Norway's King Harald V stepped in recently when a six-year-old boy sought to change his name to "Sonic X."
As reported by Gamezine, the lad, whose given name is Christer, wrote to the King with his request:
Sadly, the King could not change Christer's name, but not because the change would result in a child running around with a ridiculous video game character's title. No, the request was rejected for the sole reason that at six-years-old, Christer was not old enough to make such a decision. Thus, the boy must contact King Harald V in twelve years time once he's turned 18.
Christer admitted that he was disappointed...
Sega is apparently sending the lad some Sonic-themed swag to ease his disappointment.
An Australian parents' group is protesting the MA15+ rating assigned to Wii zombie shooter House of the Dead: Overkill.
The gaming industry has been mischievously misrepresenting the classification system on this issue. I feel very distressed that a large number of teenagers and adults would play this game and soak up this amount of sexually aggressive violence and aggressively violent language.
We need to draw a deep breath and look at the research, which will show a need to scale back this level of violence.
Given the increasing amount of knowledge now available of the effects of exposure to intense levels of violence on the adolescent brain, we should be reviewing the level of violence the MA15+ classification now allows.
Conway also called for additional research into the impact of violent games on players. Last year, Conway claimed that violent games would turn troubled kids into "lethal killers."
Sega spokesman Vispi Bhopti defended HOTD:O, however:
House of the Dead: Overkill has been rated as suitable for people over 15. It is not an R-rated game. The swearing in it is very much stylised so it matches the Grindhouse cinema style made famous by director Quentin Tarantino.
In playing the game, players attack zombies or humanoid characters but never humans. This is an important distinction that the classification board makes when it gives a rating.
Kudos to Sega Europe chief Mike Hayes.
While Take-Two CEO Ben Feder and other video game industry moguls have been doing a great deal of whining about used game sales of late, Hayes has opted for a rational, consumer-friendly approach.
gamesindustry.biz is featuring an interview with Hayes, who explains his common-sense view of the used game issue and says that he wants to avoid "relationship damage with the consumer."
Here are Hayes's used game comments:
Right now it's probably not on our top ten list of things that we need to take action and be concerned about. The whole second-hand games market is one of those very, very sensitive areas that I've got to say Sega keeps a pretty low profile on - and I'll tell you why. I know that there are publishers that are vehemently, aggressively against it.
My reluctant view is that while I can understand that, if publishers were to try and enforce a non-second-hand market to the consumer, I think there would be relationship damage with the consumer. Of course, commercially, do I support it? Of course not, and I have to think here of the 650 people we employ at Sega Europe.
However, do we have a successful business working with the retailers that offer that service? Yes, we do. So would I ever join a campaign to get it stopped? The answer is no. Do I like it? The answer is no. I may be sitting on the fence here, but there needs to be a bit of reality on the market.
Yesterday GamePolitics broke the news that the British Board of Film Classification had issued an 18 rating to Madworld, Sega's upcoming Wii gore-fest.
In doing so, the BBFC ignored a demand from Mediawatch-UK that Madworld be banned in the British market.
Spong is now reporting that John Beyer, head of the media watchdog group, has expressed disappointment over the BBFC's decision to approve Madworld for sale:
I'm disappointed but not surprised. I think my view is pretty well known. It's what I expected.
It's hardly a surprise, but the British Board of Film Classification has officially rated Sega's upcoming Madworld with an 18 certificate.
The BBFC noted that Madworld "contains very strong, stylised, bloody violence."
No edits to the game were required. As GamePolitcs reported last August, Sega was said to be working closely with the BBFC to avoid a ban such as was imposed on Rockstar's controversial Manhunt 2 in 2007.
A British family values group, Mediawatch-UK, has called for a ban on the bloody Wii title.
Madworld is scheduled to launch on March 31st in the U.K. Here in the United States, Madworld is set for March 10th release. The ESRB has not yet issued a rating.
UPDATE: Edge is reporting that Madworld has also been cleared for sale in Australia.
mediawatch-UK can dish out criticism, but apparently has trouble taking it.
