Mario Referenced in NY Governor Race

October 4, 2010 -

Putting aside garbage-scented political flyers, at least for the time being, New York Republican Gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has invoked a world-famous videogame character for his latest attack on Democratic opponent Andrew Cuomo.

The latest flyer features Cuomo’s face on a caricature of Mario under the headline “Andrew Has Been Playing the Albany Game for 30 Years.”

Another recent flyer pictured Cuomo in the shower, with the text “Clean up Albany? Start with Cuomo.”

Just last month Paladino spokesman Mike Caputo promised, “We’re going to continue beating on Andrew Cuomo until he comes out and answers questions and agrees to a series of debates.”

For more on Paladino be sure to check out this Gawker tag, which assembles all of the site’s gleeful coverage of the candidate’s missteps to-date.

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NYU Game Center Adds Game Designer and Author Zimmerman

August 25, 2010 -

The NYU Game Center had added Game Designer Eric Zimmerman (pictured) to its ranks as Visiting Assistant Art Professor.

Zimmerman is co-author, with Katie Salen, of the game design book Rules of Play and was a co-founder of Gamelab, which created a range of games including Diner Dash. Zimmerman has already helped to plan the curriculum for the GameCenter over the past year and will teach Introduction to Game Design and Advanced Game Design courses at the school.

NYU Game Center Interim Chair Frank Lantz said of Zimmerman’s appointment, “His addition on a full-time basis is an indication of the Game Center’s commitment to bringing together the most important and influential scholars and designers in the field in order to build a world-class program in game design.”

The NYU Game Center was started in 2008 and is described as “an independent, multi-school center for the research, design and development of digital games.”

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A Town Where Pinball is Illegal

August 9, 2010 -

The sleepy hamlet of Beacon, located in upstate New York, is not a fan of pinball machines.

A CNN story details the problems a local man had after opening a retro arcade museum in the town. After 18 months of operation, Fred Bobrow was forced to shutter his operation because of an “arcane” law in town that bans pinball machines within the city limits.

George Mansfield, a member of Beacon’s City Council explained how the law may have come about:

Arcades in the '70s may have represented something, you know, maybe, that a community wouldn't want on their main street, or that it would attract a bad, you know, kids or whatever.

While the town, reportedly, is looking into reversing the ban, the City Council is moving very slowly and any changes will not be enacted in time to benefit Bobrow. Beacon Mayor Steve Gold stated, “Uh, the legislative process really does take its time and council's really looked very closely at all of the letters of the law, and look ahead to the future.”


NY “Pandora’s Box” VG Bill Still Alive

April 23, 2010 -

Activity is resurfacing around a New York Bill that would relegate games that “glamorize the commission of a violent crime, suicide, sodomy, rape, incest, bestiality, or sado-masochism” to a sealed and locked container in retail or rental outlets.

A meeting in regards to the Bill (A2837) is set for April 27 in front of the New York Assembly Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection. As it was explained to us, this simply means that politicos will gather to discuss the issue in order to appease constituents, all while Johnny Taxpayer foots the bill.

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NY Epilepsy Bill Languishing, Samsung Issues 3D Warning

April 15, 2010 -

A previously mentioned Bill in the New York State Assembly—which would require retail outlets that sell or rent videogames to display a warning about the possibility of games causing epileptic seizures—appears to still be alive, though buried in bureaucracy.

Bill A04004, drafted by Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D), was first introduced in 2001. It has been referred to the consumer affairs and protection agency multiple times, most recently in January of both 2009 and 2010.

The Bill’s text reads:

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Console-based Emergency Alert System Testing Underway in NY

November 24, 2009 -

While it might not mean the end of the traditional air raid siren, New York State is currently testing a plan that uses networked videogame machines to send emergency alerts and warnings to the state’s population.

The alert system is just one component of New York State’s Empire 2.0 initiative, which is designed to make the state’s government more “transparent, participatory and collaborative,” reports Information Week.

New York State Deputy Chief Information Officer Rico Singleton thinks the plan to alert the populace via videogame consoles is a natural, “considering the amount of time our youth spend on video games.“

Other Empire 2.0 measures include monitoring Facebook in a bid to spot and stop potential suicidal behavior, using Second Life to train 700,000 Homeland Security first responders and publishing Senate bills online where members of the public can comment on and mark up proposed legislation.


