Sold Your MMO Character? Sweden's Taxman May Want a Cut

July 20, 2009 -

If you're a Swede who has unloaded an unwanted MMO account for a few extra Kronas, the taxman would like a word.

On the other hand, if you're an American who has sold your account to a Swede, the taxman would still like a word.

GameCulture points out a Stockholm News report detailing efforts by Swedish tax officials to come to grips with e-commerce. To that end, the Skatteverket is even taking a look at small fish like gamers:

The Swedish Tax Agency hold that you have to pay tax for selling an avatar from a computer game. The agency has investigated the trading in avatars during a 14 month period and found the advertised sum of avatars for sale by Swedes to be 662 million SEK. But no one has ever declared any income for trading in avatars to the Tax Agency.

But even U.S. citizens could be subject to Swedish taxation on such virtual transactions, according to the Economics of Virtual Worlds blog:

[Note that] a sale has taken place in Sweden if the seller is a Swedish trader who sells [to]... a private person in Sweden or another EC [European Community] country. A sale from a foreign trader to a Swedish trader has also [legally] taken place in Sweden. The same applies if a trader from outside the EC sells services to Swedish private persons.

Thus, even U.S. citizens are subject to Swedish taxes in virtual worlds, as long as one of the participants is Swedish. The implication is that if similar tax rules are adopted around the globe, U.S. citizens could end up owing taxes to Sweden, Japan, South Korea, and other nations (depending on which and how many worlds they are part of) – all because they played some games...

Skatteverket states that gamers should send invoices to each other. It’s unreasonable stuff they’re talking about. The [game] users [typically] don’t know who they’re interacting with...

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Gambling or a Video Game? Nebraska Struggles with Tavern Machines

July 20, 2009 -

Here on GamePolitics we have - by design - ignored issues relating to electronic gambling games.

That's because, as a form of entertainment, video games are quite distinct from gambling. But that line may be blurred a bit by a new generation of tavern games which appear to require video game-like skills to win, rather than mere luck.

The Omaha World-Herald reports on one such game, a billiards affair called Bank Shot. While games of chance are considered illegal gambling under laws in Nebraska and many other states, Bank Shot seems to require skill:

The makers of the machine [say] that it is a game of skill that is no different from a game of Trivial Pursuit or a dart tournament sponsored by a bar or tavern. They also argue that the video game was carefully constructed to comply with Nebraska law...

The difficulty for law enforcement is in determining when a game requires more chance than skill, or more skill than chance.

Players can bet from $0.25 to $4 per game. To date, the largest jackpot has been $17,000:

The game centers on nine pool balls arranged in a grid formation. The player pushes a button that starts the balls flashing quickly in various formations. The player then pushes “stop” on a particular pattern, which helps to determine whether or not a player wins.

There are 30,000 patterns of pool balls built into the game. About 27 patterns flash in a given minute... players become more skillful at spotting the winning patterns after playing the game for a period of time...

Nebraska law enforcement officials are hoping that the state legislature will provide guidance on the issue.

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

July 16, 2009 -

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

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

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

Specifically, the C&C4 requirement violates this point:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Defendant Links Kiddie Porn Collection to Use of Video Games, Comic Books & PC

July 12, 2009 -

Michael Cherry, a 38-year-old Ontario man in court to plead guilty to possessing child pornography, offered a unique explanation for his crime.

The London Free Press reports:

Admitting he possessed child pornography, a London man said yesterday he lived "in a closed box" of friendless fantasy fuelled by video games, his computer and comic books.

 

"I'd work, come home . . . lock myself in my apartment..."

 

After a difficult childhood in foster care, separated from his siblings, his client became a truck driver who lived by himself in squalor and clinical depression, Squire said. "He was in a black hole . . . a strange sort of world his computer created."

Via: Graphic Policy

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Don't Copy That Floppy Rap Gets a Creepy 2009 Facelift

July 8, 2009 -

If you illegally download software or music, your mom will be wrestled to the ground and arrested by a SWAT team - for cooking pasta.

That's just one of the apparent messages in a modern-day update of 1992's Don't Copy That Floppy.

The Software & Information Industry Association, which created the video, explains (sort of) in its YouTube description of the video:

Check out the trailer...anti-piracy hero MC Double Def DP will return in the summer of 2009 to drop some more knowledge on would-be pirates in the sequel to 1992's "Don't Copy That Floppy! Brought to you by SIIA (formerly SPA)

Via: ZeroPaid

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More Lists of Patriotic Video Games

July 3, 2009 -

Here are a few more lists of allegedly patriotic games for your July 4th weekend perusal. Some choices seem spot-on, others a bit of a stretch.

1up (2008): Top 5 Insanely Patriotic Video Games

  • Fugitive Hunter
  • The Sims 2: IKEA Expansion
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
  • Operation Secret Storm
  • Metal Wolf Chaos

RipTen (2008): Top Five Patriotic Games of All Time

  • Independence Day
  • America's Army
  • Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Oregon Trail
  • Bad Dudes

GamesRadar (2008): 20 Most Rabidly Patriotic Video Games

  • America's Army
  • 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
  • Patriotic Pinball
  • Frontlines: Fuel of War
  • Christian Founders 3D Computer Game
  • 18 Wheels of Steel: American Long Haul
  • America: The Game
  • Freedom Fighters
  • Desert Strike/Jungle Strike/Urban Strike
  • Metal Wolf Chaos
  • Tycoon games
  • Terrorist Takedown
  • GRAW 2
  • Political Machine 2008
  • Oregon Trail
  • NARC
  • American Gladiators
  • Fugitive Hunter
  • Halo
  • FDNY: American Hero - Fire Fighter

GP: If we spot new lists, we'll update.

