Game Attempts to Bring Fun to High Security Environments

April 19, 2010 -

A new game, designed to “explore the limits of pervasive gaming,” takes place in real airports and prompts players to plant drugs on other travelers in a bid to get the contraband through security.

Blowtooth is the work of the UK-based Lincoln Social Computer Research Center and relax, the drugs are virtual, though the airport security forces a user is trying to dupe are real. The game operates like this: once in an airport—and before passing through security—a user fires up the Blowtooth application on their smart phone. The application will scan the nearby vicinity for Bluetooth devices, allowing the player to “conceptually dump or retrieve contraband,” on other people’s devices.

The goal is to then retrieve the “contraband” on the other side of security, with points being awarded for how many “couriers” "drugs" can be retrieved from and how fast the roundup was. The “couriers” or “mules” remain blissfully unaware of their involvement in the game.

3 comments | Read more

Ho Chi Minh City Struggles to Deal with Risqué Games

March 29, 2010 -

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is awash in a sea of pornographic games, which are displayed—and often can be played—out in the open.

An article in the Vietnam Vet Bridge details the spread of such games, from touch-screen, table top interfaces in malls or trading centers, to being offered for sale in markets (for use with game consoles like the PlayStation 2) and ultimately, to their availability online. One shopkeeper claimed that she sells “many games with sexy girls daily, adding that they were a favorite among teens.”

A reporter from the paper Tuoi Tre purchased one game disc for the price of 20,000 dong (approximately $1.07 U.S.), prompting the paper to corner Le Manh Ha (pictured), Director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Information and Communications, for some answers regarding an apparent lack of government regulation.

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Games Share Blame for Irish Marriage Woes

March 18, 2010 -

An Ireland-based Catholic marriage counseling service claims that the Internet, gaming and pornography are among factors contributing to a current rise in marriage problems.

Accord saw demand for its counseling services grow 10 percent in 2009, which Accord Director Ruth Barror blamed on financial problems, cyber sex and gambling, while Acting Director of Counseling Liam Lally told the Irish Examiner that Internet-related marriage problems have “jumped dramatically in recent years.”

A figure applied to these issues claims an 87.5 percent jump in marriage complaints related to the Internet since 2007.  Over the same period, financial issues grew 71.0 percent, while depression and stress-related claims rose 14.0 percent and 12.0 percent.

Lally continued:

11 comments | Read more

Venezuela Reportedly Enacts Violent Game Ban

March 8, 2010 -

A law introduced last year that would ban violent videogames and toys in Venezuela was enacted last Wednesday, according to various news sources.

Under the law, importers, producers, distributors or sellers of the banned toys and games could face fines and jail time ranging from two to five years. In a story dated March 3, Prensa Latina reported that the law had been passed.

The law, when initially proposed to Venezuela’s National Assembly, proposed that the country’s consumer protection society be granted full power in determining what games and toys were deemed violent, though no indication was given into what criteria might be used to judge the goods.

As it was drawn up, the law also featured provisions for teaching crime prevention classes in school, public campaigns to warn about the dangers of videogames. A government campaign to promote games that taught children “respect for an adversary” was also included, though no word on if this, or any, additional provisions were a part of the new law.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is apparently not a big fan of videogames as witnessed by an outburst earlier this year in which he labeled the PlayStation as “poison.” The ban on violent games and toys is apparently seen as a way to somehow combat crime and violence in the country.

An Overseas Security Advisory Council report on Venezuela had this to say about the country's level of violence:

The U.S. Department of State has rated Venezuela a critical threat country for crime.  The capital city of Caracas has been named murder capital of the world by many experts and that violence extends to the entire country.  Murder, kidnappings, armed robberies, carjackings and residential break-ins occur with impunity and perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.

While officially banned, handguns are readily available and a common sight throughout Venezuela.  Armed robberies occur in broad daylight including areas frequented by tourists.


|Via SlashDot and Cheater 87|

17 comments

Sexual Orientation Can Now be Included in Gamertag

March 5, 2010 -

Microsoft has updated its Xbox Live Code of Conduct with terminology that now allows gamers to include their sexual orientation in their Gamertag.

Gamers are now free to label themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender or Straight, in a move GayGamer called “fantastic.”

In a letter announcing the change, Microsoft’s Mark Whitten wrote:

Under our previous policy, some of these expressions of self-identification were not allowed in Gamertags or profiles to prevent the use of these terms as insults or slurs. However we have since heard feedback from our customers that while the spirit of this approach was genuine, it inadvertently excluded a part of our Xbox LIVE community. This update also comes hand-in-hand with increased stringency and enforcement to prevent the misuse of these terms.

More from GayGamer on the change:

This is something we have been fighting for here on GayGamer for a long time and it's gives us a wonderful feeling to finally see it come to fruition.