NYC: Net Neutrality Hearings Today

November 20, 2009 -

The New York City Council Committee on Technology in Government is holding public hearings today on the subject of Net Neutrality.

A live stream of the hearings is available on LiveStream. The Council is live Tweeting coverage as well here. Also look for hashtags #netneutrality or #reso712A.

Entertainment Consumer Association (ECA) Vice President and General Counsel Jennifer Mercurio gave testimony earlier today in support of Net Neutrality.

A sample of her testimony:

ECA is strongly in support the proposals you’ve outlined in Resolution 712A-2007 and of the concept of Network Neutrality, the principle that protects one’s choice of content and equal opportunity on the Internet. Like President Obama, who has pledged to make Network Neutrality the law of the land, we believe that Network Neutrality is a key right for consumers, insuring continued enjoyment and use of the Internet for a variety of applications including recreation, creativity and economic expansion.  This is especially true for video game players (gamers), because our hobby is increasingly tied to the Internet.  Of the 117 million active gamers in the US, 56 percent play games online, accounting for over 65 million Americans.

Disclosure: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics


Town Withholds Chuck E. Cheese License, Partly Over Game Violence Concerns

July 24, 2009 -

Violent games and bad behavior have town supervisors in Amherst, New York concerned about their local Chuck E. Cheese location.

The Buffalo News reports that members of the Amherst Town Board were deadlocked with a 3-3 vote on whether to renew a game license for the restaurant, which is often used for children's parties. Council Member Shelly Schratz offered her opinion on the level of violence in some of the arcade games at Chuck E. Cheese:

When I see 6-year-olds, 8-year-olds playing those games, when all the time we’re opening the paper and seeing those stories on youth violence, do we need those games to make money?

However, Council Member Mark Manna disputed his colleague's comments in harsh terms:

By what moral authority does Shelly Schratz have to go into a business and say what you have is not age-appropriate? It’s clearly Shelly sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. I’ve never seen games [there] that are gory or explicit. There is more violence in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Buffalo News reporter Sandra Tan did her own research, finding some violent gaming fare:

[Chuck E. Cheese] offered about half a dozen yellow-rated games, which include some nongory and non-explicit violence.

This included shooting and hunting games in which people, animals and various zombies, aggressive creatures and monsters are attacking or being attacked by the game player. These games were separated from the toddler play area but sprinkled amid other nonviolent video games and skill games such as skeeball.

A spokeswoman for Chuck E. Cheese said that the company would address the board's concerns. Amherst's Town Attorney expressed a belief that the situation would be worked out.

Via: Kotaku


NY State Bans Texting, Gaming, Surfing While Driving

July 17, 2009 -

The New York State Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill which bans texting, playing video games or surfing the Internet while driving, reports Buffalo Business First.

The measure, which previously was approved by the New York Assembly, now goes to Gov. David Paterson, who is expected to sign it into law. If so, the new regulations will take effect in November.

Newsday offers a comment from bill sponsor Sen. Martin Dilan (D):

This is a long-overdue safety measure for New York. Texting and burgeoning [portable electronic] technologies continue to pose serious, and sometimes fatal, distractions to drivers of all ages.

Violators of the new law will be subject to a $150 fine. However, the ban on portable electronics is considered a secondary offense, which means that it could only be levied if a driver is pulled over for another violation.


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.


City Sued Over Shutdown of Controversial Video Game Exhibit

June 9, 2009 -

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the city of Troy, New York and its Public Works Commissioner suppressed free speech by shutting down a controversial video game exhibit in March, 2008.

GamePolitics readers may recall our extensive coverage of the politically-charged situation surrounding Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal. His Virtual Jihadi exhibit employed a modded PC game which included a mission to blow up then-President George W. Bush. Bilal said that the exhibit was intended to express his view that U.S. policy in Iraq helped create terrorists.

Bilal, a U.S. citizen and a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, was invited to display his work at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy but was abruptly ordered off campus after the school's College Republican Club raised objections to the game. Bilal was then offered space to display Virtual Jihadi at a nearby gallery, the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

The gallery, however, was suddenly shut down for building code violations by Troy's Public Works Commissioner, Robert Mirch (left). Mirch, who is named as a defendant in the suit, had earlier led a demonstration protesting the exhibit. He called the suit politically motivated.

