Linda McMahon: Videogame Character

May 19, 2010 -

It's hard to be a candidate who is a part of an industry that makes its money off of gratuitous violence. Linda McMahon, like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, has made millions off of an industry that has no problems with using sex, violence and adult themes to sell its image. But the Connecticut senatorial candidate running in the Republican primary shares another distinction with the Governator: she's a playable video game character, as the video in this story shows.

In arguably one of the best wrestling video games ever made -- WWF No Mercy -- Linda, complete her husband's "Mac Stunner" finisher, is an unlockable, playable character. Linda is also part of a storyline involving her daughter Stephanie McMahon and real life husband Hunter Herst Helmsely. In the segment, which starts at the 4:10 mark and ends at the 5:29 mark, Linda enters the ring, makes a ruling on a world championship match against wrestler Kennedy and then gives both her daughter and Triple H a "Mac Stunner" after her daughter attempts to slap her across the face.

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Conservative Conference Adds Games, Hopes to be “Off the Hook”

February 17, 2010 -

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicks off tomorrow in Washington D.C. and organizers of the event are turning to videogames and hip-hop in an attempt to ramp up the event’s attraction to a younger audience.

Fox News reports that videogames will be featured in a room called the XPAC Lounge, or as one event organizer termed it, the “hub of fun.” The lounge was the brain-child of radio host Kevin McCullough and actor Stephen Baldwin.

Ten videogame stations will be featured in all, offering attendees the chance to play games such as Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution and Call of Duty.

The XPAC Lounge will also be home to a late night “rap/jam” session on Thursday night. The article questions the viability of such a function in light of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s (pictured) failed past attempts at interjecting hip-hop culture into conservative principals. Steele previously published a blog entitled “What Up?” that he eventually killed in reaction to ridicule of the name and he also reportedly once described a GOP public relations initiative as “off the hook.”

CPAC Director Lisa De Pasquale seemed to think that “the energy” is flowing more towards conservative candidates right now, adding, “To be a rebel on campus, you have to be a conservative."

5,000 people are pre-registered for the conference, 61.0 percent of whom are students.

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38 Studios Boss Schilling Mulls Bid For Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat

September 3, 2009 -

Will former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling run for the Senate seat vacated by the recent death of Ted Kennedy?

If he does, how will MMO development at his company, 38 Studios be affected?

These remain open questions following yesterday's acknowledgement by Schilling that he is considering a bid for the late Kennedy's former spot. Writing on his 38 Pitches blog, Schilling was candid about his potential foray into big-time politics:

While my family is obviously the priority, and 38 Studios is a priority, I do have some interest in the possibility [of running]. That being said, to get to there from where I am today, many many things would have to align themselves for that to truly happen. I am not going to comment further on the matter since at this point it would be speculation on top of speculation.

Although Bloomberg reports that Schilling is a registered Independent, as GamePolitics reported during last year's presidential race, Schilling stumped for Republican contender John McCain. He is most definitely not an Obama fan.

The Boston Globe has additional quotes on the Senate issue from Schilling, including this one:

I'm not going to divulge the discussions, but I've been contacted by people whose opinion I give credence to and listen to, and I listened...

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Washington State A.G. Partners with ESA on Cyber Safety

September 3, 2009 -

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna (left) has partnered with game publishers' lobbying group ESA and Web Wise kids on an educational program aimed at keeping children safe online.

A press release issued by McKenna's office quotes the A.G. on the initiative:

The devices that kids love, from smartphones to computers, are also being used to subject them to cyberbullying, scams and online stalkers. This program deploys a technology that’s very familiar to kids – video games – to teach   important lessons about staying safe in cyberspace.

ESA boss Michael Gallagher was on hand for the announcement, along with Web Wise Kids president Judi Westburg Warren and Washington's Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. Gallagher offered his comment:

The ESA Foundation is proud to provide the resources to launch this cutting-edge initiative. With the industry presence of Microsoft, Nintendo and other leading video game companies, Washington is a natural fit for launching this program. Working together, we believe the Web Wise Kids program will help educators teach Washington’s youth how to stay safe online...

A.G. McKenna, a Republican, has previously endorsed the ESRB rating system.

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Former LucasArts CEO Launches Bid for Seat in Congress

August 15, 2009 -

Jim Ward, who left the CEO job at video game publisher LucasArts in early 2008, is now hoping to win a seat in Congress.

Ward, a Republican who currently works as a venture capitalist, is running to represent Arizona's 5th Congressional District. That seat is currently held by two-term Democrat Harry Mitchell. The district includes Scottsdale, Tempe and parts of Phoenix.

Ward outlines his philosophy on his campaign website:

I’m not a professional politician.  I’m a businessman.  And I don’t disagree that this country needs change.  But, in my experience, there’s the right kind of change and the wrong kind of change.  I believe what’s happening to this country represents the wrong kind of change...

Ward lists his political philosophy as conservative on Facebook. He has protested (see pic at left) against President Obama's healthcare plan.

