Facing Crime Wave, Venezuela Moves to Ban Violent Video Games

August 27, 2009 -

While Venezuela has been the (unwilling) setting for at least one violent video game (Mercenaries 2: World in Flames), lawmakers there are moving ahead with plans to ban violent games and toys.

The effort, reports Reuters, is aimed at reducing an unprecedented wave of crime and violence. According to Reuters, dozens of people are murdered in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas every week.

A measure detailing the proposed ban passed Venezuela's National Assembly this week. In order to become law, the game ban bill would need to be voted on a second time and then signed into law by President Hugo Chavez.

If passed, the video game ban would not be the first time that the Venezuelan government has targeted a form of media in response to social issues. In 2008 the government banned The Simpsons as unsuitable for children.

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Shadow Complex Boycott a Non-Starter?

August 26, 2009 -

Calls to boycott Xbox Live Arcade offering Shadow Complex because it is based on the works of anti-gay rights author Orson Scott Card may be falling on deaf ears, reports gamezine.co.uk.

Card is part of the National Organisation for Marriage: founded in 2007 to act as an organised opposion against same-sex marriage. Card has personally campaigned against gay marriage, which he believes would mark an end to democracy. He further argues that homosexuality is a dysfunction...

Whatever the case, it looks like the boycott didn't work. Following rave reviews, Shadow Complex has romped to the top of the most played Xbox LIVE Arcade titles, even entering the top ten of all Xbox 360 games played online.

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Gamers Propose Shadow Complex Boycott Over Orson Scott Card's Involvement

August 25, 2009 -

Shadow Complex, an adventure game in the vein of Castlevania or Super Metroid, became available for sale last week on Xbox Live Arcade. While the game has garnered impressive reviews, some are upset by the fact that its plot has been derived from the fiction of Orson Scott Card, a known campaigner against gay rights.  Gamers upset by this news are suggesting a boycott to ensure their dollars don’t end up funding Card's political agenda.

In an opinion piece for Gamasutra, Christian Nutt sees the idea of boycotting a game based on the political views of one of the creative influences as a sign that video games are growing up:

When Shadow Complex was announced, I personally was torn. I'd already long since made the conscious decision to not support Orson Scott Card directly with my money...

 

What bothers me is people who suggest that it's a non-issue because the topic of discussion is a game... "Remember back when we were kids and we just enjoyed games?" asks Wizman23.

Yes, I do. But we are not kids anymore... I was 32 on the day [Shadow Complex] became available for download on Xbox Live... I can't approach things the way I did as a child. That's not me being self-righteous; I mean that I literally cannot do this...

 

And that's why it's acceptable to talk about this... If we can have meaningful political discussion in other media, we can have it in games.

From all accounts, Shadow Complex looks like a very fun game.  For those who are put off by Card’s involvement, Nutt points to a suggestion offered up at GayGamer: buy the game and make a donation to a gay-positive charity to offset any profit Card may see from the sale.
 
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Senior Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

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Surveying the Use of Video Games as Propaganda

August 24, 2009 -

Bruce on Games takes a look at the video game as propaganda.

While blogger Bruce Everiss concludes that games have generally been ignored for propaganda purposes, he argues this is because government officials are basically old school types:

The reason we have been left alone is quite obvious. Games are just another media, albeit a technically superior media. But the people with all the power, the politicians and journalists, don’t realise this because mostly they just don’t understand video games at all. We see this in the way they blame video games for violence in society when the opposite is true. And now that ignorance is protecting video game players from propaganda.

GP: we're not so sure we agree, given that a new issue-oriented Flash game pops up about once a week on the web.

At any rate, Bruce has identified a list of propaganda games. Among others they include several PC mods produced by Islamic extremists, the Religious Right's Left Behind, and the Defense Department's controversial America's Army, of which Bruce is clearly not a fan:

America’s Army is the big one. A series of games designed to foster the American Army view of the world on an unsuspecting public and also to work as a recruitment tool. This has been a remarkable success at promoting gung ho American militarism.

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First U.S. Internet Addiction Center Opens

August 21, 2009 -

Whether your Internet addiction involves online games or plain old web surfing, there's a new treatment option for you.