Congratulations to Microsoft and Xbox Live for stepping up to the plate and listening to the concerns of an important and oft overlooked section of the gaming community. Bravo!


Thanks Andrew!

66 comments

Another Take on Papadopoulos Paper

March 5, 2010 -

Earlier this week we detailed a review paper penned by Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, which explored the Sexualization of Young People.

Who better to further explore the topic than a female gamer that revels in violent games? Julie from our sister site GameCulture offers her take on the subject here, go check it out.

Here's a little taste:

A lot of the findings in the report deal specifically with younger people and teenagers. I'm not a parent so I can't comment on what I would or wouldn't do in that situation. And perhaps I've become desensitized to the level of violence depicted in video games. In fact I enjoy games with alot of action, guns, and yes, even violence. Is it wrong that I find games with guns enjoyable to play? I like shooting at other players and killing them but I'm not about to go and grab a gun and shoot someone.

13 comments

More on Games Contributing to the Sexualization of Girls

March 3, 2010 -

A review penned by Dr. Linda Papadopoulos into the Sexualization of Young People, which was alluded to last week on GP, has been released and videogames play a prominent role in it.

The review (PDF) was done at the request of the UK’s Home Office and is part of a government strategy to address violence against females. In a foreword, Papadopoulos writes that the document is “not an opinion piece,” but one constructed from “empirical data from peer reviewed journals.”

In her Executive Summary, the doctor notes that “games are becoming increasingly graphic and realistic,” and that children are “more and more likely to play games without adult supervision.” She also adds that a link between violent content and aggression has been cited in “several studies,” and that it is “widely accepted that exposure to content that children are either emotionally or cognitively not mature enough for can have a negative impact.”

Under section five of the report, entitled Sexualized Content and the Mainstreaming of Pornography, Papadopoulos notes that “High street stores sell video games where the player can beat up prostitutes with bats and steal from them in order to facilitate game progression,” leading to the following “clear” message to girls that this type of media portrays, as interpreted by the doctor, “... young girls should do whatever it takes to be desired. For boys the message is just as clear: be hyper-masculine and relate to girls as objects.”

A few other videogame references from the review:

Violence against women is often trivialised. For example, in the game Rape-Lay…

Many popular video games effectively reward children for engaging in violent, illegal activity, albeit virtually…

Nevertheless, it is imperative that we acknowledge the very real possibility that, say, pornography that shows girls talking with relish about pre-teen sexual exploits, or highly realistic video games where players take on the role of stalker and rapist might start to blur the boundaries between what is acceptable and what is not. [Ed. does that sound like empirical data?]

Among her sweeping recommendations, Papadopoulos recommends that game consoles be shipped with parental controls pre-activated and that:

Games consoles are sold with a separate ‘unlocking’ code, which purchasers can choose to input if they wish to use or allow access of the console to adult and online content.


GP: Papadopoulos' bio notes that she has made appearances on the TV series Big Brother, which as our resident curmudgeon DarkSaber was quick to point out, is not known for serving up content that is exactly empowering for any form of life, including females. There is no mention of (nor blame placed on) Big Brother in her report. Indeed, videogames are more of a focus of her review than television.

50 comments

Disabled Gamer’s Suit Against Sony Tossed

February 26, 2010 -

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a disabled gamer against Sony Corporation of America, Sony Computer Entertainment America and Sony Online Entertainment which alleged that the defendants denied access to their services for people with disabilities.

The suit was originally filed by plaintiff Alexander Stern in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California last October. The dismissal notice (PDF) was handed down on February 8 of this year.

Stern had argued that, “his visual processing impairments prevent him from fully enjoying the video games manufactured by Sony, some of which are played on gaming systems with internet connections through which players in different locations can communicate and play with or against one another.”

The court noted that, “According to the Ninth Circuit, to prevail on an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Title III discrimination claim, “the plaintiff must show that (1) she is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) the defendant is a private entity that owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation; and (3) the plaintiff was denied public accommodations by the defendant because of her disability.”

In its ruling, the court stated, in reference to point number 2 above, that Sony is not a “place of public accommodation” and was “therefore not liable for violating Title III of the ADA.”


|Via The Hollywood Reporter|

53 comments

UK Doctor: Games Contribute to Sexualization of Girls

February 22, 2010 -

A UK psychologist has blamed videogames, among other media, for the sexualization of young girls.

Dr. Linda Papadopoulos (pictured), a clinical psychologist at London Metropolitan University, who has also appeared on TV shows such as Big Brother and the Celebrity Fit Club, called out games that contain high sexual content as “hypersexualising girls, telling them that their desirability relies on being desired.”