Partially via: Kotaku

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Democrats Dominate Video Game Industry's 2009 Campaign Giving

August 13, 2009 -

Mid-year documents filed with the Federal Elections Commission indicate that the video game industry is currently leaning to the Democratic side of the aisle when it comes to Congressional campaign donations.

ESA PAC, the political action committee of game publishers group the Entertainment Software Association, has disbursed $12,400 to Congressional candidates so far in 2009. All but $1,000 of those funds went to Democrats or Democratic PACs. Here's the breakdown:

  • Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) - $3,000
  • Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) - $1,000  (Meek is running for a vacant Senate seat)
  • New Democratic Coalition PAC - $2,000
  • Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) - $2,400
  • Sen. John Thune (R-SD) - $1,000
  • Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) - $1,000
  • Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) - $1,000
  • Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) - $1,000

The contributions will be used by recipients for the 2010 mid-term elections. South Dakota's Thune is the only Republican among those receiving ESA PAC money so far in 2009.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the ESA PAC mid-year report here...

Misspelling Behind Ebay Removal of Sarah Palin Xbox 360?

August 13, 2009 -

Recently, GamePolitics reported on a million dollar Ebay listing for an Xbox 360 supposedly autographed by former Alasksa Governor Sarah Palin.

Canadian David Morrill told the Anchorage Daily News that he obtained the signature from Palin at a picnic event earlier in the summer. The auction was quickly removed by Ebay, however, with no explanation forthcoming.

Not long after, a second auction which advertised a "replica" of the original Palin 360 appeared. That listing, clearly a parody, also has been removed.

Now, David Sheets, who blogs about games for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has a theory as to why the original listing was taken down. Sheets believes that Palin's first name is misspelled:

Game Guy thinks he knows why the bid was yanked. If you look closely at the signature, former Gov. Palin’s first name appears to lack the final “h.” Last he heard, she spelled her first name “Sarah,” not “Sara.” Even Alaska’s official website spells it with an “h.”

And hey, you can’t ask for a cool $1.1 million for a signed Xbox if the signee can’t spell her name correctly.

GP: I'm no handwriting expert, but I'm not so sure that I buy into Sheets's theory. For one thing, the ex-Guv's purported autograph tails off after the "r" in "Sarah," as if she (or whoever wrote it) was signing hastily. So the missing "h" is not all that farfetched. Beyond that, the authenticity of high-priced autographs is always an issue, which may have prompted the Ebay removal.

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Sarah Palin Autographed Xbox 360 on Ebay for $1.1 Million

August 6, 2009 -

If you've simply got to have an Xbox 360 signed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, there's one on Ebay right now.

It will set you back a few bucks, though. The bid is currently at US$1.1 million. Oh, and 75 bucks for shipping.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that Canadian David Morrill (left, with the ex-Guv) drove for three days to meet Palin at a picnic in Alaska:

[Morrill] said he pushed to the front of the greeting line and asked Palin to sign the Xbox as proof he met her. It was "one of the greatest thrills of my life..."

 

He has received one anonymous bid for his Xbox, for which he's asking at least $1.1 million. The bidder ID has just one "feedback" rating on eBay, and there's no guarantee Morrill will get his money.

Here's the Ebay listing...

UPDATE: The Ebay listing has been removed for reasons unknown at this time...

UPDATE 2: An auction for a "replica" of the Sarah Palin Xbox 360 has been posted on Ebay with an opening price of $1,100. In the listing, the seller pokes a bit of fun at the former Guv:

This replica has been painstakingly recrafted using:

    * Detailed photographs of the original signed Xbox 360
    * Imagery of Palin's signature on the infamous "helicopter-wolf-hunting" bill from 2003
 

...Furthermore, this item (unlike others) is "Guaranteed Not To Quit For Two Years" ...

Own the only Palin related item truly prepared to serve half a gubernatorial or presidential term!

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Newt Gingrich Tweets About Wii Bowling

August 2, 2009 -

Not for the first time, potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (left) has mentioned Nintendo's Wii on Twitter.

Gingrich, who formerly served as Speaker of the House and was the driving force behind the conservative Contract with America in the mid-1990's, Tweeted yesterday about playing Nintendo's system at a family gathering. Twitter user Konabess offered some follow-up advice and Gingrich responded. Here's how the conversation went:

NewtGingrich: Wii bowling in stevens point wisconsin home of point beer and callista's brother and his family; seven year old is proving tough competition

 

konabess: @newtgingrich keep your elbow in and follow through!

 

NewtGingrich: @konabess good advice I will try this Any advice for wii golf

As GamePolitics reported in March, Gingrich gushed about the Wii his wife Callista received as a birthday present. In February Gingrich dangled the chance to win a Wii as a means of enticing supporters to sign up for the launch of a media campaign.

Partially Via: Kotaku

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Alabama Attorney General Backs ESRB Ratings

July 21, 2009 -

Alabama Attorney General Troy King (R) has become the latest high-ranking state official to endorse the video game industry's content rating system.

