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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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:

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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.

British MP Wants a Red Button on Consoles - Parental Panic?

March 18, 2009 -

A British member of the European Parliament is supporting that body's call for adding a "red button" to video game consoles.

The idea, apparently, is that parents can press the button if some objectionable game content appears onscreen while their children are playing.

GP: Wouldn't it be simpler to just turn off the TV or, better still, check the game content descriptors before allowing the kids to play?

The MP, Glenis Willmott, told This Is Derbyshire:

Research shows video games are useful for educational and medical purposes – and they can be good fun. But not all of them have content which parents will be happy with. Online games, which are easy to download on to a PC or mobile phone, make parental control even harder.

As GamePolitics reported last month, the "red button" recommendation is included in a European Parliament report that is generally favorable toward video games.

Via: DarkZero

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Game Critic Keith Vaz Faces Ethics Questions

March 17, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

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Cast Your (Very Limited) Vote For Best Political Game of 2008

March 13, 2009 -

At Water Cooler Games, Prof. Ian Bogost writes that the Politics Online Conference is accepting votes for 2008's best online political game.

Unfortunately, only two choices are offered: Bush Move In Day and Dress Like Palin. Both were publications of the California Nurses Association.

Bogost comments:

Neither of them are games; they're both little drag and drop toys that give more detailed information about what could have been done with Palin's clothing budget, or about the residue of Bush policy after his departure from office. It's disappointing to see that this is the cream of the crop among online political games this year.

GP: It's unclear why only two games from the same non-profit are on the ballot. Perhaps organizations needed to nominate themselves but didn't get the word. GamePolitics, however, reported on dozens of political games in 2008. These included commercial and amateur offerings distributed both online as well as on DVD.


L.A. Times: If Japanese Rape Game Was Banned From Amazon.com, Why Did Film with Brutal Rape Scene Get R-rating?

March 12, 2009 -

Just yesterday, Los Angeles Times entertainment columnist Patrick Goldstein suggested that RapeLay, the controversial Japanese hentai game, was sleazier than any Hollywood movie.

Today, he is apparently not so sure.

What happened to change his mind? Goldstein writes that he wasn't aware of the new film The Last House on the Left:

I guess I owe the makers of RapeLay, the vile Japanese rape-simulator video game, an apology... the [Last House on the Left] remake is even more graphic and disturbing than the [original]. The film's rape scene has already aroused widespread critical outrage...

Roger Ebert, the dean of American critics... lamented: "So now my job as a film critic involves grading rape scenes..."

 

How is it possible that the MPAA ratings board could give a film with this much brutal, graphic violence an R rating instead of an NC-17? I mean, what would it take for the clueless MPAA, which is supposed to serve concerned parents, not powerful studios, to ever draw the line and say to a filmmaker: "You've gone too far..."

 

If the MPAA is willing to give an R rating to "The Last House on the Left," which would allow me to take a bunch of kids to see this new film, then why shouldn't Amazon be allowed to sell Japan's RapeLay video game? It sounds to me like the movie and the video game are really playing in the same "How low can you go?" ballpark.

GP: For clarification's sake, there is no regulatory bar to stop Amazon from selling RapeLay. The giant online retailer voluntarily removed the game, which was being offered by an obscure third-party re-seller.

43 comments

New Zealand Censor: Prosecute Parents Who Give Violent Games to Kids

March 7, 2009 -

New Zealand's chief government censor has called for the prosecution of parents who give their children access to violent video games, according to stuff.co.nz.

Bill Hastings (left) hopes that such cases - apparently enabled by Kiwi law - will provide "shock value" to deter other parents from making similar choices in regard to their children's media consumption:

They might think the offence is silly, but it ain't... That's what the law says, but... you're not going to have police officers in every bedroom... There would certainly be some shock value to prosecuting a parent who gives their under-18 child access to a restricted game. It would send out a message that the enforcement agency means business.

I think the word 'game' can mislead people for sure. It's not checkers. For the first time in history, kids are more savvy with technology than parents... parents need to get up to speed on the digital divide. They need to look at what their kids are playing and doing...