The self-appointed media watchdog group complains that it was flooded with e-mails from angry gamers in August after the head of the organization called for a ban on Sega's upcoming Madworld.
mediawatch-UK's autumn newsletter contains a whinge about the e-mails, which started when the organization's director, John Beyer (left), told the Daily Mail that he hoped the British Board of Film Classification would deny Madworld a rating, effectively banning the game in the U.K.
Within hours of these remarks being published a rain of hostile emails from gamers poured into our office telling us to "shut the f*** up", suggesting that we have "got our knickers in a twist", demanding, as though we were on trial for an heinous crime, to know what right we had to impose our "narrow minded bigotry" on them and stopping them playing an "adult" game of their choice.
Others, of a more sober character, asked reasonably why we should be so concerned about games when there was so much violence in films and on television! We were also accused us of being "cowards" for not responding properly to belligerent strictures and one ‘emailer' observed glibly that "violent acts are not a symptom of video games and films, but rather the human condition". Another said: "If you don't like violent content, don't view or use it"...
Feature articles, grossly exaggerating the significance of our comments, were written in computer game magazines exonerating the multimillion pound games industry and headlines were achieved on Google News UK and dismissive remarks made in The Guardian newspaper...
mediawatch-UK's conclusion from all of this?
It is evident from this that the battle for standards has rather shifted away from television towards games and the internet.
GP: Make up your mind, mediawatch-UK. If you want to be a player in this debate, learn to deal with people who not only have an opposing view, but will be directly affected by the censorship for which you are lobbying. Moreover, your whining about negative media coverage is silly. Why shouldn't those in the media who disagree with your advocacy of censorship speak out?
There's an old saying about the heat and the kitchen that seems applicable in this case.
People for the Ethical Treament of Animals (PETA) has said "good boy!" to Sega after the publisher pulled a Samba de Amigo ad which featured a live chimp.
Why is that a big deal? PETA explains:
After learning that SEGA used a real chimpanzee in an online video promoting Samba De Amigo... we contacted the company.
We explained how involuntary chimpanzee "actors" are taken away from their mothers when they are just a year or so old and forced to perform confusing and repetitious tricks. We also explained some of the horrible methods that chimpanzee "trainers" use, such as electric shocks with shock collars and prods, isolation, beatings with sawed-off pool cues and slapjacks, and food deprivation. Then, at the ripe old age of just 8, the chimpanzees reach puberty and their showbiz careers are over—and they end up being dumped at dismal roadside zoos or sold to laboratories for experimentation.
Faster than you can mangle a Metallica song on Guitar Hero, SEGA pulled the video from its site and promised to keep all great apes out of its ads!
Sega, publisher of the upcoming MadWorld, is working closely with the ESRB on the bloody game's content, according to a report on MTV Multiplayer.
Sega's goal, of course, is to avoid a sales-killing Adults Only rating. It's more or less a given that black-and-white (and red) MadWorld will be tagged with at least an M rating in the United States.
Of the cooperation, MTV Multiplayer's Patrick Klepek writes:
Sega is working closely with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to ensure the game receives just an M rating, they told me. The ESRB receives new builds on a regular basis and Sega notes their feedback. Sega wants them to feel “part of the process” of developing “MadWorld” and isn’t looking to surprise them...
But don’t let the ESRB’s involvement make you nervous; “MadWorld” is plenty violent right now. It looks like “Sin City” was bathed in a bucket of blood.
As GamePolitics reported in August, Sega is similarly working with the BBFC on smoothing over MadWorld's path to a successful U.K. release. It's unclear, however, whether MadWorld will see release in other violence-sensitive markets, including Japan, Germany and Australia.
Although MadWorld is not scheduled for release until March, the game has already been the subject of at least one call for a ban.
If there is a more pointless bureaucratic exercise than ordering that a commercial for a video game released six months ago not be run again, we'd like to hear about it.
Once again, the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority has banned a violent game ad well after the time when the action would have had any hint of relevance. This time around a pair of commercials for Sega's Condemned 2: Bloodshot (release date: March, 2008) have been banned - not that they were likely to be aired again.