In a press release issued yesterday, King announced a public service ad campaign designed to raise parental awareness of the ESRB rating system. The PSAs featuring King will air on radio and TV.

The A.G. commented on the campaign in yesterday's press release:

I know parents face tough decisions these days about the media they allow into their homes. There’s simply no substitute, though, for parental involvement and responsibility, and it’s important that parents play an active role in choosing games for their children. ESRB ratings are an effective and informative resource that allows parents to decide if the video game their child wants is appropriate, and rating summaries provide even more insight into exactly what a parent would want to know about in a game. I’m proud to be educating parents in our state about the tools at their disposal.

As GamePolitics has noted in the past, such campaigns are a sweet deal for the politicians involved. The ESRB picks up the cost of production for the spots and elected officials get a chance to show voters that they are concerned about children.

Readers can see King's PSA (as well as those made by other political figures) at the ESRB website.

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Florida Guv Lauds Game Biz, Appears in NCAA Football 2010

July 14, 2009 -

The long-awaited NCAA Football 2010 launches today and you can count Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) among the game's fans - and its players.

Orlando's WESH-2 reports that the Guv was on hand at EA's Tiburon Studios for an NCAA '10 launch event. Crist praised not only the game but the industry's positive economic impact on Florida's economy:

This is so cool that EA Sports, [that] Tiburon is right here in Florida...

 

The realism of [the game] is what just blows you away... This is the knowledge-based economy we want to continue to build throughout the state.

It's great for Florida. It's great for jobs. You know in this economy especially, looking for new and innovative ways for people to have gainful employment and the pride that goes along with that. It's so important to so many people.

Crist, who quarterbacked the 1976 Wake Forest team, even appeared in the game dressed in full uniform, courtesy of NCAA '10's Team Builder feature. In a demo of the game run by Tiburon developers, Crist scrambled and passed the Demon Deacons to a four-play touchdown drive.

In comments after the demo, Crist was a good sport about his NCAA '10 character's performance:

I love college football. I wasn't ever very good. The guy on the screen was good. You're very generous.

El Mundo Tech has several videos of the event.

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Louisiana Guv Signs Game Biz Tax Breaks Into Law

July 10, 2009 -

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has signed into law a package of tax breaks designed to bolster video game production in the state, according to the Associated Press.

Jindal also approved several other bills providing tax breaks to non-game related sectors. While some critics have questioned the wisdom of giving up state tax revenue in a troubled economy, Jindal referred to the incentives as "critical tools":

By signing these bills, we're ensuring that we not only have the ability to remain economically competitive, but that we can continue to move our state forward by making Louisiana the greatest place in the world to find a great paying job and raise a family.

A press release on Gov. Jindal's website offers a bit of information on the video game bill:

SB 277 by Sen. Ann Duplessis is similar to Governor’s package bill HB 457, which extends and expands the Digital Interactive Media Tax Credit by permanently extending and increasing the credit by 5 percent creating a single rate of 25 percent of expenditures plus an additional 10 percent for Louisiana resident payroll expenditures (35 percent total credit for resident payroll). The bill also expands the definition of digital media to include technology companies.

UPDATE: Game publishers lobbying group ESA issued a press release praising Jindal for signing the tax break into law. ESA boss Mike Gallagher's commented:

We commend Governor Jindal for his strong leadership as well as that of Senator Duplessis for expanding the state’s computer and video game development and production base, and helping lead the way in creating the next generation of entertainment innovation in Louisiana.

 

Developers and publishers live and work for years in states where games are created, providing a higher return on investment than any form of entertainment.

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Faced with White House National Security Claim, Public Interest Groups Drop Information Lawsuit on Secret Copyright Treaty

June 24, 2009 -

For nearly a year GamePolitics has been tracking ATCA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

As we have reported, ACTA deals in large part with copyright issues and is being negotiated in secret by the U.S., Japan, Canada, the EU and other nations. Details of ACTA are largely a mystery to consumers despite the fact that dozens of corporate lobbyists have been clued in to parts of the treaty, including Stevan Mitchell, VP of IP Policy for game publishers trade group the Entertainment Software Association.

Sadly, consumer interests suffered a major blow last week as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge dropped a federal lawsuit seeking to cast a little sunshine on the ACTA negotiations. The EFF explained that a recent decision by the Obama Administration to claim a national security exemption for the ACTA talks made the lawsuit unwinnable; federal judges have  little leeway to overrule such claims. The move by the Obama White House extends a similar policy put in place by the Bush Administration.

Public Knowledge Deputy Legal Director Sherwin Siy commented on the decision:

Even though we have reluctantly dropped this lawsuit, we will continue to press the U.S. Trade Representative and the Obama Administration on the ACTA issues. The issues are too far-reaching and too important to allow this important agreement to be negotiated behind closed doors.