The Albany Times-Union offers comment on the suit from Melanie Trimble of the NYCLU's Capital Region Chapter:

City officials cannot selectively enforce building codes to shut down an art exhibition they find distasteful. Mr. Mirch abused his authority to suppress the free speech rights of people he disagree with, an unconstitutional act that must be challenged.

According to the Times-Union report, the NYCLU seeks a court order to block the city from using its building code to infringe on civil rights. The suit also seeks damages on behalf of the non-profit which owns the Sanctuary for Independent Media as well as for the gallery's executive director. The NYCLU has posted a press release on the suit.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the complaint from the NYCLU website...


New York Bill Would Add Fat Tax to Video Games, DVDs, Junk Food

May 14, 2009 -

A bill currently before the New York Assembly would add a one-quarter of one percent tax to the sale or rental of video games and video game hardware.

The measure, A02455, was proposed by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D, at left) of Brooklyn. The bill would also tax the sale and rental of movies, admissions to movie theaters and the sale of snack foods and sweet drinks. In addition, corporations would be barred from taking a New York tax deduction for expenses incurred in advertising any of the affected items, including video games and systems.

The proposal is currently before the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee, where it seems likely to remain. This is Ortiz's fourth attempt at similiar legislation since 2003; none have made it out of committee.

Ortiz's proposal is motivated by his desire to address the current obesity epidemic. In the justification for A02455 he writes:

Almost all experts agree that the primary reasons [for the obesity epidemic] are increased consumption of larger quantities of high calorie foods, snacks and sugar sweetened beverages... and lack of physical activity as vigorous play is replaced by sedentary activities such as watching more television, movies and videos and playing video games.

This bill would raise revenues from modest surcharges on the very food products and sedentary activities that are linked to the lifestyle changes involved in the explosion of childhood obesity in the last 20-30 years.

Ortiz estimates that his bill would raise $50 million in revenue which would in turn be used to fund programs designed to counter childhood obesity. Conservative magazine The American Spectator refers to Ortiz as "perhaps the nation’s most prolific author of vice taxes:"

[Ortiz] has a litany of bills before the New York state legislature imposing a $10 tax on visitors to strip clubs, a 25¢-cent tax on bottles of beer and wine, and a fatso tax on soda, sweets, and video games.


ECA Pleased To See Time Warner Back Down on Price-Gouging Bandwidth Caps

April 17, 2009 -

Consumers won a big victory this week as Time Warner Cable backed down on a plan that would have placed a cap on bandwidth usage for broadband customers, while at the same time charging users a wildly inflated price per gigabyte.

When Time Warner announced recently that it would expand its broadband caps into New York and North Carolina, Ars Technica reports that the plan immediately ran afoul of Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The two lawmakers helped torpedo Time Warner's scheme.

The Entertainment Consumers Association, which also lobbied vigorously against the Time-Warner plan, was delighted with the cable provider's decision to back down. ECA VP and General Counsel Jennifer Mercurio commented on the outcome:

We're pleased that Time Warner has come to their senses on this issue... Having worked against caps and tiered pricing for over a year, and being the leading consumer rights organization to aggressively defend the American public on this issue, we're glad to see our efforts pay off even as we continue to work with Senator Schumer, Congressman Massa, and others to stop this type of consumer price gauging moving forward.

When Mercurio mentions price gouging, she's not kidding. Price comparison done by Nate Anderson of Ars Technica show how blatantly Time Warner planned to rip off its customers:

As TWC expands its test markets for the data caps, it offers plans with 5GB of monthly data transfer for $30. Plans with 40GB of data go for $55... That base rate works out to a truly jaw-dropping $6 per GB per month, and it's so far out of line with competitors' plans as to shock even the most cynical heart.

Take AT&T's DSL, for comparison... AT&T DSL comes out to 9¢ per GB. Verizon's fiber-optic FiOS system... this comes out to $.11 per GB. Upgrading to the much faster 50Mbps service for $144.95 a month still means that the charge per GB is only 36¢.

The situation is similar at other cable operators. Comcast offers Internet service starting at $42.95 per month and has a 250GB cap in place; this works out to 17¢ per GB.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.