 

It should be the pleasure in being able to sleep at night knowing that you have done the right thing by your kids. That should be the motivating factor.

Under the law, parents could be fined up to NZ$10,000 or imprisoned for three months.

GP: But if the parents are in jail, who will monitor the kids then?

96 comments

Midway Insider Trade Claims a Likely Focus of Redstone Depositions

March 5, 2009 -

Last month, GamePolitics broke the news that some creditors of bankrupt Midway were alleging that the recent sale of the financially troubled Mortal Kombat publisher was a sham.

In a document filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, attorneys for certain of Midway's unsecured creditors charged that insider dealing had occurred between the former owner, media mogul Sumner Redstone, and the new owner, mystery man Mark Thomas. According to those allegations, Thomas, whose shell company, Acquisitions Holding Subsidiary, purchased Midway for a mere $100,000 in November, stood to reap a 30,000% return on his investment.

As of this morning, civil subpoenas have been issued for Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari, who formerly served as chairperson of Midway. Both are required to appear later this month for separate depositions in New York City. The Redstones will be required to bring documents, notes and e-mails relating to the operation of Midway as well as to their dealings with Mark Thomas.

So far, court records do not indicate that Thomas has been subpoenaed.

GP: It is important to note that these subpoenas are related to a financial dispute between creditors in Midway's bankruptcy case. They are not related to any type of criminal or government regulatory investigation.

DOCUMENT DUMP: See Shari Redstone's subpoena here. For Sumner Redstone's subpoena, click here.

5 comments

Nebraska State Auditor Employs Fuzzy Logic to Zing Gaming Librarians

March 2, 2009 -

Last week GamePolitics reported that some Nebraska librarians were under investigation by State Auditor Mike Foley (R) for - horrors! - purchasing a PlayStation 2 and Rock Band set for use in the library.

Foley's final report on Nebraska's library system is now out, including his findings on the video game issue:

[Library] Commission employees have occasionally provided their own personal game consoles for trainings and demonstrations...

GP: Now that's dedication, a quality that government bureaucracy is so good at beating out of its employees. No good deed, as they say, goes unpunished.

The purchase of gaming equipment is a questionable use of public funds. It is common
knowledge that children enjoy games and toys, so there appears to have been little need to
purchase the games.

GP: Wait - kids like games, so the library shouldn't buy them? Does that mean they should expend their budget on things that people don't like? WTH?

Moreover, none of the games purchased were so complicated or out of the ordinary as to require the Commission to demonstrate their use to library staff and others...

GP: Because absolutely everyone who walks into a Nebraska library - including older librarians - has an innate sense of how to set up and play Rock Band or Dance Dance Revolution? Thankfully, the Library Commission defended it employees against the Foley-crats:

Gaming equipment and games have become increasingly popular and in demand resources for library programming and service. The Library Commission purchased game equipment in response to requests from Nebraska librarians for demonstration and instruction. The Library Commission’s actions in acquiring gaming equipment and a few representative games are proper and in accord with the agency’s state statutory mission and its purposes in introducing new technologies, techniques and providing information and instruction in the use of these technologies.
 

GP: Bureaucracy... Grrrr...

Via: Nebraska State Paper

UPDATE: Cornfed Gamer has a terrific report on the situation with lots of additional details.

Newt Gingrich: Be Anti-Labor Union, Win a Wii

February 28, 2009 -

Conservative Newt Gingrich is back, and he's exploiting the Nintendo Wii for political gain.

By way of backstory, there is a pro-union bill, the Employee Free Choice Act, currently before the Congress. The Huffington Post reports that Gingrich views the legislation as "a mortal threat to American freedom."

(GP: Because, you know, rich guys and corporations should have all the power in our society.)

Speaking this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D.C., Gingrich reminded attendees that they could register to win a free Wii by signing up for American Solutions, Gingrich's new media campaign.

The Huff Post has a comment on the Wii giveaway from an unnamed union official:

Is this part of [new RNC chairman] Michael Steele's hip-hop revolution? Or is being against working families so lame that they have to bribe kids with a Wii to do it?

