron Report in full? This is not about censorship; it is about protecting our children.

In regards to the Byron Report, Vaz appears to be referring to the suggestion that it be unlawful for retailers to sell any video game to a child younger than the age rating on the box. Currently, only the most violent and sexually explicit games are classified by the BBFC.  The rest are rated by PEGI whose ratings, like America’s ESRB, are recommendations and not backed by force of law.

Labour MP Harriet Harman, who serves as the Leader of the House of Commons, responded to Vaz in what seemed to be a sympathetic fashion:

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his long-standing campaign on the issue. We need to make sure that we have tough classifications that are properly enforced. We need to make sure that parents have the information that they need. We need to make sure that the industry plays its part. The Government will take action on all those fronts.

It is perhaps worth noting that some of the games which Vaz has raised a fuss about in recent times have been non-industry products such as Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game or obscure foreign titles like RapeLay.  Neither game is subject to the rating system currently, nor would they be if Dr. Byron's recommendations are implemented.

Via: Edge Online

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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Keith Vaz Moves in Parliament for UK Ban on Rape Game

February 25, 2009 -

Making good on a vow to bring up Japanese PC title RapeLay in Parliament, British Labour MP Keith Vaz has issued a call for the game to be banned in the U.K., reports the Evening Standard:

Mr Vaz, who campaigns against violent computer games, called on the Government to ban [RapeLay] from sale to UK players over the internet.

In a Commons motion, he said he was "appalled that a video game that simulates rape has been readily available for sale on the internet".

He welcomed the decision by Amazon to withdraw the game.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this month, Vaz was one the first to speak out against RapeLay.

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GP Poll: Was Amazon Right to Drop Rape Game?

February 14, 2009 -

As GamePolitics reported this week, online retailer Amazon.com has blocked sales of RapeLay, a Japanese hentai game being offered on Amazon by an affiliated re-seller.

While many were upset by news of the game, some felt that Amazon's decision amounted to censorship.

What do you think?

Register your opinion in the GP poll at left.

 

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British MP Keith Vaz Criticizes Japanese Rape Game's Availability on Amazon

February 11, 2009 -

Labour MP Keith Vaz has vowed to raise in Parliament the availability of Rapeplay, a Japanese PC game. The hentai title is available on Amazon.com from Hentaiguy, an Amazon re-seller apparently based in New York City.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that the game features graphic depictions of sexual assaults on women and girls.

Contacted by the newspaper, Vaz, a longtime critic of the video game industry, said:

It is intolerable that anyone would purchase a game that simulates the criminal offence of rape. To know that this widely available through a major online retailer is utterly shocking, I do not see how this can be allowed. I will be raising this matter in Parliament and hope that action is taken to prevent the game from being sold.

Vaz also expressed a measure of vindication after being widely criticized last year for saying in Parliament that rape was a feature of some games.

The unrated game, apparently intended for the Japanese market only, is listed by the Amazon re-seller as "used - like new" and retails for $19.99. Only two copies are listed as available.

GP: While we find this game appalling, it is not a product of the U.S. or British video game industry. It is an import which is apparently only available through a single re-seller who specializes in the hentai market. We expect that Amazon will take the appropriate steps to correct the situation. 

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In Parliament, Lively Debate on Video Game Ratings & Green Cross Man

November 14, 2008 -

The House of Commons had a lengthy and entertaining debate on video game issues yesterday. Also under discussion was the issue of Internet safety for children. Both topics, of course, were the focus of the well-known Byron Review.

MPs, including Labour Party game critic Keith Vaz argued about game ratings, game violence and whether the government does enough to support the British game biz.

The session had to be gaveled to order at a couple of points and Vaz made reference to a "secret tea" attended by Conservative MP Edward Vaizey and game industry execs. And, as if the ongoing turf war between PEGI and BBFC for U.K. ratings dominance wasn't complex enough, yesterday's debate also featured the light-hearted suggestion that British road safety icon the Green Cross Man (left) somehow be tied into the game rating system.

In this report, we've omitted the Internet bits to focus on the video game debate. Here's our abridged transcript:

John Whittingdale (Conservative): ...If one looks for empirical, hard, factual evidence that viewing a particular video or playing a video game has led someone to go out and commit a crime such as a rape or an act of violence, there is very little. Our view was therefore... that we should act on the probability of risk. Where there is a probable risk that someone would be influenced by exposure to such material, that is sufficient cause for intervention...

Tanya Byron did a great deal of work on that. Her other conclusion, which was shared strongly by the Committee, was that we cannot completely insulate children from material that might pose a risk. Part of educating children involves teaching them how to deal with risks. If we insulate them to the extent that they never encounter risks, they will not know how to deal with them...