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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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Researcher: Puzzle Test Not a Valid Measure of Aggressive or Helpful Behavior

June 19, 2009 -

On Wednesday GamePolitics reported on a study which linked players of violent games with aggressive behavior while claiming that those who played games with prosocial themes were more likely to be helpful. Prof. Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan and Prof. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State were among the study's more recognizable authors.

Yesterday we reported on Texas A&M Prof. Chris Ferguson's reaction to the Bushman-Gentile study. Ferguson slammed the research methodology involved, including a somewhat academic foray into concepts like multicollinearity, which made our brain hurt just a bit.

So, in the interest of keeping things simple, we went back to Ferguson with a follow-up question concerning the methodology used in one portion of the Bushman-Gentile research. 161 U.S. college students served as test subjects:

After playing either a prosocial, violent, or neutral game, participants were asked to assign puzzles to a randomly selected partner. They could choose from puzzles that were easy, medium or hard to complete. Their partner could win $10 if they solved all the puzzles. Those who played a prosocial game were considerably more helpful than others, assigning more easy puzzles to their partners.  And those who had played violent games were significantly more likely to assign the hardest puzzles.

Given the uniqueness of the methodology, GamePolitics asked Ferguson whether, in his opinion, the "puzzle test" was a valid measure of aggression or a reasonable predictor of violent behavior. Ferguson quickly said that it was not:

No, not even remotely.  It is worlds apart from any real world aggressive or helping behavior on many levels.  Unfortunately this is a typical ad hoc outcome with no validity.

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Last Night's Mental Episode & Its Troubled, 8-year-old Gamer

June 17, 2009 -

We've been mentioning (warning?) GamePolitics readers that last night's episode of Mental included a plot element about a violent, 8-year-old gamer.

Fidgit's Tom Chick caught the show and serves up a detailed report [SPOILER ALERT]:

If you're watching [Mental], you probably caught last night's episode in which a kid is deprived of videogames, and therefore invents one in his head.

But the problem is that the videogame he invents in his head sucks... the kid ends up freaking out, hurting his mother with a knife, and then going catatonic. I know how he feels. I've played some bad videogames in my time, too. The kid's hands keep twitching as if he were playing a videogame. With a console controller, of course...

 

The situation is resolved when the sensitive physician with a lot of time on his hands guides his misunderstood patient through how to play the imaginary videogame...

Once he's beat the game in his head, he reconciles with his neglectful father and starts on his medication.

You can catch the full episode yourself at the Mental website. But you'll have to install Fox's video player; I'm not crazy about that...

GP: So, I watched the episode this morning and didn't find that it especially sensationalized games. Don't want to spoil it for anyone who may decide to check it out, so I won't say more about that for now. Overall, the show offers a sensitive treatment of mental health issues.

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British Prison Bans PS3 Over WiFi Capability - UPDATED

June 15, 2009 -

The subject of game consoles in prisons is invariably a controversial one.

Some think that convicts don't deserve what might be considered a luxury. Others believe the relaxation afforded by gaming might make prison a safer place.

But U.K. newspaper The Guardian reports that officials at Britain's Rye Hill prison have removed PlayStations 3s from the inmate population over fears that prisoners will use the system's built-in WiFi capability to communicate with those on the outside. A prison official told The Guardian:

PlayStation 3 consoles are barred on the grounds that they have the capability to send and receive radio signals as an integral part of the equipment.

Some inmates were said to be chatting with friends. No information is provided on how those inmates obtained access to a WiFi signal, which might seem to be at least as important an issue, if not more so.

GamePolitics readers may recall that a similar issue was raised last month by Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency.

UPDATE: IncGamers contacted the British Ministry of Justice and learned that Internet-capable consoles are already banned. This is not the first time that there has been confusion in the U.K. on this issue.

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Dante's Inferno Protest at E3 Was Staged by EA

June 5, 2009 -

A protest march outsde the Los Angeles Convention Center on Tuesday was staged by Electronic Arts to publicize its upcoming Dante's Inferno game, according to the Associated Press.

While there was speculation in the gaming press yesterday that the event, which was reported as actual news by the Los Angeles Times and San Jose Mercury-News was a fake, today's report is the first actual confirmation.

According to the AP, EA spokeswoman Holly Rockwood said that the publisher hired a viral marketing firm which staged the protest. About 20 actors carried signs and distributed pamphlets protesting Dante's Inferno on supposed religious grounds.

The marketing campaign also employed a faux website, WeAreSaved.org.

GP: I'm wondering if the viral marketing firm used by EA for the Dante's Inferno bit was also the group behind the recent brass knuckles campaign supporting The Godfather II...

GamePolitics was among those sites reporting on the protest as an actual event. We picked up on the story via the L.A. Times's coverage.

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Does Punch-Out!! Character Shout Islamic Phrase?

June 2, 2009 -

A few months back there was a minor uproar surrounding "Islam is the light," a phrase which some people thought they heard uttered by both a talking baby doll and a children's DS game.