Games For Change Festival Registration Opens

March 20, 2009 -

The Games for Change Festival has opened registration for attendees. The 2009 G4C will take place in New York City, May 27-29 at Parsons The New School for Design.

A press release describes the event:

The Annual Games for Change Festival brings together the world's leading foundations, NGOs, game-makers, academics, and journalists to explore this potential and how best to harness games in addressing the most critical issues of our day, from poverty to climate change, global conflicts to human rights... 

Called "the Sundance of video games" for "socially-responsible game-makers" we're promoting a new genre of video game - games to change the world - for the better. 

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times will deliver the keynote. Other speakers include:

  • A fireside chat with leading scholars Jim Gee and Henry Jenkins
  • A conversation between Lucy Bradshaw, Executive Producer, Spore, Electronic Arts and N'Gai Croal, Newsweek
  • Ian Bogost, CEO of Persuasive Games
  • Heather Chaplin, journalist and author of Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution.
  • Seth Scheisel, New York Times game critic and technology journalist

Stimulus Money Convinces New York to Nix Digital Download Tax

March 11, 2009 -

Gamers who live in the state of New York are already experiencing a benefit from President Obama's recently-passed stimulus package.

CNN reports that New York has scrapped a plan to tax digital downloads such as iTunes music and video game DLC.

Instead, Gov. David Paterson and New York legislators will utilize $1.3 billion in stimulus money to help balance the state budget.


NY Bill Would Require Seizure Warnings by Game Retailers

February 4, 2009 -

As we've said in the past, the New York legislature has something of an infatuation with video game legislation.

New York, of course, passed a largely symbolic video game law in 2008 and GamePolitics has already reported on two new content-related bills which have been submitted in the current Assembly session.

A third Assembly proposal seeks to warn consumers about the risk of game-induced seizures. A.4004, sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D, at left), would require video game retailers to display such warnings. Failure to do so would subject retailers to a $50 fine. From the bill:

Around 1 in every 130 people is diagnosed as having epilepsy, whereas only 1 in every 10,000 have Photosensitivity Epilepsy. Among people with epilepsy, only an estimated 3-5% have seizures triggered by lights or patterns. Photosensitivity Epilepsy most commonly affects children.

This Bill would require that a warning be placed upon every video game warning people of the dangers of Photosensitivity Epilepsy.

Englebright has tried unsuccessfully to pass this legislation since 2001. The bill has been referred to the Assembly's Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee.


Gamer Love Triangle Fuels Off-Broadway Production

January 29, 2009 -

A new off-Broadway production centers around an unusual theme: a romantic triangle involving a pair of gamer pals.

Today's New York Times offers a lukewarm review of When in Disgrace (Haply I Think on Thee). The play revolves around the relationship between teen gamers Ryan and Ben, as well as Caroline, who used to be Ryan's girl but now is with Ben.

Unfortunately, the play appears to evoke the common cultural imagery of gamers as latent powderkegs. From the NYT review:

The play traces Ryan’s spiral into homicidal dementia over Ben’s “betrayal...”

The depiction of Ryan and Ben’s video-game confrontations also overamplifies the conflict. As the boys duel on a sofa, life-size silhouettes battle behind a scrim to twofold effect: thudding as a metaphor for character dynamics, impressive as a glimpse into the role of ultraviolent fantasy in the life of many adolescents. The production is well served by audio snatches of the bands System of a Down and Linkin Park, among others...


As the outcast [Ryan] has the juiciest role; he savors his malevolence, maybe too visibly... “When in Disgrace (Haply I Think on Thee)” may falter in its grand designs, but there is something vital in its exploration of generational identity...

A synopsis on Theatermania reports that the production is based on a true story:

Inspired by a true story, When in Disgrace (Haply I Think on Thee) weaves a tale of shattered hope and personal destruction as three close friends are torn apart by jealousy, neglect, guilt, and ultimately, love. Combining rock music, iambic verse, and video games, When In Disgrace explores what leads youngsters to extreme acts of violence, and the eerie similarity between teenage melodrama and classical drama.


NY Bill Might Keep Nasty Games in a Locked Container

January 28, 2009 -

The New York legislature has a fondness for video game legislation, it would seem.

Last year New York became the first state since 2006 to pass a video game bill and have it signed into law by its Governor. The New York video game statute lacks teeth, however, and the video game industry has not opposed it.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this month, Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright (D) introduced a bill aimed at shielding minors from games containing profanity and racist stereotypes.