In a story in the London Evening Standard she specifically called out the browser-based game Miss Bimbo as an offender. The game entices girls to “Become the hottest, coolest most intelligent and talented bimbo the world has ever known!”

Papadopoulos’ comments were taken from an upcoming government inquiry into the subject, which will be published shortly. In her report, Papadopoulosis is expected to call for a labeling system to be slapped on airbrushed images used in media and an age limit for the some of the more racy men's magazines.


|Via MCVUK|

68 comments

Gamers: Jace Has Your Back

February 19, 2010 -

Jason/Jace Hall has had a long and varied career centered in interactive entertainment, but he’s found yet another new career to try out—recording star.

Hall is putting out an EP entitled Video Games Aren’t Bad For Ya, which as you might imagine, will attempt to put games in a positive light. The EP’s first single is called I Play W.O.W., an unapologetic ode to playing the massively multiplayer online game.

Hall's take on game critics:

When you are told that you are being lazy, or wasting your time, or being anti social – when in fact you have just spent 22 hours working VERY hard with a GROUP of people accomplishing extremely difficult tasks – you want to tell the uninformed person accosting you to F** OFF!

While the song has a certain Weird Al quality to it, it’s all in fun, and Hall is a giant of a man, so we’ll reserve any further judgment. Just go listen to/download a clean version of the song here. Clean and explicit versions are available on iTunes for 99 cents each.

Hall was a co-founder and CEO of Monolith Productions before moving on to become Senior Vice President of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Now he is an Executive Producer of the ABC television show V: The Series and star of the Jace Hall Show.

5 comments

Social Interaction as a Lynchpin of Gaming

January 27, 2010 -

A love of the social aspects of videogames tends to drive any perceived dependence on games more so than a game’s activity itself.

This is the angle a Kent State University article takes in examining the aspects of what fuels gamers to keep on playing, in addition to the subject of whether or not the term “addiction” is fair to use in relation to videogames. KSU Sophomore Brian Clark weighed in on the latter subject, stating that the use of such a term was misleading:

Rather than craving the game itself, they crave the interaction they get in the game so rather than going out and having a real life social interaction, they’re having social interactions with other people on a game.

The piece notes that a definition of someone addicted to videogames, as put forth by the American Medical Association (AMA), is a person that “has more control and success over his or her social relationships in the virtual world than reality.”

World of Warcraft was mentioned often in the piece, with Clark admitting that a friend of his had a reliance on the online game, which Clark, again, attributed to the social aspect of WOW. The additional factor of playing a game that never really ends only increases the difficulty of putting a game like WOW aside noted student Connor Shivers.

Achievements can also be a powerful lure for gamers to keep playing. Clark’s previously discussed WOW-loving friend also became reliant on them, “He would play some Xbox games just for the fact of getting achievement points (on Xbox LIVE) and feeling like he accomplished something.”

GP: The definition as defined by the AMA probably needs to be updated as more and more relationships that begin in virtual worlds cross over to the real world. I would venture a guess that most hardcore gamers have befriended a fellow gamer via an online guild or clan and then met up with them IRL.

25 comments

PBS Prepping All Encompassing Look at Digital Life

January 20, 2010 -

The Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) investigative show Frontline will air a deep look into how digital media and the Internet have transformed human lives and the subject of videogames is featured heavily in the program.

Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier will debut on February 2 at 9:00 ET. The 90 minute show was produced by Rachel Dretzin, who also created the recent Frontline special Growing Up Online, and will feature commentary from Douglas Rushkoff. Segments include Living Faster, Relationships, Waging War, Virtual Worlds and Learning.

Many individual videos are already available for viewing on the PBS website and a trailer for the show offers a quick overview of what it’s all about.

The Waging War section features game-related topics such as the military’s use of virtual reality training, as well as looks at both America’s Army and the Army Experience Center.

Virtual Worlds contains a cornucopia of videogame segments, including the use of virtual reality therapy for veterans, gaming addiction, professional gamers, violent games, Second Life and about 20 more pieces.

Another cool aspect to the program is that the Digital Nation website launched about a year ago ago in a bid to let users collaborate with the project by sharing their own experiences.

Christian Group Calls for MW2 Ban, Also Hunts Witches

December 21, 2009 -

Maine’s Christian Civic League is calling for a ban on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

The League writes that we live in a time where “the public has been dangerously desensitized to violence,” and that “many find a thrill in participating in violent video games.”   It claims that Modern Warfare 2 goes too far, “even in our own desensitized age,” and specifically calls out the No Russian scene (which it calls the “Massacre Level”) as most offending.

“All decent people should denounce the game,” continues the League, which goes on to suggest that the state of Maine should open debate into banning “these” games completely.

The League then attempts to play up the link between violent videogames and school shootings, and while  Maine has yet to have a school shooting of its own, “the danger is growing each passing day” adds the League.