Providers such as Microsoft told us about the parental controls that they have installed into products such as the Xbox... We were impressed by the commitment that almost every major industry body, including internet service providers, social networking sites and hardware manufacturers, has shown regarding the protection of young people, but there is no commonality...

I want to talk about video games in the final part of my remarks. I know that Keith Vaz... has several concerns about this issue, so he has arrived [late] at just the right moment.

Part of the problem with video games... is that there is no hard evidence to prove that playing a game will lead someone to go out and commit a crime or physical attack. Nevertheless, we agree that there is a probability that it could occur, and there is anecdotal evidence to support that view. The Video Recordings Act 1984 provided that games should be classified, that it is necessary to restrict certain games to people over a certain age... and that there would be games that should be banned entirely. That system has been generally successful since then, although there is often controversy about individual games...

Edward Vaizey (Conservative): I invite my hon. Friend, in the tone of his remarks, to make the point that when we talk about harmful video games and films, we are talking about a small minority. Does he agree that it is incumbent on hon. Members to remind the House as often as possible, when they talk about video games, that we have a most successful video games industry in this country, which employs thousands of people?

John Whittingdale (Conservative): My hon. Friend is entirely right. The video games industry is increasingly important and generates more money than the film industry. It is something that we are very good at. We are a creative nation, and many of the most successful games were developed here. We strongly support the games industry's efforts to ensure that it remains strong in this country and is not poached by other countries such as Canada, which is attempting to attract it there.

Keith Vaz (Labour): ...The fact remains that some of those games, even though they are a minority, are very violent. The hon. Gentleman and I have both commented on the video internet game "Kaboom" in which people replicate the activities of a suicide bomber. It cannot be right that the makers of those games should choose such storylines to provide entertainment, especially on the internet, where our children and under-18s can access them more easily than if they were going into a shop to buy them, as with non-internet games?

John Whittingdale (Conservative): This is a very difficult area and "Kaboom", which has been around for a little while, is an interesting example. It is a remarkably crude, cartoon-type game and is not in the least realistic, as many games now are. It is undoubtedly tasteless and might be offensive to a large number of people. I suspect that it is probably distressing to anyone who has suffered a bereavement as the result of a suicide bombing. Does that mean that it should be banned? I am not convinced that it should, because it is so crude, and other games pose greater concerns.

Edward Vaizey (Conservative): May I make a point to my hon. Friend? In his response to Keith Vaz, he has implied that "Kaboom" is somehow a legitimate video game that breaches the boundaries of taste, but it is not. It was created by an individual in his bedroom. To say that we should ban "Kaboom" is, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, slightly missing the point."Kaboom" is not subject to any legal constraints. It cannot be submitted to a regulator to be classified, because it is made by an individual, effectively illegally, outside the mainstream... It is not at all part of the mainstream video games industry. (more after the jump)

In Parliament, Vaz Debates Suicide Bomber Game, Praises New Game Violence Study

November 7, 2008 -

This week, GamePolitics has been tracking public outrage over Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game, a no-budget affair created by an amateur and posted online.

While the game is admittedly in very poor taste, there's not a lot to be done about it. As a non-commercial offering, Kaboom is not subject to any content rating requirements. And, since it is hosted outside the U.K., it would seem to be beyond the reach of English law.

But such logic has never been known to stop British Labour MP Keith Vaz, who has now taken his objections to Parliament. Vaz had the following exchange yesterday with MP Harriet Harman, Leader of the House of Commons:

Vaz: Has my right hon. and learned Friend had the opportunity to look at early-day motion 2416? (quoted):

[That this House condemns the creation of the online computer game Kaboom which asks the player to replicate the actions of suicide bombers; believes that this game is offensive to the families of those killed by suicide bombers and devalues all human life; further believes that this game depicts an unnecessary level of violence; is deeply concerned that vulnerable people under the age of 18 are able to access and play this game; calls upon the game's creator to show sensitivity and responsibility by removing it from the internet; welcomes the findings of a new study from Iowa State University which recognises the link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour; and calls on the Government to revise its regulation of violent video games.]

[The motion] refers to an online computer game called "Kaboom", which asks players to replicate the actions of a suicide bomber. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that is offensive to the families of the victims of suicide bombings and that it devalues human life? I have raised this matter on several occasions at business questions and in other debates. What action are the Government taking to remove such material from the internet or, at the very least, to approach service providers to ensure that they take appropriate action? Children and young people will be able to have access to those games. Could we have a debate on this important matter?