The worry, of course, is that the United States will emerge from ACTA with a done deal that favors Big IP in the fashion of the consumer-unfriendly DMCA. Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association, expressed concerns about ACTA earlier this year:

Because ECA supports the balance that must exist between the rights of copyright owners and the right of copyrighted material consumers, we do not think it wise to include any portions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) currently being discussed...    

We are concerned that any DMCA language in ACTA may cause enormous, unforeseen negative implications in US law...

GP: As GamePolitics mentioned above, video game publishers lobbying group the ESA is privy to at least a portion of the secret ACTA negotiations while its industry's customers - video game consumers - are barred from knowing anything at all.

That makes us wonder - will the Video Game Voters Network, which is owned and operated by the ESA, commence a letter-writing campaign on behalf of its gamer-members demanding that the White House pull the curtain back on ACTA?

Somehow we doubt it.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The Entertainment Consumers Association is the parent company of GamePolitics.

Portions Via: /.

God of War Designer Weighs in on Missing South Carolina Guv

June 23, 2009 -

Gov. Mark Sanford went missing recently, apparently of his own accord. And while his South Carolina political colleagues expressed concern over who was minding the state during Sanford's absence, God of War series designer David Jaffe weighed in with a brief criticism of the Guv's disappearing act on Twitter.

Jaffe, who lives in California, often seasons his tweets with profanity. He commented on Sanford's AWOL status yesterday afternoon:

If UR a governor and U just kind of take off for a few days and no one knows where then u prob. should not be the f***ing governor.

Twitter users can follow the outspoken GoW creator at @djaffe on Twitter. As for Sanford, news reports say that he will be back in the office today.

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Louisiana Bill Targeting Sexually Explicit Games Dies in Committee

June 19, 2009 -

Louisiana Senate Bill 152 began life as a clone of Jack Thompson's failed Utah legislation and died quietly this week in the Commerce Committee of the Louisiana House, according to The Old River Road, a blog which tracks Louisiana politics. Although we haven't yet seen a post about SB 152 at TORR, blogger Charlie Buras dropped us a line via Twitter last night to say the bill expired in committee.

Between birth and death SB 152 was completely reworked by its sponsor, Sen. A.G. Crowe (R). As for Thompson, he was nowhere to be seen in the process. The truth in advertising legal theory advocated by the disbarred Miami attorney quietly morphed into proposed civil sanctions against those who would distribute sexually explicit material to minors. The need for such legislation is not entirely clear, since such conduct is already an offense under Louisiana criminal law.

Although Crowe's Senate colleagues passed the bill overwhelmingly, House members seemed less impressed. At a hearing earlier this week the bill was diverted to the Commerce Committee.

UPDATE: The Times-Picayune has more details, including word that the Commerce Committee voted 12-2 to kill the bill. The estimated $1.6 million cost to administer the bill didn't help any. (GP: thanks to longtime reader BearDogg-X for the link!).

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Passed By Louisiana Senate, SB 152 Targets Sexually-Explicit Content

June 11, 2009 -

By a 35-0 vote yesteday, the Louisiana Senate passed SB 152, a bill which would make a pattern of distributing sexually explicit material to children a deceptive trade practice under state law.

GamePolitics readers may recall that in its original form, SB 152 was drafted by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson as a back-door means of enforcing ESRB content ratings. The original SB 152 mirrored Thompson's Utah bill, which was vetoed by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) in March. However, bill sponsor Sen. A.G. Crowe (R, at left) subsequently gutted Thompson's focus on age ratings from the bill, amending it instead to its new focus on the distribution of sexually explicit material to minors. It should be noted that distributing such material to minors is already an offense under Louisiana's criminal statutes.

Unlike the Utah bill, SB 152 doesn't make reference to video games, advertising, age ratings or any specific product, for that matter. However, Sen. Crowe did mention video games as an example during yesterday's session:

This body has over the years passed numerous laws to protect our children... And with the growth of...  the market of materials that would be considered by most of us here objectionable as it relates to obscenity such as that is found... in video games either rented or purchased, could fall again into the hands of some of our children. So it is a step in the direction of moving, passing legislation that would allow for, again, protecting our children from this type of thing...

Oddly enough, SB 152 specifically excludes the Internet from its provisions. These days the online world would seem the most likely source for a child to stumble upon sexually explicit material. 

The nature of sexually-explicit conduct defined in the bill would seem to exclude any ESRB-rated video game published to date. It seems clear that a game meeting the standard defined in the bill would have already been rated Adults Only (AO) by the ESRB. Curiously, the bill does not relate its provision for sexually-explicit conduct to the legal definition of obscenity. Should the bill eventually be signed into law, this could prove to be a fatal flaw from a constitutional sense.

Now that it has been passed by the Senate, the next stop for SB 152 is the Louisiana House of Representatives.

GamePolitics readers can watch yesterday's debate on SB 152 by clicking here. Scroll down to "Chamber" for June 10th. The SB 152 segment begins at 4:01:39.