The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that the reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program, which opened recently in Fall City, Washington - not too far from Microsoft HQ - is the first facility of its kind in the United States.

How do you know if you have a problem? Take this quiz. reStart's 45-day treatment program will set you - or your healthcare insurer - back about $45,000.

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CDC: Adult Game Addicts are Fat and Depressed

August 17, 2009 -

The Center for Disease Control reports that the average adult computer game addict is 35 years old.

According to The Telegraph, the CDC partnered with researchers from Emory and Andrews Universities on the study of more than 500 adults in the Seattle-Tacoma area. The results are not encouraging for gamers, with investigators finding correlations between video game play and health risks:

  • Female gamers reported greater depression and poorer health than non-gamers
  • Male gamers reported higher BMI (body mass index) than non-gamers
  • Gamers of both genders reported a higher than normal reliance on the Internet for social support

The CDC's Dr. James Weaver III commented on the data:

As hypothesized, health-risk factors specifically, a higher BMI and a greater number of poor mental-health days differentiated adult video-game players from non-players.

Video-game players also reported lower extraversion, consistent with research on adolescents that linked video game playing to a sedentary lifestyle and overweight status, and to mental-health concerns.

Internet community support and time spent online distinguished adult video-game players from non-players, a finding consistent with prior research pointing to the willingness of adult video-game enthusiasts to sacrifice real-world social activities to play video games.

The data illustrate the need for further research among adults to clarify how to use digital opportunities more effectively to promote health and prevent disease.

The research will be published in the October, 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reports Medical News Today.

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Try to Control Pandemics in New Online Game

August 17, 2009 -

Beware the Gamers Flu - it could wipe out humanity.

This fictional malady, which breaks out in China and Japan following a game convention, is one of five viral illnesses that can be tackled in The Great Flu, a new online game created by reserachers at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands.

The Associated Press reports that the object of the game is to prevent a global pandemic:

To fight the emerging outbreak, players use measures including setting up surveillance systems, stockpiling antivirals and vaccines, and closing schools and airports. Players also have a limited budget and are warned that "your actions to control the virus cost money, so keep an eye on it."

A running tally of the numbers of people infected and those who have died sit above the budget. Newspaper stories about the deadly virus and the global response to it — like riots breaking out worldwide — pop up to help players monitor the outbreak.

After a couple of play-throughs, I found The Great Flu to be a real-time strategy affair which is surprisingly enjoyable despite its chilling subject matter. The game challenges players to make difficult, real-world decisions about the timely allocation of healthcare resources when confronted with a potential pandemic. These choices range from relatively inexpensive options such as public information campaigns and distributing face masks, to tougher calls, including massive investments in vaccine or closing schools and airports. One of the game's key lessons - policy makers, take note - is that an aggressive early intervention can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

So how did I fare against the Gamers Flu? Not so well. After just a month, 24,000 people had died around the world and there was rioting in the streets of cities along America's East Coast. The great thing about games, however, is that you can always start again.

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Adios, Water Cooler Games

August 15, 2009 -

It's a sad day when one of the web's most intelligent game-oriented sites rides off into the sunset.

And so it is with Water Cooler Games, operated since 2003 by Georgia Tech prof Ian Bogost and researcher Gonzalo Frasca. Both academics are also accomplished designers of provocative, issue-oriented games.

We note the following in the site's RSS feed this morning:

Water Cooler Games is now closed. Thanks for reading all these years. The site has been archived in full (with comments)... For my take on "videogames with an agenda," you might want to read Persuasive Games. I am now blogging at Bogost.com...

—Ian Bogost, August 2009

Because the issue-oriented focus of Water Cooler Games often intersected with that of GamePolitics, WCG was frequently cited here on GP. We will miss it, but it's good to know that it will live on in an archived version.

UPDATE: Ian Bogost has posted a lengthy commentary on the WCG closure:

From my perspective, the Water Cooler Games project was very much a success. The fact that so many venues now exist for discussing of what we coyly called "videogames with an agenda" speaks at least in part to the influence we exerted.

More so, the site had been immensely useful in helping me conduct research. My 2007 book Persuasive Games drew many examples from titles we covered on Water Cooler Games... 