In a video posted late last week on YouTube, a man claims that a character in Nintendo's recently-released Wii title Punch-Out!! shouts "Allah Akbar," an Arabic phrase which translates to "God is great."

RevolutionOfCG, who describes himself as a conservative pundit in his YouTube profile, posted the clip of fighter Bald Bull and equates the character's supposed utterance of the phrase with terrorism:

Allah Akbar or God Is Great. For those of you that don't understand the implications of this. Let me put it to you this way. Virtually Every Muslim Terrorist has said this before they blew themselves up or in the case of 9-11, before they slammed into buildings...

Hailing from Istanbul Turkey, if we are to understand the implications of culture, Bald Bull is more than likely a Muslim...

 

Not even 8 years after 9-11 and are we going to accept this phrase in a video game Rated E for Everyone. What do the families of these heinous crimes think of this? Someone out there has to be appalled, I'm certain of that.

The narration of the video includes 9/11 footage of the second plane striking the World Trade Center. As to the phrase Allah Akbar, its Wikipedia page lists a variety of uses other than by terrorists:

This phrase is recited by Muslims in numerous different situations. For example, when they are happy or wish to express approval, when they want to praise a speaker, during battles, and even times of extreme stress or euphoria. It is also used by bombers or suicide bombers before they detonate.

The phrase is said during each stage of both obligatory prayers, which are supposed to be performed five times a day, and supererogatory prayers, which are performed at will...

That's, of course, assuming that Bald Bull actually says Allah Akbar, which is unconfirmed at this point.

Via: VC Review

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Trade Used Games in Florida, Get Thumbprinted

May 29, 2009 -

If you want to trade in your used games in Broward County, Florida, prepare to give up your thumbprint.

The Broward-Palm Beach New Times reports that the local sheriff's office began requiring game traders to submit to thumbprinting in October, 2008:

Broward County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kayla Concepcion said the new requirement comes straight from the Florida Legislature, which enacted a law... that treated video games like second-hand goods sold at pawn shops. Now any store buying used video games has to collect the thumb prints, along with a bunch of other personal info about the seller.

Japanese Copyright Boss Calls DS Piracy Terrorism

May 26, 2009 -

A leading copyright enforcement official in Japan has likened individuals who pirate Nintendo DS games to terrorists.

tech.radar reports that Yutaka Kubota (left), who heads Japan's Association of Copyright for Computer Software, made the comment to Famitsu magazine:

This is an issue that affects our national interests and, personally, I see it as a form of information terrorism that is crushing Japan's industry.

tech.radar also notes that Kubota's organization has close ties to Nintendo. The DS manufacturer claims that 120 million bootleg copies of DS games were downloaded through the end of 2007. Such activity is not illegal in Japan, but pending legislation would make such downloading a crime.

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Thai Govt Closes Dozens of Websites After Boy Commits Suicide Over Game Ban

May 23, 2009 -

Following the suicide of a 12-year-old boy on Thursday, Thailand's Criminal Court has ordered the closure of 72 websites.

The Bangkok Post reports that Pongsathorn Wattanabenjasopha leaped to his death from the sixth floor of his school building, after being banned from playing video games by his father.

Oddly enough, the 72 sites shuttered by the Thai government include both online game and gambling venues. The Post reports comments by a government official who said that game-addicted children were more likely to commit suicide:

Bundit Sornpaisarn, director of the Rajanagarindra Child and Adolescent Mental Health Institute, said the boy's suicide reflected that children who were addicted to games and had an aggressive mentality were more likely to commit suicide than others.

Parents need to instil a sense of discipline in children from a young age if such tragedies are to be prevented, he said.

Dr Bundit said people whose children were in their teens should use positive communications to deal with their child's addiction to online games. They should control their emotions and listen to their children's views, as that would bring positive responses, he said.

GP: It's impossible to know from a distance what was troubling young Pongsathorn Wattanabenjasopha, but it would seem reasonable for the Thai government to at least conduct some sort of investigation before closing down online game websites.

And, while GP neither supports nor covers online gambling sites, their inclusion in the crackdown seems odd, since there is no report to date indicating that the boy was involved in any way with gambling.

But, as GamePolitics documented in 2008, Thailand has something of a repressive history in regard to games and the Internet.

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RapeLay Passed Japanese Software Group's Ethics Screening Process

May 15, 2009 -

The controversial Japanese game RapeLay was cleared by a software industry screening board, reports The Yomiuri Shimbun.

According to the newspaper, the Tokyo-based Ethics Organization of Computer Software screened RapeLay without advising its publisher, Illusion, to make any edits. 235 computer game firms belong to the supposedly self-regulating organization. While an unnamed official of the group would not reveal its screening standards, he told the newspaper:

[The organization] follows the Penal Code and the law, which bans child prostitution and child pornography. Also, we ask for self-regulation of games, to ensure stories depicted stay at a permissible level from a social perspective...

 

[Given the RapeLay controversy the organization] should discuss what kind of self-imposed regulations are required to ensure [games] are acceptable to society.

The Yomiuri Shimbun also reports that RapeLay which caused an uproar when it was found to be available on Amazon.com via a third-party reseller, has been pulled from the market. The move comes in the wake of a protest lodged by New York-based women's rights organization Equality Now. Attorney Yukiko Tsunoda, a member of Equality Now,commented:

The problem isn't just about this specific game, but about all similar games still available [in Japan].