In addition, Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R) has submitted A2837, which seeks to block minors from any game that "glamorizes... the commission of a violent crime, suicide, sodomy, rape, incest, bestiality, or sado-masochism..."

Kolb's bill also requires warning labels on such games; violators would be subject to both civil and criminal penalties. Fines of $1,000 are spelled out in the bill.

But Kolb isn't finished - not by a long shot. Retailers would be required to keep such games either in an area "inaccessible by the general public"  or "in a sealed and locked container."

Retailers would also be mandated to make copies of the offending games available for examination by parents.

A similar measure proposed by Kolb in 2007 failed to move out of committee.

GP: While Assemblyman Kolb no doubt has good intentions, his legislation clearly has constitutional issues. For example, deciding whether a game "glamorizes" any of the activities enumerated by Kolb would seem to be a highly subjective endeavor.


NY Bill Would Shield Minors from Racist Stereotypes and Profanity in Games

January 13, 2009 -

A new legislative proposal to restrict the sale of video games portraying negative racial stereotypes and bad language has been proposed in the New York Assembly.

The measure, A01474, was submitted by Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright, a Democrat from Manhattan. The bill, which has been referred to the Assembly's Consumer Protection and Affairs Committee:

Prohibits the sale to minors of certain rated video games containing a rating that reflects content of various degrees of profanity, racist stereotypes or derogatory language, and/or actions toward a specific group of persons.

A similar bill proposed by Wright in 2007 failed to pass.

GamePolitics readers will recall that New York passed a video game law in 2008 mandating - redundantly - that game packages display ratings and that consoles offer parental control features. The video game industry did not bring a legal challenge, however, since those remedies were already in place and the law did not threaten sales.


Proposed New York State Budget Would Tax DLC

December 17, 2008 -

If you live in the state of New York, you could find yourself paying sales tax on downloadable content (DLC) for video games, beginning in 2009.

That's because, much like the private sector, state and local governments have been hit hard by the current recession. In New York, Gov. David Paterson (D) has responded by proposing a budget that calls for layoffs, service cutbacks and new taxes, including one that will likely add to the cost of your DLC on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii or PC.

The New York Daily News has coverage of Paterson's budget plan:

Gov. Paterson's proposed $121 billion budget hits New Yorkers in their iPods - and nickels-and-dimes them in lots of other places, too.

Trying to close a $15.4 billion budget gap, Paterson called for 88 new fees and a host of other taxes, including an "iPod tax" that taxes the sale of downloaded music and other "digitally delivered entertainment services."

Indeed, a review of the budget document reveals the details of Paterson's plan to tax all forms of digitally-delivered content:

Close Digital Property Taxation Loophole. Imposes state and local sales tax on purchases of prewritten software, digital audio, audio-visual and text files, digital photographs, games, and other electronically delivered entertainment services to achieve tax parity. For example, with the passage of this bill, a book, song, album, or movie would be subject to sales tax no matter if it was bought at a brick and mortar store or downloaded online.


Gaming's Biggest Political Hypocrite Will Face No Charges, Say Feds

November 6, 2008 -

Federal prosecutors say that former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer will face no criminal charges for patronizing a high-priced, multi-state prostitution ring.

U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia told CNN:

After a thorough investigation, this office has uncovered no evidence of misuse of public or campaign funds.


In light of the policy of the Department of Justice with respect to prostitution offenses and the longstanding practice of this office, as well as Mr. Spitzer's acceptance of responsibility for his conduct, we have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter.

Theoretically, Spitzer could face local charges lodged by Washington D.C authorities (it's illegal to hire a prostitute), but that seems highly unlikely at this point.

As governor, Spitzer pushed hard for legislation designed to regulate video game sales. Ironically, he claimed to be concerned about the cartoon prostitutes in Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series, saying:

Media content has gotten more graphic, more violent and more sex-based… Currently, nothing under New York State law prohibits a fourteen-year old from walking into a video store and buying… a game like ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ which rewards a player for stealing cars and beating people up. Children can even simulate having sex with a prostitute…

In April GamePolitics readers voted Spitzer Gaming's Biggest Political Hypocrite, beating out the likes of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and British MP Keith Vaz.