96 comments

Public Officials' Video Game Purchases Face Scrutiny

February 27, 2009 -

At least two public officials are under scrutiny after purchases of video game products with tax dollars.

In Louisiana, Monroe City Schools Superintendent James Dupree (left) has been called on to explain using his business credit card to purchase a Nintendo DS and two games for $195 at a local GameStop last November.

The News-Star reports that, along with the DS, Dupree bought copies of SAT/ACT Coach and Brain Age Training. In a response to the newspaper's request for records, Dupree wrote:

All items were purchased to pilot their usability for SAT/ACT prep and recall skill building in relation to performance target objective No. 1.

Dupree said yesterday that the DS and games are sitting in his office as he has not yet found the time to use them. After checking them out himself, he plans to pass them along to a student.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Michael Gobb, former executive director of the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky, has resigned following a spending probe. The state Auditor General's office found more than $500,000 in questionable expenditures by airport execs, including a $4,400 tab at a strip club as well as multiple Nintendo Wii bundles.

8 comments

Conservative Blogger Who Triggered 2008 Mass Effect Debacle Equates Obama Stimulus Plan with Rape Game

February 18, 2009 -

Just when you thought the RapeLay mini-scandal was over...

Kevin McCullough, the conservative blogger who in 2008 lit the fuse that would eventually detonate as pop psychologist Cooper Lawrence's misguided attack on Xbox 360 hit Mass Effect, is back.

In a piece for the conservative Townhall blog, McCullough draws similarities between the despicable RapeLay PC game and President Obama's just-signed stimulus package.

You can't make this stuff up. Here's what McCullough, who eventually backed off of his incorrect allegations against Mass Effect, wrote regarding RapeLay and the stimulus package:

This week Amazon.com after many complaints finally decided to ban a virtual reality game called "Rapelay." Defenders of the game say it's not real rape because it only occurs between computer animations. There are no genuine side effects. And it won't impact reality.

Sort of like what liberals sound like when it comes to our money. The money we work increasingly harder to earn. And with one uber-partisan vote they take away. Taken faster than the speed of light or at least in shorter than being allowed to read the legislation that does so.

In the game Rapelay, reviewers have stated that the player must first sexually assault a mother character and her two daughters before being allowed to then "pick" their next series of victims.

In the Congress of Washington DC liberals have seen to it that our mothers and daughters will have less money in the home budget working for their protection and welfare.

In the game Rapelay the reviews indicate that the rapist can even convince one of the animated computer characters that they like what's happening to them.

In Washington DC liberals in Congress sent their lapdog "Mr. President" out to the masses to do the same thing...

 

I've tried to be as tasteful as possible in explaining this comparison, and due to the passion of the natural man that was not an easy thing to do!
 

Class act, that Kevin McCullough...

Via: N'Gai Croal

221 comments

Video Game Biz Still Targeting Canada Over Mod Chips

February 17, 2009 -

Those pesky Canadians!

Copyright lobbying group the International Intellectual Property Association has once again called upon the U.S government to add neighboring Canada to a list of copyright-violating rogue nations, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies on behalf of U.S. video game publishers, is an IIPA member. Indeed, much of the IIPA's angst with our friends to the north seems to revolve around Canada's more tolerant attitude toward mod chips. From the L.A. Times:

Specifically, [the IIPA is] asking the Obama administration to add Canada to the "Priority Watch List" alongside Mexico (hey, it's a NAFTA reunion!), Russia, China and other countries with a reputation for disregarding copyrights, patents and trademarks...

In particular, the IIPA wants Canada to do more to block the manufacture and sale of video game "mod" chips and other equipment to circumvent electronic locks; raise the statutory penalties for unauthorized copying, even when it's done for personal use; crack down on the manufacture and sale of bootlegged DVDs; and require ISPs to take down infringing material upon request, rather than simply passing a notice of infringement on to the customer responsible for it.

The Bush administration essentially blew off the IIPA's previous entreaties to target Canada. It's doubtful that the group will have any better luck with the Obama team.