As detailed by the ASA's website, nine complaints were received about a pair of Condemned 2 adverts:
The first ad... showed scenes of violence including a man punching another on the floor and blood splattering on the screen as a man was beaten with a club... The second ad... included the same violent scenes and on-screen text but also included further scenes... This time, as the characters fought, noises could be heard which seemed to express pain and the force of their exertions.
As one might expect, Sega Europe argued that Condemned 2 was aimed at a mature audience and that the ads ran later in the evening when less likely to be seen by children. Ultimately the ASA ruled today that:
The ads breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 6.1 (Offence), 6.2 (Violence and cruelty) and 6.4 (Personal distress)... The ads must not be broadcast again in their current form.
GP: In other words: Sega, don't broadcast that commercial that you had no further intention of broadcasting anyway. This is not the first time the ASA has weighed in so pointlessly. As GamePolitics previously reported, the agency banned ads for Kane & Lynch five months after release.
Who doesn't love the Dreamcast?
I've got two of them around here somewhere, and they still work great. Ebay has occasionally crossed my mind, but I can't bear to part with them, actually.
Speaking of the Dreamcast, EA Sports exec Peter Moore, who was The Man when it came to the North American DC launch, is profiled in the current issue of Esquire. U.K. newspaper The Guardian is running excerpts, with the first installment appearing today. Moore is a terrific interview, entertaining and up-front. Here's a small taste:
The Dreamcast was an interesting beast. Sega was so financially strapped... These are big stakes games. I mean, when you're launching a games console, you need hundreds of millions of dollars to get it off the ground… and so the North American launch was the last best chance... to salvage what was going to be a tough situation with the PS2 looming 12 months out...
We amassed a very strong line up of titles, but unfortunately, EA - God bless 'em – decided they weren't going to publish on Dreamcast. That forced me to build my own sports brand, called 2K – we came up with the name one night, because it was the Y2K period...
Dreamcast was a phenomenal 18 months of pain, heartache, euphoria… We thought we had it, but then Playstation came out... and of course, EA didn't publish which left a big hole, not only in sports but in other genres. We ended up that Christmas period not being able to get to where we needed to be – we weren't far short, we just couldn't get that critical mass...
GP: The Dreamcast was the first console launch that I ever covered. I have vivid memories of playing Seaman, House of the Dead 2 and NFL2K at E3 1999, a few month pre-launch. The DC was going strong by the time of E3 2000 and so were Moore's marketing efforts. Sega's E3 presence was highlighted by a 5-story plywood building facade. At regular intervals, girls clad in silver hot pants outfits was pop out of the windows to dance to music from Space Channel 5.
E3 2001 was an entirely different story. By then, the DC was no longer in production. Peter Moore met with the press in a somber, bare space enclosed by a dark curtain. That was Sega's E3 presence. I can't remember all that he said, except that Sega was becoming "hardware agnostic" - that they would make games for other people's consoles, including the PS2. That must have been tough, since Sony's machine has just finished steamrolling the DC into oblivion. Peter was very subdued that day, far from his normal ebullient self. That press conference felt very much like a funeral for the Dreamcast.
At the time, EA's refusal to publish Dreamcast games was widely believed to be a crucial factor in its demise. Ironic, then, that Moore is now running EA Sports.
Given the pre-release backlash from media watchdogs over the level of violence depicted in Sega's upcoming Wii title Madworld, publisher Sega is said to be in touch with officials of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and Pan-European Gaming Information system (PEGI) in an effort to head off the type of outright ban imposed on Rockstar Games' controversial Manhunt 2 last year.
Nintendic reports on the dialogue between Sega and the ratings bodies. Of particular significance is the BBFC. The organization was behind the Manhunt 2 ban, which was later overturned by Britain's High Court. More recently government officials have indicated that their preference is to turn the U.K.'s game rating chores over to the BBFC. The British game industry, however, would prefer PEGI.