UPDATE: A knowledgeable video game industry source criticized SB 152 in comments to GamePolitics:

The bill as passed by the Senate is clearly unconstitutional. It would penalize the sale of sexually oriented material to minors, but does not require that the material be legally obscene for minors, referred to in Louisiana as 'harmful to minors,' or 'obscene,' as U.S. Supreme Court precedents mandate. This was the same flaw that doomed the Illinois 'sexually explicit video games' law.
 
While it might seem that mainstream retailers have little to fear from the amended bill, as they don't carry pornography, the fact that a single depiction in an otherwise unobjectionable video game, DVD, or other material could open a retailer to liability is of grave concern.

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Sen. Orrin Hatch Calls Pirate Bay Case a Win, Slams Canada Over Copyright Issues

June 11, 2009 -

Influential Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) referred to a Swedish court's recent conviction of the operators of file-sharing site The Pirate Bay as "important" and a "victory." He also reiterated Congressional claims that Canada is a leading copyright violator and pointed with pride to the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which he helped pass more than a decade ago.

Hatch, who has served in the Senate for 32 years, made the remarks while addressing the World Copyright Summit on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The Utah Senator co-chairs the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus (IAPC):

For years, countries like China and Russia have been viewed as providing the least hospitable environments for the protection of intellectual property. But this year, it was particularly disappointing to see that Canada, one of America’s closest trading partners, was listed on the Watch List. This is another sobering reminder of how pervasive and how close to our borders copyright piracy has become in the global IP community...

 

Appallingly, many believe that if they find it on the Internet then it must be free. I have heard some estimates cite no less than 80 percent of all Internet traffic comprises copyright-infringing files on peer-to-peer networks.

That is why the Pirate Bay case is so important. While the decision does not solve the problem of piracy and unauthorized file sharing, it certainly is a legal victory and one that sends a strong message that such behavior will not be tolerated. We can and must do more...

 

When we passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, one of my goals was to address the problems caused when copyrighted works are disseminated through the Internet and other electronic transmissions without the authority of the copyright owner.

By establishing clear rules of the road, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act served as the catalyst that has allowed electronic commerce to flourish. I believe the DMCA, while not perfect, has nonetheless played a key role in moving our nation’s copyright law into the digital age...

The Copyright Alliance, a lobbying group for IP rights holders (the ESA is a member), applauded Hatch's remarks:

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) once again was charming, informed, thoughtful and inspiring in his speech. Once again he was a passionate supporter of creators and copyright owners, and told the 500 or so international delegates here that he has been, and always would be, their champion...

Hatch, who last won re-election to the Senate in 2006, has been a regular recipient of campaign donations from the IP industry. A quick check of donations by political action committees shows that Hatch received $7,000 from the RIAA (music industry) between 2004-2006 and $12,640 from the MPAA (movie business) between 1998-2006.

IP Watchdog has the full transcript of Hatch's remarks.

Texas Attorney General Warns Parents About Video Game Risks

June 10, 2009 -

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) warns parents about a variety of potential threats which he says video games pose to children in an editorial for the Hill Country Times.

Abbott, GamePolitics readers may recall, sued GamesRadar in 2007 for allegedly failing to adequately protect the privacy and safety of children who frequent the website. Abbott later withdrew the suit after GameRadar's parent company, Future, Inc., agreed to make appropriate changes.

While online game predators are the primary focus of his editorial, Abbott also reminds parents about parental control features built into console systems as well as the use of ESRB ratings. The A.G. previously partnered with the ESRB on a 2007 campaign to raise awareness of the video game industry's content rating system. In today's editorial Abbott writes:

When we were young, our parents warned us not to talk to strangers... Today, children are more likely to frequent a digital playground that can be even more dangerous. For example, many game systems have evolved dramatically and now have many of the same capabilities as home computers. In particular, these games’ online interfaces allow users to interact with each other using text, voice or even video chat. Parents should beware of the potential for child predators to use these systems to prey upon and contact their children...

 

Parents should also consider participating in their children’s game-playing activities. Hand-held gaming devices also pose potential risks to children. Many of these devices have wireless-communication capabilities and are popular among kids who use them to communicate with others who are within range, usually about 30 feet. Child predators may be able to exploit this feature in certain public settings...

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City Sued Over Shutdown of Controversial Video Game Exhibit

June 9, 2009 -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Colorado Attorney General Partners with ESRB on Ratings Awareness

May 28, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics broke the news that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is partnering with the ESRB for a public service ad campaign designed to raise parental awareness of the industry's video game rating system.

Colorado Springs TV station KRDO-13 is now reporting that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (R) has also jumped on board the ESRB bus. A press release on Suther's website quotes the A.G.:

I know parents face tough decisions these days about the media they allow into their homes. There’s simply no substitute for parental involvement and responsibility, and it is important that parents play an active role in choosing games for their children. ESRB ratings are an effective and informative resource that allows parents to decide if the video game their child wants is appropriate.

Suthers' message to parents will be broadcast on Colorado TV and radio.