Videogames are just one manifestation of current social ills however:

The ready availability of drugs, violent video games, and outrageous rock music is a witch's brew which will eventually lead to tragedy here in Maine.

In related League news, the group also accused the owner of a local book store of being a witch and claimed that the store owner cast a spell on the Administrator of the League, Mike Hein, in return for being “outed” as a “practitioner of the occult.”

113 comments

China's Latest Task: Harmonizing Social Games

December 16, 2009 -

The Chinese government appears to be expanding its control over the games industry, this time setting its sites on social games and networks, according to a guest article on TechCrunch.

When the government gets involved and censors certain content, commenters refer to the game as being "harmonized," as happened with Mafia games during the Summer. But apparently social games are taking a closer look at actions and changing language in their games in an attempt to stay a step ahead of the Chinese censors. For example, players of the popular Happy Farm now pick their neighbors crops, not steal them:

Five Minutes, the developer of the smash hit Happy Farm (the first SNS farm game), confirmed that the terms had been voluntarily changed in an interview with BloggerInsight. This comes as the government is "considering specific social gaming laws and regulations, to be enacted as early as next year ... to end the chaotic market conditions," according to ChinaNews, which scooped the story on Wednesday last week.

The article says that the government has gone so far as to spread doctored news accounts to damage the reputation of popular social games like Happy Farm.

And the threat of regulation is prompting some developers to be proactive to stay ahead of the government:

Although the SNS landscape is splintered, the government is determined to maintain control. There is no Facebook, no single dominant social network for all of China: the top 3 are Qzone, Kaixin001, and RenRen (see chart).  When it comes to games, Qzone and Kaixin001 develop everything in-house with games inspired from Facebook, while Renren has a mostly open API so it can tap into outside developers to copy games for them. All have keyword lists and teams responsible for the instant removal of “objectionable” content.

Platforms have borne the responsibility for game regulation until now, but developers may soon become practiced in self-censorship too. The new regulations will likely be similar to those for MMORPGs: a list of “do’s and don’ts” for Chinese social games, according to an industry insider. This could include age ratings or a requirement that social games be suitable for players of all ages.

The article concludes with a warning to Western game developers hoping to tap into the Chines market:

The China market is seductive, but outside game companies should proceed with caution. Foreign developers would be wise to cultivate political ties and partner with or build a local studio, as Popcap Games did. Also, be sure your games promote "harmonious social values" -- Mafia Wars need not apply.
5 comments

Lawsuit Targets Zynga In-Game “Scam” Ads

December 8, 2009 -

A class action suit filed against the Zynga Game Network and Facebook alleges that “most, if not all” of the advertisements presented in Zynga’s social games are scams.

Rebecca Swift of Santa Cruz, California filed the lawsuit on November 17th in the United States District Court, Northern District of California. Swift claims that in April 2009, she provided her cell phone number to a Zynga advertiser/lead generator (offered in the form of an IQ test) in order to be texted a code that she could redeem for virtual currency in Zynga’s YoVille! game. Swift was then billed $9.99 on three different occasions as a result of her transgression.

On another occasion Swift signed up for a program centered around the “risk free trial” of a green tea herb supplement that promised to bestow Yoville currency on participants. Swift claimed the ad said she could cancel within 15 days of her order, so she went ahead and signed up using her debit card and was charged $5.95 for shipping and handling of the product. After receiving the product on June 24, 2009, Swift attempted to cancel the agreement, but on July 6 was charged $79.95, plus a $2.38 foreign transaction fee. On July 20, defendant was charged another $85.90, plus a foreign transaction fee.

All in all, for $165.85, Swift received 60 green tea pills and six tea bags from China. She believes that “Facebook and Zynga both profited and shared the funds” that she contributed, and that “both were aware, or should have been aware, of the false and misleading nature of the advertisement.”

The candor displayed by Zynga’s CEO Mark Pincus earlier this year, in discussing how he would do anything to make money for the company in its early days, may come back to haunt him, as the defendant cites direct quotes from Pincus on the subject in her complaint.

Defendant stated that the “aggregate amount in controversy for the Class exceeds $5.0 million.”
Zynga-developed applications include Farmville, Mafia Wars and Roller Coaster Kingdom in addition to the previously mentioned Yoville! The company claims 60.0 million daily users.

Fool me once, strike one. Fool me twice, strike three.


|Via USA Today|

30 comments

Disabled Gamer Sues Sony

November 10, 2009 -

A disabled, visually-impaired gamer has filed suit against Sony Corporation of America, Sony Computer Entertainment America and Sony Online Entertainment claiming that the defendants are denying people with disabilities equal access to their goods and services.