 

Closing WCG opens up new opportunities for my writing, on this site and elsewhere... The truth is that I've said most of what I want to say about [political games, advertising and games, and other topics covered on WCG]...

GP: We wish Ian continued success and the best of luck going forward...

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Mortgage Meltdown: Perhaps the Only Way to Enjoy Housing Crisis

August 14, 2009 -

It's been a rough year for homeowners, with mortgage foreclosures at record levels.

AddictingGames tries to squeeze a little fun out of the crisis with their latest offering, Mortgage Meltdown. Lou Kesten of the Associated Press offers a review of the free-to-play, online game:

"Mortgage Meltdown" [is] a Bizarro-world version of Monopoly... Instead of buying properties and trying to corner the real-estate market, your goal is to keep your head above water and wait for the economy to turn around.

Pretty much everything that can go wrong does, from troublesome tenants to property tax hikes to earthquakes.

If you can hang in there for four years, you might see a nice windfall at the end.

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Gamer Imagery Used in Campaign to Discourage "Gay" as an Insult

August 12, 2009 -

The sorry history of homophobia in gaming is pretty well documented, so it's probably not a coincidence that a campaign to discourage anti-gay remarks includes a gaming piece among its poster ads.

ThinkB4YouSPeak, which hopes to raise awareness about anti-gay bias in America's schools by reducing the use of homophobic language, explains its mission at its website:

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens experience homophobic remarks and harassment throughout the school day, creating an atmosphere where they feel disrespected, unwanted and unsafe. Homophobic remarks such as “that’s so gay” are the most commonly heard; these slurs are often unintentional and a common part of teens’ vernacular. Most do not recognize the consequences, but the casual use of this language often carries over into more overt harassment.

The poster at left substitutes the commonly heard "That's so gay" with "That's so gamer guy who has more video games than friends." Stereotypical? Of course. But that would seem to be the point. Other posters include jock and cheerleader themes.

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Shrink: DS, PSP Making Young People Lonely

August 11, 2009 -

Is your handheld game system making you lonely?

Rika Kayama, a Japanese psychiatrist, thinks that it may be.

In an op-ed penned for a Japanese newspaper, Kayama claims that Nintendo's DS and Sony's PSP are partially to blame for a sense of isolation experienced by some of her youthful patients. On that score, Kayama writes:

Today’s youth immerse themselves in worlds of their own right before our eyes, where they can live secluded from the rest of us. Feeding into these one person worlds, personal devices such as mobile phones and handheld game systems like the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS come on to the market one after another.

The ‘make your own world anywhere’ idea has gone too far, to the point that even on the train one sees people shamelessly putting on makeup or eating cups of instant noodles as though the train carriage was their own room. …

I feel that an increasing number of people are coming to my office saying, ‘Even when I’m in a crowd I’m lonely.’ Even when they are at a popular singer’s concert or when reading a best-selling novel, these patients can’t feel any solidarity for those next to them or those reading the same book.

GP: Is Kayama onto something, or is she simply rehashing the old school notion that games are inherently isolating?

Via: What They Play

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Trash Wars Lampoons Toronto's Sanitation Strike

August 3, 2009 -

A recently-concluded strike by sanitation workers in Toronto serves as the subject matter for Trash Wars, an online parody game.

As the Toronto Star reports, the game was designed by Hafiz Kassam, owner of Q-KMBR Games. Kassam told the newspaper:

It just popped into my head. I have made games in the past... just for the sake of making them, but I wanted to (release) something for the mainstream public – something with a message versus just a game.

 

I dumbed [the complexity] down so people don't get overwhelmed. (It's) for people who don't play video games that often.

Indeed, the game simply involves shooting ever-increasing numbers of rats as you stand atop a large pile of uncollected trash bags.

GP: Thanks to GamePolitics reader Trencher for the tip!

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Left 4 Dead 2 Writer Calls Racism Charges "Utter Insanity"

August 3, 2009 -

In mid-July GamePolitics reported on Houston Chronicle game blogger Willie Jefferson's assertion that video games are increasingly possessed of "racist undertones."