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Are Jailed Crime Bosses Controlling Empires Via Game Consoles?

May 14, 2009 -

The debate over whether prison inmates should be allowed video game consoles is one that surfaces periodically.

But the head of Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency offered a new twist this week when SOCA director-general Bill Hughes claimed that jailed crime lords were controlling their illicit empires via Internet-enabled video game consoles. U.K. newspaper the Times reported Hughes's comments:

If you are locked up, how do you communicate with others? And we have been highlighting the fact it is not always with mobile telephones. There is other technology used — people are using PlayStations to charge their mobile phones and are playing games interactively with others, so are able to communicate with them.

The Prison Service is concerned that prisoners are using interactive games to talk to people outside the prison. Communication is the name of the game and criminals are looking to exploit new technologies. Prisoners have rights and they have access to the internet...

U.K. prison officials, however, expressed outrage over Hughes's remarks, which apparently caught them off-guard. A spokesman for the Prison Service told the Times:

Prisoners have never been allowed access to wireless enabled technology such as that used in some games consoles. Nor would they ever be allowed access to such technology.

A decision was taken some years ago that the then-current generation of games consoles should be barred because the capability to send or receive radio signals is an integral part of the equipment.

Although the Times mentions that SOCA chief Hughes later apologized privately to prison boss Phil Wheatley, the newspaper also reports that SOCA is standing by its original claim.

As GamePolitics has previously reported, U.K. prisons allow inmates with good behavior to use game consoles. Potentially suicidal inmates are also permitted to play.

Via: Kotaku

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In Wake of School Rampage, Germany Bans Paintball, Laser Tag

May 11, 2009 -

Violent video games, a frequent political target in Germany, once again came under fire following the horrific school shooting in Winnenden on March 11th.

While there were renewed calls for a complete ban on violent games, it was, surprisingly, paintball and laser tag which, ultimately, will find themselves outlawed.

The Local reports that violators of the upcoming bans could find themselves on the wrong end of a €5,000 (about US$6,800) fine. Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy head of the conservative Christian Union parliamentary group, commented:

We have agreed on reasonable changes that will mean more security without over-regulating hobby marksmen and hunters... [Paintball and laser tag] simulate killing.

The Winnenden case also sparked a debate on gun control in Germany. The BBC has more.

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Judge Zings Sony's Lawyers Over $150K Payment to Inventor

April 24, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics broke the news that a New Jersey inventor has sued Sony, PDP/Electro Source and several of the firms' attorneys, alleging that he was hoodwinked in a complex patent litigation deal.

One of the central issues in the case is a $150,000 payment made by PDP/Electrosource to the Plaintiff, Craig Thorner. While PDP/Electrosource negotiated the deal with Thorner, who had no attorney, Sony actually funneled the money to PDP. It's complicated, but both companies appear to have believed that acquiring an option on force feedback controller patents developed by Thorner would gain them an advantage in high stakes patent litigation involving Immersion, Corp. It certainly didn't help Sony, which suffered an $82 million judgment in the case.

If the deal sounds a little shady to you, U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken, who presided over Immersion vs. Sony, apparently thought so, too. GamePolitics has obtained a partial transcript of a November, 2005 hearing in which she sharply questions Sony attorneys about the $150,000 payment to Thorner:

Judge: ...What money of Electrosource's went from Electrosource to Mr. Thorner in consideration for that license agreement?

Sony Attorney #1: ...if you're asking what money Electrosource paid above and beyond the amount that Sony paid...

Judge: ...$150,000 moved to... Mr. Thorner. That $150,000 was from Sony. That was Sony's money, correct?

Sony Attorney #1: ...I don't want to split hairs... Sony paid $150,000 to Electrosource. And in exchange Sony became a third-party beneficiary under the Electrosource/Thorner license...

Judge: Wait. Wait. Help me out a little bit here... $150,000 moves from Sony through Electrosource formally... to Mr. Thorner?

Sony Attorney #1: ...[Sony] felt it was highly beneficial to have Electrosource negotiate with Mr. Thorner because if Mr. Thorner was speaking to Sony directly, perhaps he would ask for a much, much higher number, which was the belief...

Judge: And Sony's incapable of saying no?

Sony Attorney #1:...As far as that transaction goes, it's an absolutely legitimate transaction for Sony. They would have - if they got sued, they would have paid 50 times more in legal fees alone...

Judge: So in this deal, Electrosource parts with none of its own money... and it gets this license agreement on very favorable terms... and Sony chooses to use this very oblique route to get this option on a license because Sony's afraid that Mr. Thorner's going to stick them up for a whole bunch more money?...

Sony Attorney #2: Your honor, this is like a huge win for lawyers to get for Sony this kind of option at this price. It's ridiculous.

Judge: Why didn't they write it down in a clear way... Look, this is a huge corporation supposedly getting something important to it, going through this strange process through arguably incompetent lawyers... They set themselves up for a fight... they set themselves up for litigation... and Mr. Thorner is going to make Sony in that fight pay a heck of a lot more than $150,000 to win... It's Sony's position that Mr. Thorner had no idea where the money was coming from?

Sony Attorney #2: Absolutely...