The suit was filed by plaintiff Alexander Stern on October 23 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Stern seeks to “put an end to systemic civil rights violations” allegedly perpetrated by the defendants.

Stern claims to have sent both physical and electronic mail to officials at Sony requesting “minor modifications” that would remove the barrier to gaming for disabled people. In the complaint, Stern says that a Sony representative told him that “Sony would not offer any modifications whatsoever for persons with disabilities.”

Among other actions, Stern is seeking an injunction to prohibit Sony from violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, a declaration that Sony owns, operates and maintains equipment that discriminates against the disabled, unspecified damages and to have his lawyer’s fees and expenses paid for.

The plaintiff added in the complaint that games such as World of Warcraft do support access by disabled and/or visually impaired people by “providing visual cues through several simple third-party modifications.” Stern notes that other accessibility features are available and have been implemented by “companies whose resources pale in comparison with Sony’s.”

The suit also names “Does 1 through 10,” as the plaintiff “does not presently know the true names and capacities of the defendants.”


|Via GameSpot|

143 comments

Venezuelan Game Ban Okayed, Gamer Reacts

November 5, 2009 -

Venezuela’s parliament has approved a law that lumps in toy weapons with videogames and bans the import, production or sale of both groups of items within the country.

The law was approved late last week and will go into effect within three months, reports Russian news agency Ria Novosti. The law features strict penalties of up to three to five years of incarceration for each offense. Previous reports also claimed that campaigns would be launched to warn about the dangers of videogames and that Venezuela’s consumer protection society would have full decision making abilities over what games to ban.

On BoingBoing, a 26-year old Venezuelan gamer named Guido Núñez-Mujica has penned an article detailing his distaste for the new law, even in the face of government harassment that could emerge from his public denouncement.

A few excerpts:

This law makes selling video games to anybody actually worse than giving real guns or cigarettes to a minor, or even forcing him or her to work, as you get less jail time and lower fines if you do any of those things.

These games are a cherished part of my life, they helped to shape my young mind, they gave me challenges and vastly improved my English, opening the door to a whole new world of literature, music and people from all around the world. Now, thanks to the tiny horizons of the cast of morons who govern me, thanks to the stupidity and ham-fisted authoritarianism of the local authorities, so beloved of so many liberals, my 7 year old brother's chances to do the same could be greatly impacted.

But I'd rather go to jail than betray the gamer culture, partially responsible for making me the person I am today.

36 comments

Cloud Labor within Social Gaming Facilitating Child Labor?

October 23, 2009 -

An initiative that offers virtual payments for use in social and online games in return for performing tasks may promote child labor speculates a post on ReadWriteWeb.

CrowdFlower, which focuses on harnessing “cloud labor” from around the world and Gambit, a company that specializes in facilitating payment solutions for online games, offer users of games like MyFarm real-world tasks to perform—such as tagging photos or reviewing content—and returns payment in the form of virtual currency.

What caught the eye of ReadWriteWeb was Gambit’s explanation of its latest offering: “…making this a superb way to engage younger users, or international users in emerging markets.”

The article’s author, Dana Oshiro, wrote:

While others might argue that the web-task barter system is akin to earning one's allowance, the fact that children could be scraping the web to help businesses advertise to us seems somewhat exploitative. While it's too early to say how this program will pan out, there's no doubt that CrowdFlower and Gambit will have to walk a fine line to keep this program ethical.

A Gambit employee, Susan Su, jumped into the comment section to provide a little clarity, writing that while Facebook does not “knowingly allow” users under the age of 13 to register, “it's always tough to enforce requirements like these on the Internet.”

Su continued:

That said, we do know that users over the age of 15 make up the bulk of our transactions, and while parental consent is still strongly recommended for people aged 15-18, it's true that a lot of teens are making their own spending and work decisions around that age. As Lukas said, this is completely new territory for social game users, for developers, and for Crowdflower and Gambit.

11 comments

War Game Imagines Obama on the Run

October 16, 2009 -

The year is 2011. President Obama has just outlawed the private ownership of firearms, announced that the Constitution has been dissolved and revealed that the United States is going to be replaced by the North American Union, an amalgamation of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Revolution breaks out. Your part in this is to help capture Obama and the renegade Cong (former Congressional leaders).

This is the premise of a new online community and game calling itself United States of Earth. The extensive site is almost overwhelming in the sheer amount of information it provides, but centers around a browser-based war game in which a player can train and amass troops with the intention of taking over counties in Virginia. Players can also challenge other United States of Earth users in real videogames on Xbox Live or the PlayStation 3 network in order to win points to be used on the site.

Once logged in, users have access to a series of stories and videos that revolve around the fantasy setting, Stories include: Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck Found Dead in Camp, Barack Obama Retreats to Virginia With Wife, Former V.P. Joe Biden Captured Outside Arlington and The Cong Loses Control, Pelosi Captured!