GP: Pictured are Spitzer, a GTA prostitute and 22-year-old Ashley Dupre. It was the disgraced guv's rendezvous with the would-be singer that led to his downfall in March of this year. On the other hand, if Spitzer had stuck with GTA's virtual hookers he'd still be governor.

Thanks to: GP reader seikyo for the heads-up!


Lone NY Senator to Vote Against Video Game Law Explains Why to GP Reader

July 31, 2008 -

As GamePolitics reported last month, Sen. Thomas Duane (D) was the lone member of the New York State Senate to vote against a video game bill that was eventually signed into law by Gov. David Paterson. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R) was approved by a 61-1 margin in the New York Senate.

An enterprising GP reader who happens to be a New York resident (and who wishes to remain nameless) wrote to the State Senator regarding his stance on the legislation:

Dear Sen. Duane


...I would like to congratulate you on your lone opposition vote on the above referenced bill... As informed citizens are aware, this law addresses none of the issues associated with video games, redundantly mandates provisions that are already in place such as per product industry ratings and console parental controls, establishes yet another toothless advisory committee, and likely constitutes a violation of the First Amendment...
I welcome government efforts in the form of education for parents, but do not welcome intrusive government efforts to usurp parents' role as arbiter of their children's exposure to mass media.
Sen. Duane's Chief of Staff, Laura Morrison, wrote back:
Dear Mr. [GP reader]:


...Senator Duane shares many of your concerns about S.6401-A.  He recognizes that there is already an effective, voluntary [ESRB] rating system in place... and that parental controls are available on all current video game consoles.  Parents should determine which games their children have access to and the marketplace should decide which games sell and which do not.  


Like you, Senator Duane questions this bill's constitutionality and points to the fact that similar bills have been struck down in other jurisdictions.  He regrets that he was the lone voice in dissent on this matter.

GP: It's great to see gamers involving themselves in the political process and even better to see an elected official who writes back with something more than a form letter.


TV News Report on NY Video Game Law

July 25, 2008 -

Long Island's Regional News Network has a video report on New York's controversial video game law...



New York Video Game Law: Exclusive FAQ

July 23, 2008 -

Q: Who sponsored New York's video game law?

A: There were two identical versions, one in the NY State Assembly and another in the NY State Senate. The Assembly version (A.11717) was sponsorsed by Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D, Brooklyn). The Senate version (S.6401-A) was sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R, Staten Island).

Q. How was it voted on in the legislature?

A. The Assembly version was passed 137-1. The Senate version passed 61-1.

Q. How did the bill get to be law?

A. After approval by the Assembly and Senate, Gov. David Paterson (D) signed it into law on July 22nd.

Q. Is this the same legislation that former Gov. Spitzer was favoring before his hooker incident cost him his job?

A. No. The bill under consideration last year would have made selling an M-rated game to a minor a felony crime. There is no such provision in this law.

Q. What does the law require?

A. The law requires:

  • Video games sold by retailers in New York State which have a "standardized" and "commonly used" (e.g., ESRB)  rating must display that rating on the outside of their packaging.
  • New console systems sold in NY State must have parental controls
  • A 16-member advisory council, appointed by the Governor, will a.) study the relationship between violent media and youth violence b.) evaluate the effectiveness of the ESRB rating system and make recommendations concerning it c.) study the potential of creating a parent-teacher violence awareness program to identify and assist potentially violent student

Q: Does the law apply to games sold online as well as in retail stores?

A: No. Although Sen. Lanza's website initially claimed that it did, a reading of the legislation shows that "mail order" businesses, which under NY law include online retailers, are exempt from the rating requirements. GamePolitics contacted Sen. Lanza's staff, which said that the online comment was a mistake and does NOT apply. The law applies ONLY to so-called "brick and mortar" retailers.

Q: Are the current ESRB ratings & content descriptors sufficient to meet the requirements of the law?

A: Yes. As long as a video game available at retail displays an ESRB rating and its associated content descriptors (and they already do), the retailer is in compliance.

Q. What about small publishers or independently created games which are not submitted for an ESRB rating?

A. As long as they are sold via online, no problem. They aren't required to be rated.

Q. Are used games subject to the law?

TV Debate on New York Video Game Law

July 22, 2008 -

Is New York's video game law necessary?