Harman:
The Government are concerned about the effect on children of violent internet and video games, which is why we commissioned the Byron review. That set out how we need action from parents, from the industry itself and from the Government to ensure that there is proper control of content and clear labelling to protect young children. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend's long-standing interest in these issues, which he had even before he became Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. Under his leadership, the Committee has taken a strong interest in such matters. I bring to his attention the fact that on Thursday 13 November, in Westminster Hall, there will be a debate on the question of harmful content on the internet and in video games.

GP: Vaz is referring to the game violence study published by Dr. Craig Anderson earlier this week. Anderson's work has been challenged by Dr. Chris Ferguson of Texas A&M

GamePolitics will be tracking Parliament's game violence debate on Nov. 13th.

British MP Vaz Erupts Over Suicide Bombing Game

November 6, 2008 -

A British video game industry official recently credited Labour MP Keith Vaz's public criticism of Manhunt with helping to drive sales of Rockstar's bloody game.

Vaz is seemingly at it again.

The Daily Mail reports that Vaz has expressed outrage over Kaboom: The Suicide Bombing Game. As GamePolitics reported recently, the amateur game is freely available online, although not from commercial video game industry sources.

In fact, we hadn't heard of the game until recent coverage by British tabloids. However, comments made by Vaz are helping to spread the word:

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the game contained an ‘unnecessary’ level of violence and offended relatives of those killed by suicide bombers...

 

He also said he was ‘deeply concerned’ that vulnerable users under the age of 18 are able to play the game...

The Israeli Embassy in London is also understood to have complained. Scores of Israeli citizens have been killed by suicide bombers in recent years.

Vaz has called for a ban on the game. However, as a non-commercial product it is not subject to the U.K.'s game rating process. In any case, because it is hosted on at least one U.S. site, it would seemingly be beyond the reach of British law.

GP: While the previously-obscure game is certainly in bad taste, we thought Conservative MP John Whittingdale took a more sensible approach:

I find this game tasteless but I don’t think it will necessarily start turning people into suicide bombers. But those whose lives have been affected by suicide bombings I imagine would find it upsetting.

UPDATE: Dvorak Uncensored notes that a website operated by racist fringe group the Aryan Nation now links to the game.

UPDATE 2: The game has come in for a mention in the Arab press.

40 comments

Anticlimax: Manhunt 2 Released in U.K.

October 6, 2008 -

It was the gaming world's cause celebre of 2007.

Manhunt 2 was reviled by anti-violence activists, banned by the U.K.'s content rating organization, and criticized in Parliament and at No. 10 Downing Street.

After a protracted legal fight, England's High Court overturned the ban early in 2008. But, as Eurogamer reports, Manhunt 2 is just now being readied for sale in the U.K.

The street date is October 31st.

That's appropriate on two counts. Of course, it's Halloween. But it's also the one-year anniversary of the originally-scheduled Manhunt 2 launch.

 

14 comments

ELSPA Exec: Game Critic Keith Vaz Helped Sell Manhunt

October 3, 2008 -

An executive with U.K. game publisher association ELSPA has credited violent game critic Keith Vaz (left) with helping to make the original Manhunt successful.

As reported by VideoGamer.com, ELSPA's Michael Rawlinson said:

Keith Vaz has done more to sell Rockstar's games than Rockstar has. The original Manhunt was released, did diddly squat and fell right off the radar until the Stefan Pakeerah incident came and Vaz started shouting from the rooftops and then everyone went and bought the stuff...

 

GamePolitics readers may recall that Vaz, a Labour Party member of Parliament, linked - and continues to link - Manhunt to the 2004 Pakeerah murder, despite Scotland Yard's finding to the contrary.

14 comments

Report: U.K. Video Game Critic Keith Vaz Caught Up in Sleazy Scandal

September 22, 2008 -

Labor MP Keith Vaz, a frequent critic of violent video games, is currently under the glare of an ethical inquiry in the U.K.

As reported by a lengthy expose in the Daily Mail:

[Vaz] is facing demands for a sleaze inquiry after intervening in a court case on behalf of a party donor... Vaz, chairman of the influential home affairs select committee, urged the High Court to delay proceedings involving a friend from whom he and his family had received lavish hospitality...

 

At a critical point in the case, 51-year-old Mr Vaz wrote to the High Court asking the presiding judge to adjourn proceedings pending the outcome of complaints by [Vaz's friend] about how the case had been previously handled, involving hotly contested allegations of racism and bias.

 

Legal sources said the judge was furious at what he perceived to be 'political interference'.