Obviously setup by a right-wing oriented person or organization, the United States of Earth website domain is registered under contactprivacy.com, a service designed to protect the name of whoever registered the domain. The terms/contact page of the website lists what they call a “virtual office” in Brooklyn, New York.

Also from the terms page:

We take the Constitution of the United States seriously here and apply many if not most of the freedoms contained within to our own United States of Earth. It is a shame that America itself no longer safeguards its citizens freedom as we enter this next glorious age of collectivism and decay promised daily by those in power, Republicans and Democrats. Will America survive? Only time will tell.

Via: Phillip and Fark

146 comments

There’s More to Girl Gamers Than Pink and Sparkles

October 15, 2009 -

Videogame marketers still don’t know how to target girl gamers and continue to resort to stereotypes argues an article on Jezebel, which picks apart a recent Wall Street Journal article covering the same topic.

The WSJ article mentioned games like Charm Girls Club, Littlest Pet Shop, Just Dance and Wii Fit, along with a lilac-colored PSP Hannah Montana pack-in, inspiring the Jezebel author to respond:

Some of us like pink, some of us don't. Some of us have all the latest tech, some of us don't. Some of us prefer computer games, some of us don't. Getting the picture? We're all different.

71 comments | Read more

Wii Fit Balance Board: Terrorist Catcher?

October 8, 2009 -

As airports turn to new types of technology to use for screening air travelers, videogame technology may play a role.

An article on CNN details a new Homeland Security-backed project, dubbed Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), which measures physiological signs—heart rate, breathing, eye movement, body temperature and fidgeting—in an attempt to decipher whether or not the person being scanned intends to do harm.

The component currently used to monitor fidgeting? A Wii Fit Balance Board modified to show the weight shift of the subject in question. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a concrete correlation between weight shifting and intent to terrorize, as a study is currently underway to determine what level of fidgeting would necessitate a secondary security screen.

Via Kotaku, thanks Mdo7! Image from CNN.

23 comments

Modern Warfare 2 Trailer Imagery Questioned

October 6, 2009 -

The trailer for Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 premiered on national television Sunday night and it didn’t take long for the question to be posed of whether the game’s environment—a destroyed Washington D.C.—goes too far.

While a story on The Christian Science Monitor website asks just that question, it fails to connect COD:MW2 with Fallout 3, an obvious link given the post-apocalyptic setting (in the same city) of Bethesda’s title and the flack it subsequently received.

The author does attempt to include Grand Theft Auto IV in the conversation however:

And with what’s coming out of the gaming industry these days (Grand Theft Auto IV, anyone?) is this any worse? Maybe not. But this is one of the first times such striking imagery has surfaced since 9/11, when the idea of widespread destruction on US soil was suddenly thrust into reality.

Furthermore, while the story’s sub header states, “Some say the images of destruction on US soil are too much for a post-9/11 audience,” no one in the article is quoted or referenced as saying any such thing. To be fair, the story did generate a number of comments; perhaps this was the ultimate goal of the piece.

73 comments

Vote on Venezuelan Game Ban Looming

October 5, 2009 -

Venezuela’s National Assembly, at the behest of President Hugo Chavez, will vote in the next few weeks on whether or not to enact a ban on violent videogames.

The proposed legislation received initial approval in September and would grant the country’s consumer protection society full power in determining what titles would be banned. The law would encompass violent toys as well as games, and could result in fines as high as $128,000.

The Associated Press also reports that the bill would further order crime prevention classes to be taught in schools, campaigns to warn about the dangers of videogames and would require the government to promote games that teach children “respect for an adversary.”

The article also notes that “the country's thriving market for pirated video games will likely be untouched by the law.”

21 comments

Jack’s Back: Sues Facebook, Declares Himself a Winner

October 1, 2009 -

Jack Thompson has been making waves this week, riding a lawsuit against Facebook back into the mainstream media.

Thompson’s multi-million dollar lawsuit against Facebook is based on the disbarred lawyer’s findings, “nearly five weeks ago,” of “Jack Thompson Groups” spread across the social networking site, which he claims advocate violence and harassment against him. Thompson stated that, at the time, three different letters to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did not result in the removal of these groups, which, in light of the company’s quick removal of “Should Barack Obama Be Killed” polls, only served to further incense Thompson.

Bloomberg and the Huffington Post are among the mainstream media outlets to pick up Jack’s suit, which he announced in an email on Tuesday, September 29. In the dispatch he labeled videogame “news sites,” including GamePolitics specifically, as “terror sites.”