In support of his claim Jefferson mentioned the much-debated Resident Evil 5 as well as the recently-released Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood. Jefferson also pointed to Valve's in-development Left 4 Dead 2 (screenshot at left):

I am disturbed by the growing trend of racist undertones that are cropping up in video games.

One of the games that comes to mind is "Left 4 Dead 2." ...Set in New Orleans, players will have to fight their way through hordes of zombies - with several of them who appear to be African-Americans. When I saw the first trailer for the game, all I could think about was Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath...

In the wake of Jefferson's charge, a writer for L4D2 has fired back, reports Destructoid:

While visiting Valve this past week, we asked how they felt about the [racism] accusations, and Left 4 Dead writer Chet Faliszek was quite frank with his response.

"Utter insanity," says Faliszek... "There are mixed races of zombies, there are all different races of zombies that you shoot, and since we placed it in New Orleans, that makes it racist? I honestly re-read the [Houston Chronicle] paragraph about five times ... but when two of the characters in your game are African-American, it's a weird thing to be accused of. We're like, 'how does this work'?

"... As far as Katrina goes, if you go down to New Orleans, Katrina's still going on. I mean, it's messed up, it is crazy that the city is still in the state it's in, and we treat that with the utmost respect... It's a place we love, it's dear to our hearts. We would not cheapen it. It's not a brick-for-brick representation of New Orleans; it's a fictional version, and I love that city."

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Worried About Game Addiction, Thailand Considers Youth Curfew for Cyber-cafes

July 22, 2009 -

Concerned about game addiction among the young, Culture Ministry officials in Thailand have proposed a revised curfew for online game shops.

The Bangkok Post reports that, under the new guidelines, youth under 15 could only remain in gaming establishments until 8pm. Those from 15-18 could stay until 10pm. Shops which allow minors to remain past the curfew could have their operating license suspended or revoked.

Some, however, believe that even more stringent measures are needed. Anya-orn Panitpuengrat, who heads Thailand's Family Network, called for a three-hour time limit on gaming for children.

The Thai cabinet will consider the proposed curfew change next week.

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Card Check Controversy Sparks Game, Exchange of Insults

July 15, 2009 -

GameCulture reports on Card Checked, a Flash game created by Libertarian Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Relief.

When we last saw Norquist on the pages of GamePolitics he was speaking out in opposition to video game legislation in Utah. This time around, his game - set in a tattoo parlor - is meant to rally opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. GameCulture explains:

Card Check [is a] a majority sign-up policy that makes it easier for unions to get employer recognition. If at least 50% of employees sign a card authorizing representation, secret ballots can be bypassed. ATR says that "in the game, the player is a tattoo artist who faces several attempts by union organizers to get you to sign the card, including visiting you at home, vandalizing your car, threatening your cat, and even offering you marijuana."

As it turns out, labor leader Eddie Vale of the AFL-CIO took offense not only to the game's portrayal of union organizers as thugs, but to its game play as well:

As anyone who actually grew up playing Atari or Nintendo will know, calling this a video game is as accurate as their lies about the Employee Free Choice Act...

Norquist minion Brian Johnson wasted no time in firing back at Vale:

I'm not sure that a 1930s throwback like the AFL-CIO should be giving advice about what's cool. We're not sure what video games have been cranked out this year by the international brotherhood of video game programmers, but we'd be happy to stack our game up to any union-made product any day.

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Houston Chronicle: Is Racism Becoming a Norm in Gaming?

July 15, 2009 -

Yesterday's edition of the Houston Chronicle's Game Hack blog ponders whether racism is becoming a norm in video game design.

Blogger Willie Jefferson expresses concern over 2009 releases Resident Evil 5 and Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (pic at left) as well as the in-development Left 4 Dead 2. RE5, of course, has already been the subject of much debate over its depiction of African villagers as zombies. Jefferson writes:

I am disturbed by the growing trend of racist undertones that are cropping up in video games.

One of the games that comes to mind is "Left 4 Dead 2." ...Set in New Orleans, players will have to fight their way through hordes of zombies - with several of them who appear to be African-Americans. When I saw the first trailer for the game, all I could think about was Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath...