Nor is this the first time that Vaz has come under fire for allegations of an ethical lapse, as this BBC report indicates. On that score, in April of this year GamePolitics readers voted Vaz the fourth biggest political hypocrite in regard to video game issues. Vaz was beaten out for that dubious honor by disgraced New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

GP: Thanks to GP reader GusTavToo for the tip!

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Will we ever get Half-Life 3?:

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Papa MidnightTo a point stated earlier, it very much is a form of indirect censorship. Rather than engage in rhetoric and debate, one side has instead chosen to cut-off opposing viewpoints at the knees and silence them via destroying their means of income.10/02/2014 - 11:28am
Papa MidnightNeeneko: the topic of Intel's dropping of Gamasutra is indeed part of this very ongoing conversation.10/02/2014 - 11:26am
NeenekoThis can't be good... http://games.slashdot.org/story/14/10/02/1558213/intel-drops-gamasutra-sponsorship-over-controversial-editorials10/02/2014 - 11:25am
Andrew EisenAnd there's also the consideration that the fact that a former IGN editor was one of the people who worked on the game's localization may be unknown (although in this specific case, probably not. Drakes been very visible at events IGN covers).10/02/2014 - 11:24am
Papa MidnightAlso, let's face it: people seem to believe that a conflict of interest can yield only positive coverage. Who is to say that Audrey Drake did not leave on bad terms with IGN (with several bridges burned in their wake)? That could yield negative coverage.10/02/2014 - 11:23am
Papa MidnightThat's a fair question, and it's where things get difficult. While Jose Otero may not have any cause to show favor, Jose's editor may, as may the senior editor (and anyone else involved in the process before it reaches publication).10/02/2014 - 11:21am
Andrew EisenWould such disclosure still be required if Fantasy Life were reviewed by Jose Otero, who wasn't hired by IGN until sometime after Drake left?10/02/2014 - 11:19am
Papa MidnightIn that case, a disclosure might be in order. The problem, of course, is applying it on a case-by-case basis; As EZK said, what's the cut-off?10/02/2014 - 11:19am
E. Zachary KnightAndrew, a disclosure would probably be in order as she likely still has a strong relationship with IGN staff. My follow up question would be "What is the statute of limitations on such a requirement?"10/02/2014 - 11:09am
E. Zachary KnightSleaker, my hyperbole was intended to illustrate the difference and similarity between direct censorship and indirect censorship.10/02/2014 - 11:07am
Andrew EisenOpen Question: Former IGN Nintendo editor Audrey Drake now works in the Nintendo Treehouse. Do you think it's important for IGN to disclose this fact in the review of Fantasy Life, a game she worked on? Should IGN recuse itself from reviewing the game?10/02/2014 - 11:07am
E. Zachary KnightSleaker, My thoughts on disclosure: http://gamepolitics.com/2014/09/25/what-your-gamergate-wish-list#comment-29598710/02/2014 - 11:02am
Sleaker@EZK - using hyperbole is a bit silly. I'm asking a serious question. Where's the line on disclosure as relates to journalistic involvement in the culture they report on?10/02/2014 - 10:59am
E. Zachary KnightSo a journalist reporting on general gaming news mentions a specific developer and their game involved in said news, and it is suddenly some nefarious conspiracy to hide a conflict of interest. I think someone is reaching for validation.10/02/2014 - 10:53am
Andrew EisenYes, imagine anyone insisting that two utterences of the phrase "Depression Quest creator Zoe Quinn" wasn't influenced by something happening in the future!10/02/2014 - 10:52am
Sleaker@Pap Midnight - So wouldn't it be any journalist writing about general gaming culture would need to disclose any and all links/ties to said general gaming culture to be ethical? Also @EZK to use you're own methodology, I'm still curious on the question10/02/2014 - 10:49am
KronoSure none of those are reviews, but it is positive exposure, which as illustrated by The Fine Young Capitalists, is pretty damn important for getting people to check out your work.10/02/2014 - 10:32am
Krono@Midnight and of course the article most people mention and insist was no way influenced by him being romantically involved only days later, and her friend beforehand here: http://goo.gl/xCzivK10/02/2014 - 10:29am
Papa MidnightThe term "lovers" might be pushing it given the apparent time frame, but I understand what you're saying. Even if they were friends at the time, then that may present impropiety. However, that calls for a Magic-8-Ball level of speculation.10/02/2014 - 10:26am
Krono@Midnight She was a guest on an RPS show he cohosted here: http://goo.gl/QxljSG10/02/2014 - 10:24am
 

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