Is it constitutional?

Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center for Media and Child Health at Harvard Medical School, and Adam Thierer, Senior Fellow at the Progress & Freedom Foundation in Washington, D.C., squared off on the Bloomberg network to debate the merits of the New York law signed last night by Gov. David Paterson.

Thierer believes the law is unnecessary and will be struck down as unconstitutional. Dr. Rich worries about the training abilities of games in relation to violence and wants social science injected into the game rating process.

GP: We agree that the New York law is unnecessary. However, if the video game industry doesn't challenge it - and it's not at all clear that they will - then there will be no finding that it is unconstitutional.

So, why wouldn't the game biz challenge the law?

Because it has no effect on their bottom line. The content ratings and parental controls mandated by the law are already in place. While the industry might argue that the state is compelling this sort of speech, it's an argument that exists in a somewhat theoretical realm. In practice, the industry is already meeting the requirements. Game publishers and retailers would rather do business than argue the finer points of constitutional law. Moreover, for the game biz there's a political downside to fighting this part of the law. Doing so would be tantamount to saying, "Yes, we have ratings and parental controls, but we might want to take them away someday." Such a position would not be comforting to parents and would provide ammunition to critics. 

The law's mandated advisory council on video game violence enjoys First Amendment rights of its own. People, government bureaucrats included, are free to study and discuss whatever they like. Besides, the video game publishers and retailers will occupy two of the 16 seats on the advisory council.

As to Dr. Rich, while he may have desire to include social science in game ratings, that is not part of the New York law. The statute gives New York no power whatsoever over the ESRB rating process.

And, we note, the announcer gets it completely wrong in his opening when he says that the law includes "tough fines for retailers who sell adult games to kids." There's nothing like that in the legislation.

Adam Thierer lays out his position in detail at the Technology Liberation Front.


BREAKING - New York Governor Signs Video Game Bill Into Law

July 22, 2008 -

GamePolitics has confirmed that, last night, New York Gov. David Paterson (left) signed video game legislation passed by the Senate and Assembly into law.

UPDATE: We've obtained a copy of the Governor's press release on the video game bill signing:

Governor David A. Paterson signed a package of bills, many of which are focused on public safety and protecting the rights of New York residents. [One of these will] ensure the State will explore the negative effects of violent video games.


“We have the obligation to be constantly vigilant about amending our laws to protect the residents of New York State. Many of these bills will do just that by closing loopholes or creating new laws to enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers,” said Governor Paterson...


...other bills signed by Governor Paterson are directly aimed at protecting children... A.11717 / S.6401-A [the video game bill] establishes an advisory council to conduct a study on the connection between interactive media and real-life violence in minors exposed to such media. This bill will also require new video game consoles to have parental lockout features by 2010, and mandate that games sold at retail disclose the ratings obtained from the gaming industry's voluntary rating system.

GamePolitics has received this comment from Richard Taylor, Senior Vice President of Communications and Research for the Entertainment Software Association:

The state has ignored legal precedent, common sense and the wishes of many New Yorkers in enacting this unnecessary bill. This government intrusion will cost taxpayers money and impose unconstitutional mandates for activities and technologies that are already voluntarily in place. It also unfairly singles out the videogame industry over all other forms of media. One wonders where this overreach by government in New York will end. If New York lawmakers feel it is the role of government to convene a government commission on game content, they could next turn to other content such as books, theater and film.

Will there be a court challenge? We've put this question to the ESA; they've told us that they are reviewing their options. For a variety of reasons, the main one being that the bill has no real teeth, it's entirely possible that the industry will just live with it.


ACLU: NY Video Game Bill Passed by "Flawed Process"

July 22, 2008 -

Rochester, New York public radio station WXXI reports that a representative of the New York Civil Liberties Union has termed the state's video game bill a "flawed process."

Bob Perry of the NYCLU told WXXI:

This bill was adopted in the last minutes of the legislative session, without hearings, without meaningful debate, without an opportunity for members of the public or industry to address the constitutional issues and the media technology issues implicated by the bill.

NY Metro has additional comments from Perry:

The legislation proposes an ambitious state system regulating the way video games are sold in retail stores and viewed at home based on content that the First Amendment protects from regulation.