The game that really inspired this blog entry was Ubisoft's "Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood." The game starts out with players assuming the role of Ray, a Confederate officer... the Confederacy, as far as I am concerned, wanted to keep their cheap slave labor and the like. I can not stand the Confederate flag... To me, the flag represents hate -- and offends me and many others to no end. [It] made me wonder how much research Ubisoft did for this game...

As a minority, had the South won, I wouldn't be in this position I am today...

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EA to Host Panel on Homophobia in Gaming

July 15, 2009 -

Anyone who games online knows that negative comments about gay people are all too common. Compounding the problem, even game companies who treat their GLBT employees well seem to be wrestling with the notion of how deal with the open expression of sexual orientation in games.

The good news is that the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) plans to hold a panel discussion in homophobia in videogame culture on Saturday. EA will host the event, which is open to the public, at its Redwood HQ. Other noteworthy organizations which will participate are Microsoft, Second Life publisher Linden Labs, GayGamer.net and the ESA.

Shacknews reports on the agenda:

Topics will include "how to provide safe spaces for LGBT people online, how to ensure the best policies are in place to prevent virtual attacks against LGBT people and how to educate the users of online communities about the effects of homophobia.

The GLAAD website reports that the panel will be composed of:

  • Flynn DeMarco (Alias: Fruite Brute), Founder of GayGamer.net
  • Dan Hewitt, Senior Director of Communications & Industry Affairs for the ESA
  • Caryl Shaw, Senior Producer in the Maxis Studio
  • Cyn Skyberg, VP of Customer Relations at Linden Lab
  • Stephen Toulouse (Gamertag: stepto), Program Manager for Policy and Enforcement on Microsoft's XBox LIVE
  • Moderator: Justin Cole, Director of Digital & Online Media, GLAAD
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Underground Railroad Game Funded by National Endowment for Humanities

July 13, 2009 -

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $100,000 grant to a Norfolk University history professor to develop a video game which tells the tale of the Underground Railroad.

Prof. Cassandra Newby-Alexander said that the history of the Underground Railroad, a network which helped slaves escape from the South in pre-Civil War days, is not well understood:

The underground Railroad was a much more complex issue than it's been made out. When you push a person to a point where they have nothing to lose, that's when you create a formidable enemy. Ultimately, human beings are going to be free.

When you ask people to describe the Underground Railroad, they think of Harriet Tubman on foot, with a gun. Most slaves didn't escape that way. I don't want to dumb-down the game.

Newby-Alexander is working with a local playwright to create a script for the game, which is expected for PC in 2011.

Via: Kotaku

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Simulating the Homeless with The Sims 3

July 13, 2009 -

In a remarkable game-based social experiment, Robin Burkinshaw is using The Sims 3 to model a two-person homeless family.

The U.K.-based game design student tracks the virtual lives of the father-daughter pair via his Alice and Kev blog:

I created two Sims, moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any job promotions or easy cash routes. It’s based on the old ‘poverty challenge’ idea from The Sims 2, but it turned out to be a lot more interesting with The Sims 3’s living neighborhood features.

New American Media has more:

Kev is an insane, middle-aged man with a bad temper, who hates children. He often behaves inappropriately around others... His daughter, Alice, is a teenager who is constantly exhausted from school, the part-time job she holds, and the cold hard bench she sleeps on at night. And because she gets most of her meals at school, she becomes worried every time the weekend rolls around. You will usually find Alice desperately trying to find a bed to sleep in...

GP: It's fantastic to see someone addressing a real issue in a meaningful way via off-the-shelf game tech...

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Developer of iPhone Drug-Dealing Game Fears Apple Banhammer

July 10, 2009 -

The top dog at U.K developer A-steroids, creator of Underworld: Sweet Deal for the iPhone, is worried that his company's game is going to be rejected by Apple over its drug-dealing theme.

As readers may recall, this is a bit of an ongoing saga. GamePolitics reported in December, 2008 that A-steroids had renamed the game, originally called DrugLords, in an effort to avoid an App Store ban. A few days later, an Englishwoman who lost her daughter to heroin abuse called upon Apple to ban the game, whatever its title.