Nintendic quotes Sega exec David Corless:
Yes, [Madworld's] violent. We don’t try to hide that, but as publishers, we see it as a fantasy game - it’s fantasy violence. It’s over the top. It’s cartoony. We also take the violence very seriously. We are working with the age rating boards, with PEGI and with BBFC. We’re not at the end of the game’s development, but we’re working with them now to make sure that we don’t go over the top. The game has been banned in Germany; there’s no getting around that unfortunately. But we are taking it seriously and we’re going to make sure that this game is rated for the appropriate audience.
What’s black and white and read all over?
A newspaper, but if veteran games industry marketer Bruce Everiss has anything to say about it, that should not include the UK’s Daily Mail:
They really are just trying to sell newspapers with sensationalism because nobody with a brain can be stupid enough to believe what they have written.
Everiss took umbrage with an article concerning Madworld, Sega’s upcoming bloody brawler that’s being developed exclusively for the Wii. The Daily Mail suggested that the game would tarnish the Wii’s family-friendly image and quoted a UK watchdog group that is calling for a BBFC ban on the as-yet unreleased title.
For his part, Everiss offered a point-by-point counter to the Mail’s claims.
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen...
The Daily Mail has published news of the first - but surely not the last - mainstream attack on Sega's upcoming Madworld for the Wii:
Players in the 'hack and slash' game, which is due for a UK release in early 2009, can impale enemies on road signs, rip out hearts and execute them with weapons including chainsaws and daggers.
The decision to release a violent game on a console which has based its reputation on family fun has shocked anti-violence pressure groups.
John Beyer, head of watchdog group Mediawatch-UK, called for a ban on Madworld:
This game sounds very unsavoury. I hope the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will view this with concern and decide it should not be granted a classification. Without that it cannot be marketed in Britain. What the rest of world does is up to them. We need to ensure that modern and civilized values take priority rather than killing and maiming people.
It seems a shame that the game's manufacturer have decided to exclusively release this game on the Wii. I believe it will spoil the family fun image of the Wii.
An unnamed Nintendo spokesperson told the Daily Mail:
Wii appeals to a wide range of audiences from children and teenagers to adult and senior citizens, anyone from 5 - 95, as such there is a wide range of content for all ages and tastes available. Mad World will be suitably age rated through the appropriate legal channels and thus only available to an audience above the age rating it is given. The game is not made by Nintendo but by Sega.
Sega of America CEO Simon Jeffrey (left) has issued a bit of a spanking to his counterparts at Electronic Arts over their handling of the never-ending Take-Two takeover bid.
In a wide-ranging interview with Forbes, Jeffrey said:
It feels like EA kind of needs [Take-Two], but it probably shouldn't have made it so public that it really needed it. I think that it's losing some investor confidence; the stock price is at a three-year low. And it seems like EA has been the petulant child instead of the professional market leader. However it's EA, and it's really good at coming back.
Jeffrey praised Activision in the same interview:
[Activision Chairman] Bobby Kotick is one of the smartest people in the business. The way he's constructed Activision is really admirable... Bobby has grown Activision in stages over a long number of years to get to this point. And it's very calculating and very clever the way he's done that. Activision has also managed to be the first company in this business to market games properly. Anyone who can turn a hardcore brand like "Call of Duty" into a 10 million unit seller … is outstanding.
GP: Alas, no talk of the return of the Dreamcast... (sigh)
Sega of America president Simon Jeffery (left) has become the latest industry heavyweight to opine on E3, offering support for the Entertainment Software Association, which operates the show, but at the same time calling for changes in future editions of the expo:
As reported by MCVUK, Jeffery said:
E3 was a strange beast this year. We had an extremely strong product showing, had some great meetings, and got our messaging over pretty strongly – all at an event that had all the atmosphere of a large hospital corridor.
We [at Sega] are big supporters of the ESA, and believe in an efficient need to communicate with the trade at all levels, but we’d like to see something that represents the fun, dynamic nature of the industry a little better without going back to the insanity that was E3 of old.
Jeffery also took a shot at Activision and other publishers which left the ESA this year:
I’m not at all happy with the principal of coat tailing. It’s like not paying your taxes but still expecting all the government services. I know that the ESA will work hard to bring those publishers back on board, and we believe in them.