Meanwhile, as we were preparing this story, the ESA dropped a press release on the topic with the obligatory doom-and-gloom piracy quote from CEO Mike Gallagher:

Piracy is the single greatest threat to the innovation, artistic commitment and technological advancements enjoyed by millions of consumers worldwide. Piracy is a job killer that the world economy cannot afford in these difficult economic times. Countries that skirt obligations to combat piracy need to understand the unacceptable damage they are facilitating —and those countries that invest  in protecting intellectual property rights and ensure that piracy is not tolerated at any level should be lauded.

The ESA also cited what it termed "alarmingly high volumes of illegal game downloads" on P2P networks BitTorrent and eDonkey.

43 comments

Full Frontal in GTA IV Lost & Damned

February 16, 2009 -

When I ponder the things that I'd like to see in video games someday, a fully nekkid Congressman is not high on the list.

Nonetheless, Kotaku reports that a cut scene in GTA IV: The Lost and Damned, scheduled to release tomorrow, features a male character displayed with full frontal nudity:

[Congressman] Stubbs, in his first meeting with lead character Johnny Klebbitz, is receiving a massage at the private gentleman's club Jousters when we meet him. The Congressman, dressed in nothing but a towel, quickly becomes pretty comfortable with his new biker friend, choosing to deliver his monologue in the buff...

The ESRB rating for the game—which is "M" for Mature—does make mention of the gratuitous digital d*ck on display, noting that the game has "Nudity" in its content. The original Grand Theft Auto IV is listed as having only "Partial nudity."

Creditors Allege Shady Insider Dealing In Midway Bankruptcy

February 15, 2009 -

When mystery man Mark Thomas acquired troubled game publisher Midway for a mere $100,000 last November, the deal raised more than a few eyebrows. It also raised questions like:

  • Who is Mark Thomas?
  • How could a company which owns popular franchises like Mortal Kombat and TNA Impact! be purchased so cheaply?

A motion filed on behalf of certain Midway creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware on Friday makes those questions a matter of record and seeks to block the troubled publisher's move to spend collateral which obscure buyer Mark Thomas's Aquisitions Holding Subsidiary (AHS) put up as part of the Midway purchase.

The language of the motion, which seeks to protect the interests of holders of $150 million of senior Midway debt, comes close to alleging fraudulent insider dealing:

These cases... are tainted by highly unusual transactions by insiders of the Debtors... that, to put it charitably, require significant scrutiny... The rights and protections now offered [to AHS] are excessive and, under the circumstances, inappropriate...

The motion also digs into the shadowy relationship between former Midway owner Sumner Redstone (far left) and mysterious purchaser Mark Thomas:

[Midway] was dominated and controlled until November 28, 2008, by Sumner Redstone...

 

As recently as February 29, 2008, [Midway's] balance sheet was far less encumbered by debt... On February 29th, 2008 [Midway took three loans from Redstone-controlled entities]... just like that [Midway's] $15 million in outstanding loan indebtedness... ballooned to $90 million... to [Redstone]...

 

After the consummation of these Insider Loans... the Redstone parties sold for [$100,000] all of their [holdings] to... a very secretive individual named Mark Thomas... a person virtually unknown in the video game industry...

 

No disclosures ever have been made regarding Thomas or what, if any, relationship Thomas or his companies have with any Redstone Party... But it is safe to assume there must be a connection... given that Redstone essentially gifted [Midway for a mere $100,000]... to Thomas...

 

[Thomas stands] to reap an enormous, almost unprecedented windfall... if paid in full... the Thomas Parties will recover some 30,000% on their $100,000 investment within a matter of a few months... The Thomas Parties' return stands in stark contrast to the tens, or potentially even hundreds, of millions of dollars... that the Redstone-Thomas transaction may have stolen from [other creditors]...

Based on such language, it sounds like things could get very ugly, very quickly in the Midway bankruptcy proceedings. With that in mind, GamePolitics turned to Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter for comment on the allegations:

The simple answer is that the unsecured creditors are alleging that the issuance of debt to Redstone secured by collateral was an “insider” deal.  The secured debt has preference over unsecured debt in liquidation, meaning that Redstone’s successor (Thomas) gets paid first.