An email from Thompson sent this morning, under the headline “Instant Confirmation from Around the Globe that Jack Thompson’s Suit against Facebook Is a Winner,” trumpets coverage of the case on both “reputable” news and videogame websites as proof  of “not only why the lawsuit had to be brought but why it will succeed.”

GP: Frankly, Thompson crowing victory as a result of the widespread coverage he received is among the reasons we didn’t report on the story as it developed. Is he still relevant to the gaming industry? It’s this editor’s opinion that he is not, at least when dealing in generalities. For now, as a way to move forward with this subject, GP will simply qualify coverage of any Jack story on a case-by-case basis. What do the GP readers think?

67 comments

U.S. Gamers Play More Than EU Counterparts

September 30, 2009 -

83% of the U.S. population plays games, enough to eclipse their equals across the pond from a small selection of European countries.

GamesIndustry.com recently disclosed results from its Today’s Gamer series of surveys, which polled populations in the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.

Runner-up to the U.S., in terms of the total percentage of the population playing games, was the U.K., with 73%, followed by the Dutch (70%), Belgium (67%), Germany (65%) and France (63%).

U.S. gamers also led the way in hours spent playing per week, averaging 10.5 hours, almost double that of the second place French, who averaged 5.5 hours a week gaming.

In every country surveyed, at least 60% of the population over the age of eight played games. More graphs are available for viewing here. Specific reports for each European country are also available.

8 comments

Game Teaches Impoverished Kenyans How to Deal with Crime, AIDS

September 9, 2009 -

Last December GamePolitics reported on Pamoja Mtaani, a PC game developed through a partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive, North Carolina-based Virtual Heroes (creators of America's Army) and The Partnership For an HIV-free Generation.

The game's title translates to "Together in the Hood," and Pamoja Mtaani aims to help players learn skills to negotiate difficult issues such as crime and HIV in some of East Africa's most impoverished areas.

GP reader Wai Yen Tang dropped us a line to say that a video report on the game and how it is being used is now available on YouTube.

17 comments

For One Second Lifer, Virtual Activism Transfers to the Real World

September 2, 2009 -

Social activism in virtual venues may indeed transfer to the real world.

New World Notes reports on such a transition by Second Lifer KallfuNahuel Matador, who in 2006 helped protect an SL African genocide awareness site from griefers.

Turn the clock ahead three years, however, and the flesh-and-blood man behind the Matador avatar is in the real Africa, doing backbreaking volunteer work (see pic). He told NWN's Wagner James Au:

The friends I made in the [SL] Virtual Camp Darfur are heavily involved in humanitarian activities in their first lives. Better World and Camp Darfur were extensions of their work and attempts to spread the word of the causes they stood for...

We discussed telling [their African hosts] we'd met in SL, but the idea of a virtual world where we interact but not in our own bodies? Difficult to convey...

 

[SL users should] really get to know the people you're working with in SL, research their [real-life] projects. Get to know them, talk to them, see if there's a 'fit' for you in their cause... Or, And if you aren't lucky enough to be able to travel far and wide, then find a way to help the cause locally.

2 comments

Homeless Crime Game Sparks Outrage in France

September 1, 2009 -

A free, online game which parodies homeless people has prompted protest from French advocates.

UK newspaper Telegraph reports that Clodogame, which translates to "Trampgame," puts the player in control of a homeless character with the goal of dominating the mean streets:

Users are invited to progress from being a penniless homeless person in Paris to becoming "king of the streets", the most "talented tramp in Paris" and eventually move in to the Palace of Versailles.

Players are invited to "attack other homeless people", become a "peerless pickpocket", steal from sweet machines, public toilets and laundrettes. They need to learn to play an instrument, choose a pet liable to increase their begging skills, and keep control of their alcohol intake.

Not surprisingly, advocates for the homeless were outraged. Red Cross spokesman Jean-François Riffaud commented: 

It's a disgrace, it's degrading, it's humiliating to make the homeless the butt of derision. The image portrayed is exactly the one against which we've been trying to fight.

24 comments

Are Gay Themes Expanding in Video Games?

August 27, 2009 -

Are gay characters and themes more acceptable in video games these days?

Gay publication The Advocate examines the issue in Are Games Getting Gayer? For the article, author Bryan Ochalla spoke to, among others, game designer Brenda Brathwaite, author of Sex in Video Games. Braithwaite said:

We still haven’t seen the kind of normalization [of LGBT characters and story lines] that we’ve seen in movies and on TV for some time. We still haven’t had our Brokeback Mountain moment.


It took them a while, but developers... [are] getting hip to the fact that there are LGBT gamers out there who want to control LGBT characters... The almighty dollar talks as much in this industry as it does in any other, and we all know the gay market is nothing to sneeze at in that regard...

 

We also have to stop putting things into games that turn off gay players How many games have you played that put you in control of a male character and then asked you to save a princess?