Apparently the issue is still up in the air, based on an e-mail GamePolitics received today from Andrey Podoprigora, Head of Studio for A-steroids:

We have recently released our first game on the AppStore - Underworld: SweetDeal. The game was previously known as DrugLords, location-based MMO about dirty trade...

This week, we have submitted the game in it's original drug-trade setting to the AppStore. We were hoping that after the iPhone 3.0 came out with it's parental controls improved, there is a chance for the game to finally come through.

Now, we have got an update from Apple, saying they require "unexpected additional time for review". Which is sort of bad because we are already familiar with responses like that - in December, 2008 this led to months of silence and then ended up as a reject. Would be sad if it means nothing changes in Apple's app reviewing policy.

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Lord Puttnam: Political Legitimacy of Games Overdue

July 7, 2009 -

The political legitimacy of video games is overdue.

So says Lord David Puttnam, producer of hit movies such as Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields. Puttnam, long an advocate of technology and the arts, also serves as a member of the recently-formed All Party Parliamentary Group on the Computer and Video Games Industry.

Puttnam made the comment during a lengthy interview with British newspaper The Guardian's Games Blog:

My own belief is that the [video game] sector should get significantly more [government] support, particularly at the entry and training level...

I'm also trying to persuade people within the interactive entertainment industry that the role they are playing, and the role that the games they develop are playing, could be far more significant in British cultural life...

What I hope we'll achieve with this new committee is the overdue political legitimacy of the games industry; to get a level of informed parliamentary understanding of interactive games... Most parliamentarians don't have a clue as regards the challenges or the opportunities the games industry faces. If for example, they had a full understanding of the levels of support the Canadians offer their industry they would, I'm sure, fall off their chairs!

As GamePolitics reported earlier this year, Puttnam called upon game makers to help spread the word about climate change.

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Union Labor vs. Independents in Crane Wars

June 29, 2009 -

Here at GamePolitics we're always up for an issue-oriented game.

And while we can't recall another offering based on the conflict between union labor and independent workers, Crane Wars, currently featured at Blurst, explores the never-ending conflict between the two groups.

With Toronto suffering through a strike by sanitation workers, The Star found particular relevance in Crane Wars' labor theme. Designer Steve Swink, who possesses a political science degree and a fascination with the labor movement, spoke to the newspaper about his game:

We're soft on the Union for sure but we make coy little jabs at both sides. Your money, for instance, is constantly decreasing to the point of motion blur to remind you that you're running a Union shop, and doing work is EXPENSIVE.

 

We definitely wanted the controls and gameplay pacing to reflect real cranes, at least so far as they are unwieldy, slow-moving machines that take a lot of skill. It's not an easy job, and the folks doing it certainly deserve much respect...

As a small indie shop that is free of publishers and can set our own hours, I think health care would be the thing that interests us most. The big question mark with labour organization though is how it would affect prices of games for players.

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In NYC, Teens Game Their Way to a Better World

June 28, 2009 -

Yesterday in the Big Apple, socially-aware teens held the first-ever NYC Youth Media & Technology Festival. The event spotlighted the work of teenagers who create video games and other digital media projects in order to advance social causes.

Organizers expected about 100 attendees for the Festival. The gathering was intended to produce a citywide dialogue about the role of new media and technology in teens' lives and how it can be utilized to promotes issues kids care about.

A group of young designers affiliated with the New York Public Library were scheduled to showcase their designs and conceptualizations for serious video games about subjects like celebrity drug use, media consolidation and genocide.

Meanwhile, teens from the Global Kids Virtual Video Project premiered an animated short film about child sex trafficking in the United States.  Members of MOUSE discussed their efforts to advance technology in New York City public schools by developing open source labs, advocating for the One Laptop Per Child campaign and other efforts.

The invitation-only event was held at the Parsons The New School for Design.

-Doug Buffone, Entertainment Consumers Association intern

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Video Standards Council to Play Enforcer Role In New UK Game Ratings Scheme

June 16, 2009 -

Although our initial coverage of today's Digital Britain report focused on the long-awaited decision regarding ownership of U.K. video game ratings, there is much more to the story.