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Congressional Anti-Piracy Caucus Singles Out Five Nations

May 22, 2009 -

On Wednesday game publishers' lobbying group ESA issued a press release praising members of the bipartisan Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus for singling out Spain, Canada, Mexico, Russia and China as anti-piracy priorities for 2009.

ESA CEO Michael Gallagher praised the IAPC in a press release:

We thank the Caucus for this year issuing a challenge to Canada and Mexico to pass additional legislative protections – such as prohibitions on ‘mod chips’ and other circumvention devices that are used to play pirated games – and to follow through with greater enforcement and border controls.

We also thank the Caucus for highlighting the severe problems that exist for our industry and other copyright industries in Spain. Online and peer-to-peer piracy are rampant and virtually unchecked in Spain and in other major European markets...

But Nick Farrell of the U.K.-based Inquirer, doesn't think much of the caucus, implying that the senators and representatives on the IAPC have been lobbied by the RIAA and other IP rights holders. Farrell writes:

The RIAA has got its tame politicians in the US congress to rail at other nations that don't hold such a jack-booted attitude toward copyright infringement as the Land of the Free...

[IAPC] singled out Baidu, China's largest Internet search engine, as being "responsible for the vast majority of illegal music downloading in China." That's interesting, because Baidu does the same thing as Google which, as a powerful US company, the music industry has not dared to denounce...

It seems almost as though the entertainment mafiaa would like the US to mount a cross-border raid into Canada over its perceived lack of draconian copyright enforcement and wants the US to treat its NATO ally Spain as a pariah for having the temerity to say that peer-to-peer file sharing over the Internet isn't a crime.

Online Video Game Predators Among Those Targeted by Alabama Bill

May 18, 2009 -

In a time when pedophile cases in which suspects contact their victims through online video game networks are on the rise, Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) will consider legislation that seeks to protect children from high-tech predators.

WAFF-48 reports that SB 120 is headed to the Guv for his signature after the Alabama House passed the bill on Friday. The measure, proposed by Sen. Myron Penn (D, at left) had previously gained the approval of the State Senate.

SB 120 makes illegal any use of an electronic device to solicit a child and includes cases in which law enforcement personnel are posing as children. From the WAFF report:

The bill outlaws many new ways that predators try to solicit minors... predators can be prosecuted for luring text messages from cell phones, PDA's and even video game systems...

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Dubya Immortalized on the Famicom

May 7, 2009 -

In a bit of political commentary, George W. Bush - looking very much like a chimp - has turned up on a fanciful cartridge for Nintendo's Famicon

Kotaku notes that the former President's cartridge is one of 58 contained in retro game shop Meteor's 2009 Famicase exhibit.

22 comments

Utah Congressman Says He's Way Better at Halo Than Rock Band

May 7, 2009 -

Perhaps more than any freshman congressman in recent memory, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has a knack for getting his name mentioned by the media.

Here at GamePolitics, we've covered Chaffetz for his Rock Band duet with Stephen Colbert. The Republican Congressman is also an active Twitter user (jasoninthehouse) and just a tad to the right of Attila the Hun. After all, he is from Utah.

But his conservative rants got the best of GP yesterday and we couldn't resist sending him a jab via Twitter:

Will you be doing anything with Rock Band again any time soon? Otherwise I may have to stop following your updates.

Chaffetz is nothing if not a good sport. He quickly followed up with a private tweet and we couldn't help but laugh:

I suck at Rock Band. Best if I stick to Halo.

By the way, Chaffetz isn't kidding about his Rock Band suckitude. Check out that 24% score from the Colbert show appearance. In any case, it's reassuring to know that at least one member of Congress enjoys a round of Halo now and again.

21 comments

Louisiana Senate to Consider Jack Thompson Video Game Bill Today

May 6, 2009 -

The Louisiana Senate will apparently discuss a Jack Thompson-authored video game bill in a hearing scheduled for later this morning.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs has SB 152 on its agenda for today.

The measure was proposed by Sen. A.G. Crowe (R) and is similar to the Thompson bill which recently passed the Utah legislature before being vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman. Like the Utah bill, SB 152 would hold companies that advertise age restrictions on products guilty of a deceptive trade practice if the product is then sold to someone underage.

While video games are not specified in the measure, they were clearly Thompson's intended target in crafting the legislation.

A review of SB 152 indicates that it goes a step beyond the Utah bill by also holding retailers guilty of a deceptive trade practice for selling a product labeled with an age restriction (for instance, an M-rated game) to someone underage. This section seems to be very close to the type of content-based sales restriction which federal courts have consistently found unconstitutional.

In addition, the bill requires retailers to check the I.D. of buyers and to post signage indicating that I.D. will be checked.

GamePolitics has left messages for Sen. Crowe to inquire about the bill. So far, he has not returned our calls. We asked Thompson last night whether he would be testifying on behalf of SB 152 today. He told us it was uncertain whether the hearing would go forward today. However, we reached a staffer in Crowe's office this morning who told us the hearing would take place.