Meanwhile, the Empire State News reports that NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman (left) urged that the bill be vetoed:

New Yorkers do not need the state judging which video games are appropriate and which aren’t. Parents, not government committees, should be responsible for making those judgments. If the legislature wants to reduce youth violence, it should fund educational programs to teach students conflict resolution skills.

Bill sponsor Sen. Andrew Lanza (R) countered with:

This [law] does not prohibit the sale of video games based on ... content. This simply requires a labeling. And at the end of the day if a game is rated mature, or violent, this does not preclude or prohibit someone from selling it to a minor. I wish we could do that, but the First Amendment, I believe, protects against that.

Gov. David Paterson must decide by tomorrow whether to sign the bill into law. The measure, which would require that games be rated and console systems have parental controls built in, passed overwhelmingly in the state legislature.

It is unclear whether or not the video game industry will oppose the New York law if the Governor signs it.


New York Video Game Law Heats Up as Guv Moves Closer to Signing

July 18, 2008 -

There is a good deal of buzz this week surrounding video game-oriented legislation passed overwhelmingly last month by the New York state legislature. New York Gov. David Paterson (left) must decide by July 23rd whether he will sign the bill into law or let it die.

In a story broken by GamePolitics on June 24th, we reported that the NY State Senate passed, by a 61-1 vote, Sen. Andrew Lanza's bill which:

  • requires that games carry a rating
  • requires games consoles to have parental controls
  • establishes a 16-member advisory council on media violence

While the various segments of the video game industry have taken no unified position to date, the Binghampton Press details opposition to the bill from some unusual corners.

Grover Nordquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, said:

This is a feel-good piece of legislation that really doesn't so anything.

GP: That's certainly true (see: NY Video Game Bill Barks, Doesn't Bite)

Robert Perry of the New York chapter of the ACLU, added:

This bill would have the state regulating constitutionally protected speech. The courts will not permit that.

GP: Since the bill doesn't restrict content or sales based on content, we're assuming that the ACLU's Perry is referring to the requirement that games be labeled with a rating, which they already are on a voluntary basis.

Derek Hunter of the Media Freedom Project said:

The bill is unnecessary. The video-game industry is praised as the best at policing itself. They have a great ratings system.

Adam Thierer, writing for the Tech Liberation Front, calls the bill "unnecessary, unworkable, and unconstitutional" in an open letter to Gov. Paterson.

Meanwhile, Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, has apparently issued an alert to IGDA members based in New York, calling upon them to contact the Guv in opposition to the bill.

The key piece of the puzzle will be whether the ESA decides to challenge the law's constitutionality. The game publishers' trade group, busy with E3 this week, has not said what it plans to do in that regard. Their most likely response will be to wait and see whether the Governor signs the bill into law. In the meantime they have urged VGVN members to write the Governor in opposition.

Comments made by the Entertainment Merchants Association, however, give the impression that video game retailers believe they can live with the law's provisions:

The bill is unnecessary and seeks to solve a problem that does not exist. But we do not anticipate that video game software retailers will have a problem complying with its requirements. (It is important to note that NY law already requires DVD packages to display the rating of the movie.)


ESA's VGVN Urges Members to Fight Toothless NY Video Game Bill

July 15, 2008 -

The Video Game Voters Network issued an alert yesterday recommending that its members contact New York Governor David Paterson (left) to urge that he not sign pending video game legislation into law:

This bill would waste NY residents hard earned tax dollars on investigating video games when the facts are already in. We have much higher priorities for our resources and dollars than this kind of crusade.

As GamePolitics reported last month, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly passed a measure sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R). An identical bill also cleared the State Assembly.

While the VGVN, which is owned and operated by game publishers trade association the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is opposing the measure, the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), a group which represents game retailers, apparently does not plan to take action. In a statement issued following the bill's passage, the EMA said:

The bill is unnecessary and seeks to solve a problem that does not exist. But we do not anticipate that video game software retailers will have a problem complying with its requirements.

GP: As I pointed out in my Joystiq column, the Lanza bill is largely symbolic (see: NY Video Game Bill Barks, Doesn't Bite.


GP on Joystiq: NY Video Game Legislation Has Missing Teeth

June 30, 2008 -

...the one in which GP explains why the video game bill passed in New York last week is all bark and no bite.

Catch it only on Joystiq...


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