In relation to PEGI's big win over BBFC, gamesindustry.biz reports that Britain's Video Standards Council will be given tough enforcement powers to ensure that game publishers and retailers conform to content rating guidelines. The VSC will be empowered to fine companies which do not adhere to the PEGI system and, in extreme cases, may even ban titles from being sold in the U.K.

Of the VCS's role in enforcing the new system, EA's Keith Ramsdale told gi.biz:

The VSC will be an independent body, as is the PEGI system, and while I'm sure there's some joining up to do, it's a tough system.

We've gone further than the recommendations and PEGI will impose fines for non-compliance and possible exclusion from the PEGI system for non compliance...


Of course there will be checks on what content people put in, and there will be highly punitive measures should publishers not comply.

Ars Technica Examines Industry's Struggle to Deal with Gay & Lesbian Gamers

May 28, 2009 -

The debate over gay marriage is raging in California and elsewhere, but the video game industry has its own gay rights issues to address. From Xbox Live's banning of certain gamertags to Bioware's recent Star Wars: The Old Republic forum flap, the game biz has handled its relations with its gay and lesbian customers ham-handedly at times.

Over at Ars Technica, Ben Kuchera surveys the situation and talks with, among others, Flynn DeMarco (left), editor of GayGamer:

Being able to identify as gay or lesbian in an online gaming perspective has its positives and negatives. The negatives being obvious in that they face endless harassment. The positives are that maybe you can connect and play with someone else without having to listen to a litany of gay jokes and 'fag' insults...


...repressing GLBT visibility in forums, even with good intentions, only makes it safer and more acceptable to use hate speech. Visibility is key to equality...

 

I definitely feel that the LGBT issues are part of the larger issue of gaming's immature treatment of sex...

ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi offered the perspective of the video game industry's content rating organization:

We've encountered the issue of same-sex content before—the boy-boy kiss in Bully being one example...

 

While there aren't any content descriptors that specifically identify same-sex content, our raters are trained to consider these types of elements within the context of the overall game, and to weigh those factors, among others...

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Mayor Hopeful Names Video Games as One of Top Problems Facing Washington, D.C. Youth

May 27, 2009 -

City Councilman Michael Brown (I, at left) hopes to mount a challenge to incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) next year for the top job in Washington, D.C. city government.

The Brookland Heartbeat reports that in a recent speech, Brown listed video games among the top problems facing youth in D.C.:

Mr. Brown criticized Mayor Adrian Fenty and DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee... Mr. Brown also criticized the District’s school modernization program for failing to address what he said were the real problems facing District youth: lack of vocational/technical schools, gunfire, excessive video game playing, and lack of neighborhood amenities such as grocery stores.

Until those problems are solved, “it doesn’t matter how pretty the school is,” said Mr. Brown...

GP: Ironically, in 2005, while still a member of City Council, Mayor Fenty unsuccessfully tried to legislate the sale of violent video games to minors in D.C.

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Frontline Looks at Video Game Addiction in South Korea

May 27, 2009 -

The National Institute on Media and the Family, which seems to have adopted video game addiction as its primary game-related issue of late, recently used its Twitter account to point to a Frontline video report on gaming in South Koria. 

Part of the report examines the struggle of an adolescent boy to balance his game play with the other facets of his life and looks at the government-run anti-game addiction camp he attends.

Click here for the video.

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Online Game Promotes Single-Payer Healthcare System

May 27, 2009 -

Today brings the launch of an online game created for the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee. 

You Bet Your Health advocates a single-payer healthcare system by highlighting ways in which American citizens can be negatively impacted by the current system of commercially-provided healthcare insurance.

The game is a simple spin-the-wheel affair in which all of the outcomes are bad except when the player lands on a single-payer coverage plan. A press release explains the NNOC/CNA's position:

When American patients trust their health to a for-profit insurance company, they're doing nothing less than gambling with their lives...  The game is part of a wide-ranging public education and political mobilization campaign for single-payer health reforms, which is the choice of nurses and doctors.

This video game... features an everyday patient trying to win healthcare from her insurance company.  In each case, the insurer wins.  Finally, as a bonus round, the patient spins to choose a healthcare system—and is fortunate to land on the single-payer model, which is succeeding in much of the rest of the industrialized world and which has been introduced in Congress as HR 676 (Conyers - MI) and S 703 (Sanders - VT).