Judge: So the idea was to trick Mr. Thorner into a [patent licensing] commitment to Sony that Mr. Thorner sort of didn't know about or didn't fully grasp....

Sony Attorney #2: ....So this is one of the cheapest insurance policies - I'm doing this over 40 years - that I've ever seen gotten for a client...

 

GP: As Law.com reports, five months after this hearing Judge Wilkins would rule against Sony's motion to set aside Immersion's huge win. Her assessment that sleazy business was afoot is unmistakeable:

[Judge Wilkins ruled that]Thorner was an unreliable witness and that there was strong evidence -- supported by testimony and internal Sony documents -- that Sony paid $150,000 for Thorner's testimony.

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ABC News Polling Guru Slams NIMF Game Addiction Data

April 22, 2009 -

On Monday Prof. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University in conjunction with the National Institute on Media and the Family released the results of a new study which suggested that one in twelve 8-18 year-olds displayed symptoms of video game addiction.

As GamePolitics reported, the methodology behind the ISA/NIMF research was almost immediately called into question by Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson, co-author of Grand Theft Childhood and Oregon psychiatrist Dr. Jerald Block, an expert of the topic of video game addiction.

A report today by ABC News polling director Gary Langer (left) goes a step further, questioning Gentile's study for its claim of being "nationally representative within 3% [margin of error]."

Writing for his The Numbers blog, Langer explains:

The problem: This study was conducted among members of an opt-in online panel – individuals who sign up to click through questionnaires on the internet in exchange for points redeemable for cash and gifts. There are multiple methodological challenges with these things... but the most basic – and I think least arguable – is that they’re based on a self-selected “convenience sample,” rather than a probability sample. And you need a probability sample to compute sampling error...

This is far from an inconsequential issue. The public discourse is well-informed by quality data; it can be misinformed or even disinformed by other data. It is challenging – but essential – for us to differentiate.

Langer also heard from the study's author who admitted the mistake in calculating a margin of error:

Prof. Gentile got back to me... He said he was unaware the data in his study came from a convenience sample... and that, relying on his own background in market research, he’d gone ahead and calculated an error margin for it. “I missed that when I was writing this up. That is an error then on my part.”

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Six Days in Fallujah Reminds Writer of GoW... Euro Release in Question

April 15, 2009 -

The controversy over Konami's Six Days in Fallujah rages on...

Nick Breckon of Shacknews attended Konami's recent Gamer's Night and offers some observations about the much-discussed Iraq War game:

It was apparent that Six Days is not aiming for a very realistic take on modern warfare... considering the extensive marketing on the point of realism, I certainly didn't expect to see soldiers running out into the middle of the street during a firefight, taking a half-dozen bullets in the chest, and then regenerating their health safely behind cover...

 

In fact, from what Konami showed us, Six Days is far closer to Gears of War than America's Army. It has the same Gears D-pad weapon selection, the same style of cover system, and the same action-oriented gameplay...

Meanwhile, Joystiq reports that the flap over Six Days in Fallujah may keep it from being released in Europe:

During Konami's Gamer's Day in Frankfurt last week, unnamed representatives for the publisher told GamePro.de that they were waiting to see how Atomic Games would portray the brutal battle for Fallujah before deciding if the game would see a European release. Representatives also told De Telegraaf that it was unclear what the level of violence would be in the "documentary-style" shooter.

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Insurgents Contributing to "Six Days in Fallujah" Says Developer

April 14, 2009 -

Just when you thought Six Days in Fallujah couldn't get any more controversial...

The developer of Six Days in Fallujah told attendees at Konami's recent Gamers' Night event that Iraqi insurgents are contributing to the project along with U.S. Marines and Iraqi civilians.

Joystiq's Randy Nelson has a detailed report, including the startling remarks by Atomic Games president Peter Tamte:

It's important for us to say, you know, that there are actually three communities that are very affected by the battle for Fallujah. Certainly the Marines. Certainly the Iraqi civilians within Fallujah, and the insurgents as well. We are actually getting contributions from all three of those communities so that we can get the kind of insight we're trying to get.

I need to be careful about the specifics that I give... I think all of us are curious to know why [insurgents] were there. The insurgents [came from] different countries. And I think we're all kind of curious about you know - they went there knowing that they were going to die... And I think that that's a perspective that we should all understand.

[Insurgents are] involved in the creation of the game as well, as are Iraqi civilians. That's important to us. It's true. The game -- the influences for the game came from the Marines that returned from Fallujah. But quite frankly in talking with them, it's um, many people would just like this to be a recreation and we can't recreate that without getting the perspectives of all the people who were involved.

Although Tamte doesn't give a straightforward answer to whether or not Atomic has actually communicated with insurgents, his comments indicate that some type of input has taken place. It's unclear whether that input was direct or indirect.

The news that there is an insurgent perspective is likely to provoke renewed outrage among some Iraq War veterans as well as families of military personnel killed and wounded in the conflict. Dan Rosenthal, a veteran of the war who now operates the gameslaw.net site, reacted strongly to word of Six Days in Fallujah's insurgent perspective:

Absolutely unbelievable that Peter Tamte and [creative director] Juan Benito would try to make an "entertainment" experience about a war that we're actively fighting, while soliciting advice and input on how to best kill Marines in game, from people who have worked to kill Marines in real life. The hypocrisy and double-speak coming out of Atomic's leadership is beyond unbelievable. 