Openly gay Maxis game designer Jeb Havens (no word as to whether he was impacted by yesterday's layoff) commented:

[Game developers are] moving away from the stereotype of the angry, homophobic teen boy ... toward a broader picture of who is buying and playing games... We’re starting to see a willingness to experiment with stories and characters that would appeal to more diverse audiences.

383 comments

New Book Probes Link Between Video Games, Capitalism, Militarism & Social Control

August 27, 2009 -

We haven't read this one yet, but we plan to.

Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games, a new book by Prof. Nick Dyer-Witheford of the University of Western Ontario and Greig de Peuter, a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University, digs into some territory that should prove fascinating to GamePolitics readers.

From the press release:

Games of Empire forcefully connects video games to real-world concerns about globalization, militarism, and exploitation, from the horrors of African mines and Indian e-waste sites that underlie the entire industry, the role of labor in commercial game development, and the synergy between military simulation software and the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan... the urban neoliberalism made playable in Grand Theft Auto, and the emergence of an alternative game culture through activist games and open-source game development.

Rejecting both moral panic and glib enthusiasm, Games of Empire demonstrates how virtual games crystallize the cultural, political, and economic forces of global capital, while also providing a means of resisting them.

The paperback edition is available for $19.95.

19 comments

 
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Sleaker@MP - Looked up hitbox, thanks.07/24/2014 - 9:40pm
Matthew WilsonI agree, but to me given other known alternatives google seems to the the best option.07/24/2014 - 6:30pm
Andrew EisenTo be clear, I have no problem with Google buying it, I'm just concerned it will make a slew of objectively, quantifiably bad changes to Twitch just as it's done with YouTube over the years.07/24/2014 - 6:28pm
Matthew WilsonI doubt yahoo has the resources to pull it off, and I not just talking about money.07/24/2014 - 6:15pm
SleakerI wouldn't have minded a Yahoo purchase, probably would have been a better deal than Tumblr seeing as they paid the same for it...07/24/2014 - 6:13pm
MaskedPixelanteIt's the golden age of Hitbox, I guess.07/24/2014 - 6:08pm
Matthew Wilsonagain twitch was going to get bought. It was just who was going to buy it . Twitch was not even being able to handle the demand, so hey needed a company with allot of infrastructure to help them. I can understand why you would not want Google to buy it .07/24/2014 - 5:49pm
Andrew Eisen"Google is better than MS or Amazon" Wow. Google, as I mentioned earlier, progressively makes almost everything worse and yet there are still two lesser options. Again, wow!07/24/2014 - 5:43pm
Andrew EisenI don't know. MS, in my experience, is about 50/50 on its products. It's either fine or it's unusable crap. Amazon, well... I've never had a problem buying anything from them but I don't use any of their products or services so I couldn't really say.07/24/2014 - 5:42pm
Matthew WilsonGoogle is better than MS or Amazon.07/24/2014 - 5:33pm
Sleaker@AE - I've never seen youtube as a great portal to interact with people from a comment perspective. like ever. The whole interface doesn't really promote that.07/24/2014 - 5:28pm
Andrew EisenNor I. From a content producer's perspective, almost every change Google implements makes the service more cumbersome to use. It's why I set up a Facebook fan page in the first place; it was becoming too difficult to connect with my viewers on YouTube.07/24/2014 - 4:50pm
Sleakerwonder if anyone is going to try and compete with google, I'm not a huge fan of the way they manage their video services.07/24/2014 - 4:41pm
Andrew EisenIt happened. Google bought Twitch. http://venturebeat.com/2014/07/24/googles-1b-purchase-of-twitch-confirmed-joins-youtube-for-new-video-empire/07/24/2014 - 4:28pm
MaskedPixelanteI hope Nintendo actually follows through with the DS Virtual Console, that sounds like it could be cool.07/24/2014 - 2:15pm
james_fudgePeople don't deny it persay, they bristle at the idea that it's a "problem" that nneds to be "fixed."07/24/2014 - 2:15pm
Papa MidnightRacism and Misogny are heavily prevalent in the gaming and online arena. Getting people to actually admit that, however...07/24/2014 - 11:42am
Papa MidnightThat very thing is somthing that anyone who has been subjected to racial-based targeting online could actually state that they've experienced.07/24/2014 - 11:41am
Papa MidnightPerfect example: "I have yet to talk to a man who has had to call a police officer due to a stalker, only to be told nothing can be done until they are physically assaulted."07/24/2014 - 11:40am
Papa MidnightNot that said communities are mutually exclusive. Even the very first comment on that last article equates women in the gaming industry with being the n-word. Despicable, aetestable, and (sadly enough) this is not an uncommon presence in either community.07/24/2014 - 11:35am
 

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