Although the NNOC/CNA press release indicates that You Bet Your Health will be ad-supported, there are presently no ads on the game's web page.

71 comments

RapeLay Passed Japanese Software Group's Ethics Screening Process

May 15, 2009 -

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

50 comments

British Baroness Lumps Violent Games with Weapons, Gambling, Huffing

May 12, 2009 -

Via Spong comes word that video games are not especially well thought of in the British House of Lords. In a recent debate on age verification, Liberal Democrat Baroness Walmsley (left) commented:

Knives, guns, certain games and DVDs, alcohol, solvents and gambling are all very harmful and can destroy young minds and young lives.

To be fair, the Baroness qualified her remarks somewhat:

While the illegal sale of all these products concerns me... I believe that the sale of weapons is the most dangerous.

56 comments

 
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MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/04/18/playstation-99-cent-sale-discounts-tokyo-jungle-super-stardust/ Weekend long PSN flash sale. So much stuff is 99 cents for the rest of the weekend.04/18/2014 - 5:59pm
Adam802http://www.polygon.com/2014/4/18/5627928/newtown-video-game-addiction-forum04/18/2014 - 4:14pm
Matthew Wilsonit is a video talking about why certain games/products/consoles do well, and others do not. he back it up with solid research.04/18/2014 - 3:56pm
Andrew EisenI'm not keen on blind links. What is it?04/18/2014 - 3:45pm
Matthew Wilsonthis is worth a whatch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyXcr6sDRtw&list=PL35FE5C4B157509C904/18/2014 - 3:43pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 3: Night Dive was brought to the attention of the public by a massive game recovery, and yet most of their released catalogue consists of games that other people did the hard work of getting re-released.04/17/2014 - 8:46pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 2: If Humongous Entertainment wanted their stuff on Steam, why didn't they talk to their parent company, which does have a number of games published on Steam?04/17/2014 - 8:45pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 1: When Night Dive spent the better part of a year teasing the return of true classics, having their big content dump be edutainment is kind of a kick in the stomach.04/17/2014 - 8:44pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.giantbomb.com/articles/jeff-gerstmann-heads-to-new-york-takes-questions/1100-4900/ He talks about the future games press and the games industry. It is worth your time even though it is a bit long, and stay for the QA. There are some good QA04/17/2014 - 5:28pm
IanCErm so they shouldn't sell edutainment at all? Why?04/17/2014 - 4:42pm
MaskedPixelanteNot that linkable, go onto Steam and there's stuff like Pajama Sam on the front-page, courtesy of Night Dive.04/17/2014 - 4:13pm
Andrew EisenOkay, again, please, please, PLEASE get in a habit of linking to whatever you're talking about.04/17/2014 - 4:05pm
MaskedPixelanteAnother round of Night Dive teasing and promising turns out to be stupid edutainment games. Thanks for wasting all our time, guys. See you never.04/17/2014 - 3:44pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the consequences were not only foreseeable, but very likely. anyone who understood supply demand curvs knew that was going to happen. SF has been a econ/trade hub for the last hundred years.04/17/2014 - 2:45pm
Andrew EisenMixedPixelante - Would you like to expand on that?04/17/2014 - 2:43pm
MaskedPixelanteWell, I am officially done with Night Dive Studios. Unless they can bring something worthwhile back, I'm never buying another game from them.04/17/2014 - 2:29pm
PHX Corphttp://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/video-games-continue-to-break-the-mold-229561923638 Ronan Farrow Daily on Video games breaking the mold04/17/2014 - 2:13pm
NeenekoAh yes, because by building something nice they were just asking for people to come push them out. Consequences are protested all the time when other people are implementing them.04/17/2014 - 2:06pm
Matthew Wilsonok than they should not protest when the consequences of that choice occur.04/17/2014 - 1:06pm
NeenekoIf people want tall buildings, plenty of other cities with them. Part of freedom and markets is communities deciding what they do and do not want built in their collective space.04/17/2014 - 12:55pm
 

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