 

The game is a "communications tool".....a communications tool for who? The insurgency? And then out of the other corner of their mouths, they try to pass the game off as a "telling of stories"; but that's a rude slap in the face to the approximately 100 Marines who died in the battles of Fallujah when the "story-telling" game includes Halo-style health regeneration. I'm pretty sure I don't remember that being standard issue when I was in Iraq.

GP: We're struggling to recall another game that generated this much controversy this early in its development cycle.

90 comments

EA Wants Its Brass Knuckles Back

April 11, 2009 -

On Tuesday GamePolitics broke the news that Electronic Arts had shipped brass knuckles to some game reviewers as part of its press kit for The Godfather II.

While the promo materials for the game were cleverly done, brass knuckles are, as we pointed out, illegal in Pennsylvania, where GP is headquartered. Merely possessing them is a first-degree misdemeanor. Apparently, that's the case in a number of other states, as well.

We asked EA for comment on Tuesday; a P.R. rep returned our call on Thursday afternoon. After delivering a brief script, the EA rep did the conversational equivalent of invoking the Fifth Amendment. Our chat went something like this:

EA: I hope you're enjoying our Godfather II press kit, including the novelty brass knuckles. To help you take proper care to dispose of the item, we're sending you a pre-paid shipping package.

 

And I can't discuss this any further.

 

GP: Are you doing this with all of the journalists who received the brass knuckles? Or just me because I wrote about them?

 

EA: I can't discuss this any further.

Despite the rep's exercising his right to remain mostly silent, it's now clear that EA has been contacting other media outlets in an effort to put the toothpaste back in the tube retrieve the brass knuckles.

Over at Joystiq, Justin McElroy writes that he's waiting for EA's return mailer to arrive. At Kotaku, Brian Crecente reports an EA phone call quite similar to mine:

The [EA] representative that contacted me said that the company wanted to make sure that the brass knuckles were "properly disposed of." He declined to comment any further... Electronic Arts did not respond to emails seeking comment about the legality of the items they shipped and whether they faced any legal actions for shipping them across state lines.

58 comments

Report: GameStop Loans Games to Employees, Sells Them as New

April 10, 2009 -

Kotaku reports that a GameStop corporate policy of selling games played by store employees as brand-new may be a violation of federal law:

GameStop's "check-out" policy, confirmed to Kotaku by a number of the chain's managers and employees, could fall under scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission.

Kotaku cites GameStop's policy, which it reports that it obtained from several employees of the leading video game retailer:

Associates are allowed to check out one item of store merchandise for personal use for up to four days. Merchandise checkout is a privilege, not a right, and may be revoked at any time...

If the product is returned in unsellable condition, or if anything is missing from the package, or if the product is not returned, the Associate must purchase the product...

When asked by Kotaku, the Federal Trade Commission declined to say whether GameStop's practice of selling employee-played games as new might be considered deceptive. The FTC also declined to say whether it was looking into the practice.

196 comments

New Quebec Law Bans Sale of English-only Games if French Version is Available

April 2, 2009 -

Sacrebleu!

A new law in Quebec has video game retailers concerned, reports the Toronto Star.

As of April 1st, it became illegal to sell an English language-only version of a video game if a French version is available.

Game Buzz co-owner Ronnie Rondeau is among those who are upset:

I'm afraid it's going to cost me my business. If it really was going to make a difference, I'd be for it, but only a small number of people want to play in French. The rest don't care. And money-wise, it's going to hurt.

Hardcore gamers, of course, are an impatient lot who often want their favorite titles on the date of release. But Haig James Toutikian, a Montreal game designer, said that technical difficulties in creating French versions could lead to delays:

I know how much of a pain they can be. They take up a lot of bug-tracking time... I don't think [the new law] will encourage people to buy the French version.

87 comments

A Roundup of Sin Tax Proposals for Video Games

April 2, 2009 -

We've covered all of these video game sin tax proposals on GamePolitics at one point or another, but Reason has a concise roundup of legislative attempts to levy special taxes on games:

Texas ended up adopting a subtler system, in which the legislature created a video game subsidy and steered the money toward efforts that meet the state's "general standards of decency." I hope that means some programmer in Austin is making a game that lets you smoke some weed with Willie Nelson, hook up with Anna Nicole Smith, and then head down to the Alamo for a bloody standoff with Santa Anna.

The New York Times' Freakonomics blog weighs in on the topic as well:

Some proposals aim to tax only violent games (who knows it if would affect the forthcoming adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, in which sinners are the exclusive targets of horrific violence). Seriously, though, one can see the populist appeal of Louisiana’s “No Child Left Indoors” proposal, which would impose a 1 percent tax on video game equipment and televisions to fund outdoor recreation facilities.

11 comments

Company's Bankrupt, But Midway Execs Get Greedy (Updated, Now with Less Greed)

March 31, 2009 -

Bailed-out insurer A.I.G. isn't the only in-the-toilet company doling out questionable bonuses to the very execs who ran it into the ground.

For example, there's Midway.