UPDATE: The committe is webcasting its hearing now. Click here for the committee list. Click on the TV icon to the right of the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs to watch the hearing. The committe is now discussing SB 29. As I write this the Thompson bill is fifth in line for consideration.

UPDATE 2: We had to wait until the very end of the committee hearing to learn that Sen. Crowe has deferred the SB 152 hearing until next week. Join us then...

97 comments

Texas Guv Puts Secession Plans on Hold, Signs Game Biz Tax Break

April 23, 2009 -

When not making bizarre references to seceding from the United States, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is  good friend to the video game industry.

The Guv, who delivered last year's E3 keynote in Los Angeles, today signed into law HB 873. The bill increases the amount of state grants available to video game, film and other digital media production companies.

As reported by the San Marcos Daily Record, Perry was enthusiatic about the legislation at the bill signing ceremony:

With this legislation, we are strengthening our state’s investment in a vital industry that not only shows off our state to the rest of the world, but also draws investment and creates jobs for Texans.

ESA CEO Mike Gallagher praised Perry via press release:

I commend Governor Rick Perry and the Texas state legislature for recognizing the contributions that the video game industry already has made in the state, and for acting quickly and decisively to ensure that the industry has the opportunity to reach its full potential. Today, Texas showed its strong willingness to stay competitive with other states that are seeking to attract video game developers and publishers.

KVUE has a video report on the bill signing.

14 comments

Utah Bill Sponsor Apologizes to Colleagues for Jack Thompson

April 22, 2009 -

Although anti-game activist Jack Thompson's latest campaign to pass video game legislation in Utah got off to a fast start, it is ending both unsuccessfully and with rancor.

In the latest development, GamePolitics has learned that Rep. Mike Morley (R), the Utah House sponsor of the Thompson-authored HB 353, circulated an e-mail to his legislative colleagues last week in which he apologized for Thompson's behavior.

Morley's apology came in response to the flap caused by an Easter Sunday e-mail sent by Thompson to numerous Utah legislators. The e-mail, which ultimately prompted State Sen. President Michael Waddoups (R) to threaten Thompson with prosecution, depicted GTA IV 's Nico Bellic receiving a lap dance from a pair of strippers. Thompson also included links to videos of graphic GTA IV content.

Here is Morley's e-mail:

Subject: My apologies for Jack Thompson
Dear Fellow House Members:

Over the past few days, I have received three emails from Jack Thompson regarding his concerns about mature video games being sold to minors.  Certainly, I am concerned about the graphic violence and sexuality of some of the mature video games, I am apalled by his use of what I view as pornographic images.  I want to make it clear that I had no previous knowledge of his intention to send the images and I apologize to each of you who received his email and were offended as I was.

Mr. Thompson is a nation [sic] advocate for this cause, but he doesn't speak for me nor do I condone or appreciate his actions nor some his tactics.

Mike Morley

When asked for comment by GamePolitics, Thompson said that he hadn't seen Morley's e-mail and "couldn't care less." Within minutes, however, he fired off an e-mail of his own to Utah largely conservative legislators:

I understand that Mike Morley apologized to you all for the shocking image I sent you of two women in bikinis in a strip club.  Sorry, Utahns, but you can see that on a beach.  To see more explicit material as to what is in the GTA IV game, you had to click on the two links I provided, and that was your choice. I warned you what you would see if  you chose to do so.
 
Mike Morley's apology is ridiculous.  I didn't scandalous [sic] anyone with an image of two clad women.  What is really going on here is that I upset the Republican club that runs Utah, and those in that club are seizing upon this harmless image as a ruse to scold the outsider who unfortunately showed that some in Utah aren't serious about protecting children.  Your Governor isn't serious, and we sure as heck know your AG is not.  Heck, he takes money from the video game industry to say how well the ratings are working... Incredible.
 
The only apology that is owed is by each of you for not insisting upon an override session [of Gov. Huntsman's HB 353 veto]...  Your family values stance is a sham.  

GP: Pictured: Gov. Huntsman, Rep. Morley, Utah Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka, Thompson.

136 comments

What Impact Will Texas Secession Have on Video Game Biz?

April 21, 2009 -

Late last week Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) indicated that seceding from the United States was an option for his state, albeit an unlikely one.

The Guv, rumored to have presidential aspirations of his own, is upset about the economic policies of the Obama administration.

It would appear that Perry, who delivered the keynote at last year's E3 (that's him along with ESA boss Mike Gallagher at left), has forgotten what happened the last time secession was attempted in 1861: There was a bit of a disgreement that is commonly known as the Civil War.

But wouldn't a Texas secession make a great real-time strategy game? Call it Six Days in Austin. Konami could publish it.

From a video game industry perspective, establishing a new, independent nation of Texas would certainly impact publishers' lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association, which is chartered to represent the interests of video game publishers in the United States.

Canada has its own ESA and there are plenty of game industry firms based in Texas. If the Lone Star state gains independence, perhaps there will be a need for an ESA Texas as well.