The filing goes on to allege that when Redstone sold his equity and secured debt to Thomas, the act was a change of ownership, and triggered rules that wiped out tax losses, accelerated default provisions on the unsecured debt, and impaired Midway’s ability to refinance.

The unsecured creditors apparently don’t like the fact that Thomas was a financial buyer, and has full control now.  It is not in Thomas’ best interests to risk his big payday, and the unsecured creditors apparently believe that Thomas is going to force repayment of the debt as accounts receivable are collected.

In substance, they’re saying that Redstone orchestrated this, and they don’t like it.  They are trying to keep Thomas from pulling cash out until they get a chance to reorganize, as that could accelerate and exacerbate Midway’s troubles.

GP: We'll keep GamePolitics readers posted on developments...

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the creditors' motion here.

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune has a piece on the guessing game surrounding Mark Thomas's identity (via Kotaku).

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Is King right? Should all games adopt the free-to-play model?:

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Matthew Wilsonit is a game worth playing if you have a pc/360/ps304/20/2014 - 9:34pm
MaskedPixelantehttps://twitter.com/IGLevine/status/457552538343325696 The Lutece Twins show up in some of the most unlikely of places.04/20/2014 - 2:44pm
Andrew EisenAs it happens, Chinatown Wars is the only GTA game I've played.04/19/2014 - 10:43am
Papa MidnightWith GTA5 (to date) failing to even provide indication of a PC release, I'm realising that this might be the first GTA game that I have not played (outside of Chinatown Wars) since the series inception.04/19/2014 - 8:14am
IanCSo im guessing a bunch of edutainment games, which a lot of people elsewhere are going gaga over, dot count as classics? Okay. If you don't mind me, i have a sudden urge to play Putt Putt....04/19/2014 - 6:15am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/04/18/playstation-99-cent-sale-discounts-tokyo-jungle-super-stardust/ Weekend long PSN flash sale. So much stuff is 99 cents for the rest of the weekend.04/18/2014 - 5:59pm
Adam802http://www.polygon.com/2014/4/18/5627928/newtown-video-game-addiction-forum04/18/2014 - 4:14pm
Matthew Wilsonit is a video talking about why certain games/products/consoles do well, and others do not. he back it up with solid research.04/18/2014 - 3:56pm
Andrew EisenI'm not keen on blind links. What is it?04/18/2014 - 3:45pm
Matthew Wilsonthis is worth a whatch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyXcr6sDRtw&list=PL35FE5C4B157509C904/18/2014 - 3:43pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 3: Night Dive was brought to the attention of the public by a massive game recovery, and yet most of their released catalogue consists of games that other people did the hard work of getting re-released.04/17/2014 - 8:46pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 2: If Humongous Entertainment wanted their stuff on Steam, why didn't they talk to their parent company, which does have a number of games published on Steam?04/17/2014 - 8:45pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 1: When Night Dive spent the better part of a year teasing the return of true classics, having their big content dump be edutainment is kind of a kick in the stomach.04/17/2014 - 8:44pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.giantbomb.com/articles/jeff-gerstmann-heads-to-new-york-takes-questions/1100-4900/ He talks about the future games press and the games industry. It is worth your time even though it is a bit long, and stay for the QA. There are some good QA04/17/2014 - 5:28pm
IanCErm so they shouldn't sell edutainment at all? Why?04/17/2014 - 4:42pm
MaskedPixelanteNot that linkable, go onto Steam and there's stuff like Pajama Sam on the front-page, courtesy of Night Dive.04/17/2014 - 4:13pm
Andrew EisenOkay, again, please, please, PLEASE get in a habit of linking to whatever you're talking about.04/17/2014 - 4:05pm
MaskedPixelanteAnother round of Night Dive teasing and promising turns out to be stupid edutainment games. Thanks for wasting all our time, guys. See you never.04/17/2014 - 3:44pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the consequences were not only foreseeable, but very likely. anyone who understood supply demand curvs knew that was going to happen. SF has been a econ/trade hub for the last hundred years.04/17/2014 - 2:45pm
Andrew EisenMixedPixelante - Would you like to expand on that?04/17/2014 - 2:43pm
 

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