Ben Fritz, who pens Variety's The Cut Scene blog, reports that the financially-troubled game publisher tried to persuade the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to permit it to:

  • pay "incentive" bonuses for an event which already happened (the sale of Wheelman to Ubisoft)
  • pay $1.3M in bonuses for either selling the Mortal Kombat franchise or developing a plan to reorganize the company
  • pay $2M in bonuses for closing the Mortal Kombat deal or getting the reorganization plan approved by the Court

However, the government's Bankruptcy Trustee objected, noting that:

  • it's hard to pay an incentive for something that happened in the past. The Trustee called this "disingenuous"
  • what else do Midway execs have to do except either sell MK or reorganize the company? That's kind of their job at this point
  • the size of the proposed bonuses are "outrageous," in the words of the trustee:

The Debtors seek authority to pay bonuses to a selected group of officers and managers which are four hundred percent greater than bonuses paid to the same group in 2008 when the Debtors were not before the Bankruptcy Court.

 

Given the current state of the general economy, coupled with historical data related to incentive bonuses paid by these Debtors, the Motion constitutes an outrageous request and is not justified by the facts and circumstances of the case.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the Trustee's objection here.

UPDATE: The Cut Scene has posted an update indicating that Midway has yielded to the Trustee's objections. Its new bonus plan:

  • eliminates the Wheelman bonus
  • the Mortal Kombat bonus now only applies if Midway sells all of its assets
  • A bonus still kicks in a reorg plan is approved by the Court
19 comments

Jack Thompson Threatens to "Proceed" Against Utah Attorney General

March 30, 2009 -

In the fallout from his latest, apparently unsuccessful attempt to legislate video games in Utah, disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson has issued a vague legal threat to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. The popular Republican is serving his third term as Utah's top law enforcement officer.

On Friday the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Shurtleff had expressed concerns about the legality of HB 353, the Thompson-conceived video game bill which was vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman last week.

Thompson, clearly, was not thrilled with the news. He referred to Shurtleff as "dead meat" in the header of an e-mail forwarded to GamePolitics later on Friday.

A Sunday e-mail from Thompson to Salt Lake Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke (and cc:'d to GP) threatens to "proceed" against Shurtleff if the A.G. doesn't move against major retailers for what Thompson claims is "the distribution of pornography to minors in violation of state law." By way of defining porn, Thompson attached links to strip club and hooker scenes from Grand Theft Auto IV. However, while certainly not intended for younger buyers, GTA IV has not been declared obscene in any U.S. jurisdiction.

Oh, and there's a deadline for Shurtleff to act: 5:00 P.M. today.

As GamePolitics has previously reported, Thompson called for Shurtleff's impeachment in 2007 when the A.G. suggested that a piece of Thompson-authored video game legislation then before the Utah House was unconstitutional.

GamePolitics has requested comment on Thompson's threat from Rep. Mike Morley, the sponsor of HB 353, as well as from Gayle Ruzicka, the politically-powerful Thompson ally who heads the ultra-conservative Utah Eagle Forum. We have also asked Shurtleff's office to comment. We'll post any comments that we receive.

UPDATE: Apparently unable to wait for his own 5:00 P.M. deadline, Thompson has written to Utah's Obscenity and Pornography Complaints Ombudsman... Except that the person he addressed his letter to is a law enforcement director in Utah A.G.'s Office. The "porn czar" position was eliminated in 2003 for budgetary reasons - which may be an indication of how serious Thompson is about all of this.

UPDATE 2: Rep. Morley has commented to GamePolitics on Thompson's threat to "proceed" against Shurtleff: "I know nothing about that."

Hit the jump for Thompson's Sunday letter to Shurtleff, the "dead meat" e-mail and the new letter to the porn ombudsman:

207 comments | Read more

Video Games Get the Blame in Colorado Shooting Spree

March 28, 2009 -

A Colorado police officer has suggested that a troubled 22-year old man who went on a random shooting spree last October may have been influenced by violent video games.

The Denver Post reports that the police investigator made the comment in regard to Stefan Martin-Urban (left), who killed two people and wounded two others before turning his gun on himself:

When Stefan Martin-Urban... pulled a pistol from behind his back and methodically shot strangers, his behavior was eerily similar to characters in the video games he played obsessively.

Those games, authorities said Friday... are the closest police and FBI investigators can come to an explanation for Martin-Urban's actions that killed two and injured two.

"It could be that he was simply acting out a part in a video game. Maybe he had interjected himself into a game in his mind," Grand Junction police Sgt. Tony Clayton said.

 

Like the thugs in "Grand Theft Auto" and warlocks in "World of Warcraft," Martin-Urban showed no emotion...

Sgt. Clayton's remarks notwithstanding, there are indications that the killer was, like so many other random shooters, a mentally disturbed person who gained access to a gun. From the story:

He had no criminal record and had not exhibited any psychotic behavior. But unbeknown to anyone who might have been alarmed, Martin-Urban had purchased a 9mm semiautomatic Ruger...

The only other clue that something wasn't right was his computer log: He spent an inordinate amount of time playing games where the object is to kill and steal.

He played the games as many as 12 hours a day during the last few months of his life. He holed up in a hotel room in Europe during a family vacation last summer and played the games while his mother and sister went sightseeing.

"In the last year, he had no friends. No boyfriend. No girlfriend. No pets. He was consumed with the video games. He spent an enormous amount of time playing them," Clayton said...

Martin-Urban lived mostly in isolation...  after enrolling in a state college... He stopped going to classes within two weeks.

His father had committed suicide in Alaska four days before the previous Christmas...