Or perhaps Gov. Perry is just going off the deep end.

145 comments

Tax Day Tea Party Staged in Second Life

April 17, 2009 -

With federal income tax returns due yesterday, conservative "tea party" protests were staged at a variety of locations around the United States.

For those who prefer their political activism to be of the virtual type, the Second Life metaverse featured a Tax Day tea party of its own.

The Second Life Newspaper reports:

A diverse crowd of dozens of men and women gathered... They picked up various protest signs: “Born Free, but taxed to death,” “Give Me Liberty ... not debt!”  ...A video screen on display played a short movie with a man portraying Thomas Paine speaking out against the expansion of today’s government...

 

The Tea Party in SL was sponsored by the GOP Cafe... The big topic was what the participants saw as runaway government spending gone out of control...

A few times, the sim was griefed with floods of particles. Twice, a strange loud voice pierced the air for about half a minute. Some joked this was the work of liberals, “they can’t stand the criticism...”

80 comments

Twittering Michigan Congressman Cops to Owning a Wii

April 16, 2009 -

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) has, it would seem, something of an up-and-down relationship with digital technology.

GameCulture reports that Hoekstra visited a second-grade class in Holland, Michigan yesterday. While there, Hoekstra revealed that he owns a Wii:

After lofting Hoekstra a string of softballs, such as "Do you like your job?" "Have you, um, ever, like, gone to Hong Kong?" and "How old are you?" the shorties laid in with the bomb — "Do you own a Wii?"

After confessing that he was 55, "really old," Hoekstra broke down and conceded that, yes, he owns a Wii. He also let slip that he has a dog and a cat and that the two are friends.

Nice.

Also to his credit, Hoekstra is heavy Twitter user, although GamePolitics readers may recall that in February, Hoeksta spilled the beans about a top-secret congressional trip to Iraq by tweeting about it

During the Bush years, Hoekstra presided over a 2006 congressional hearing during which House Intelligence Committee members were told that a YouTube video featuring stock Battlefield 2 gameplay footage and a voice-over from Team America: World Police were products of an Al Qaeda propaganda campaign.

11 comments

 
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Papa MidnightThe Verge says the sequel to Flappy Bird is nearly impossible. http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/21/6053297/swing-copters-flappy-bird-sequel08/21/2014 - 12:22pm
SleakerPC-Gamer wrote an article on what's going on with the Minecraft stuff: http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/08/21/minecraft-bukkit-team-lead-tries-to-end-development-but-mojang-steps-in/08/21/2014 - 11:55am
SleakerEVE had a high-profile ban today: http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/08/20/eve-online-lottery-site-somer-blink-shutting-down/#continued08/21/2014 - 10:26am
SleakerBut where have all the Ethics gone?08/21/2014 - 9:08am
Sleaker@EZK - one of the bigger things is that since Mojang has owned Bukkit for 2 years now, people contributing to the project have basically been doing work for them pro-bono. On top of never formalizing support. They hid the fact probably to prevent support08/21/2014 - 9:07am
SleakerIf you've played on a server with mods/plugins, you've almost for sure played on a Bukkit-based server.08/21/2014 - 8:56am
SleakerHere's Bukkit's explanation attempt at shutting down due to EULA changes: http://forums.bukkit.org/threads/bukkit-its-time-to-say.305106/08/21/2014 - 8:55am
SleakerEZK - it's the largest server mod for MC, in actuality without it minecraft for sure would not have been as popular (#1 game now).08/21/2014 - 8:54am
SleakerTo the point that it seems they have completely lost what it means to be for-community, and having transparency. Along with dumping restrictive EULA's onto people.08/21/2014 - 8:53am
E. Zachary KnightWhat is Bukkit and why should I care?08/21/2014 - 8:53am
SleakerMinecraft community exploded again today. Apparently Mojang owns all of Bukkit, and never put out a statement saying as such 2 years ago when they acquired them. I have to say, their transition from indie has been rough.08/21/2014 - 8:52am
james_fudgeThere aren't many left in America08/21/2014 - 1:50am
MechaTama31I sure have. Dorky's barcade in Tacoma, WA.08/20/2014 - 5:56pm
Matthew WilsonI have not been to a arcade in years. I know arcades are still big in japan.08/20/2014 - 5:38pm
Sleaker@AE - Ah no it's called GroundKontrol - I was just referring to it as a Bar-Arcade.08/20/2014 - 4:39pm
Andrew EisenStill looking for confirmation that High Moon Studios (dev behind the PS3/360 versions) isn't working on it.08/20/2014 - 4:38pm
ZenGotcha.08/20/2014 - 4:37pm
Andrew EisenI already updated the story with it!08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
Zenhttp://www.gonintendo.com/s/235574-treyarch-isn-t-working-call-of-duty-advanced-warfare-for-wii-u-either08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
ZenLet me send the link for the Tweet as well...they state Treyarch is not working on it. Grabbing it now.08/20/2014 - 4:34pm
 

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