He had a profile on YouTube where he wrote that he lived in a world "that some people choose to call 'reality.' " His favorite videos included a prophecy that a 2,000- mile-long spaceship containing cosmic beings was going to appear in the Earth's atmosphere three days after the shooting.

In regard to the YouTube video, a local TV station speculated that Martin-Urban may have been part of a cult which predicted that the world would end within days of his rampage.

The Denver Post report also notes that Martin-Urban was a Grand Theft Auto player and even theorizes a link between his GTA play and the fact that most of his victims were getting into a BMW at the time of the shooting:

One of the fanciful cars in the game — the silver Blista — has taillights that resemble a BMW's.

The Rocky Mountain News reported last October that Martin-Urban's aunt worried that he may have been suicidal.

GP: Martin-Urban's self-imposed isolation, his retreat into obsessive gaming, his dropping out of school, the trauma of his father's suicide, and his apparent fascination with the bizarre cult video would seem to be red flags that Martin-Urban was a deeply troubled young man.

German Game Developers Blast Retailer's Decision to Drop 18+ Games

March 20, 2009 -

As GamePolitics reported yesterday, German retailer Galeria Kaufhof is dropping 18+ video games and movies from its inventory in the wake of last week's horrific school shooting.

Reuters has reaction to the move from Stephan Reichart, who heads G.A.M.E., a trade association which represents German game developers:

I think (Kaufhof's decision) is a complete overreaction... it borders on impulsive hysteria. It would be sufficient if retailers made sure their cashiers don't sell this material to young people.

Since 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer's rampage, reports have emerged indicating that he played the first-person shooters Counter-strike and Far Cry 2.

 
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Should 'Hatred' have been removed from Steam Greenlight?:

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PHX Corp@Adam802 We'll break out the popcorn in June12/19/2014 - 9:23pm
ZippyDSMleeMaskedPixelante: I'm itching to start it too but I will wait till the patch goes live. >>12/19/2014 - 7:52pm
Adam802Leland Yee and Jackson get trial date: http://sfbay.ca/2014/12/18/leland-yee-keith-jackson-get-trial-date/12/19/2014 - 5:24pm
MaskedPixelanteNevermind. Turns out when they said "the patch is now live", they meant "it's still in beta".12/19/2014 - 5:07pm
MaskedPixelanteSo I bought Dark Souls PC, and it's forcing me to log into GFWL. Did I miss something?12/19/2014 - 5:00pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/12/republicans-may-have-plan-to-save-internet-providers-from-utility-rules/ this is intreasting. congress may put net nutrality in to law to avoid title 2 classification12/19/2014 - 2:45pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.polygon.com/2014/12/19/7421953/bullshit-cards-against-humanity-donated-250k-sunlight-foundation I have to admit I like the choice o organization. congrats to CAH.12/19/2014 - 1:51pm
E. Zachary KnightIf you are downloading a copy in order to bypass the DRM, then you are legally in the wrong. Ethically, if you bought the game, it doesn't matter where you download it in the future.12/19/2014 - 12:06pm
InfophileEZK: Certainly better that way, though not foolproof. Makes me think though: does it count as piracy if you download a game you already paid for, just not from the place you paid for it at? Ethically, I'd say no, but legally, probably yes.12/19/2014 - 11:20am
ZippyDSMleeAnd I still spent 200$ in the last month on steam/GOG stuff sales get me nearly every time ><12/19/2014 - 10:55am
ZippyDSMleeMaskedPixelante:And this is why I'm a one legged bandit.12/19/2014 - 10:51am
ZippyDSMleeE. Zachary Knight: I buy what I can as long as I can get cracks for it...then again it I could have gotton Lords of the Fallen for 30 with DLC I would have ><12/19/2014 - 10:50am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/12/19/marvel-vs-capcom-origins-leaving-online-storefronts-soon/ Speaking of "last chance to buy", Marvel vs. Capcom Origins is getting delisted from all major storefronts. Behold the wonders of the all digital future.12/19/2014 - 9:59am
MaskedPixelanteSeriously, the so-called "Last Chance" sale was up to 80% off, while this one time only return sale goes for a flat 85% off with a 90% off upgrade if you buy the whole catalogue.12/19/2014 - 9:37am
E. Zachary KnightInfophile, Tha is why I buy only DRM-free games.12/19/2014 - 9:37am
MaskedPixelanteNordic is back on GOG for one weekend only. And at 85% off no less, which is kind of a slap in the face to people who paid more during the "NORDIC IS LEAVING FOREVER BUY NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE" sale, but whatever...12/19/2014 - 9:28am
InfophileRe PHX's link: This is one of the reasons the digital revolution isn't all it's cracked up to be. There's also the flip side where Sony can block access to games you've bought if they ban your account for unrelated reasons. All power is theirs.12/19/2014 - 8:52am
MaskedPixelantehttp://uplay.ubi.com/#!/en-US/events/uplay-15-days You can win FREE GAMES FOR A YEAR! Unfortunately, they're Ubisoft games.12/18/2014 - 6:29pm
Papa MidnightAh, so it was downtime. I've been seeing post appear in my RSS feed, but I was unable to access GamePolitics today across several ISPs.12/18/2014 - 6:06pm
james_fudgeSorry for the downtime today, folks.12/18/2014 - 5:54pm
 

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