BBB Blog: EA May Have Falsely Advertised Endings in Mass Effect 3

April 11, 2012 -

A post over at the Better Business Bureau blog by Marjorie Stephens contends that EA may have committed "false advertising" when it was promoting Mass Effect 3. The author of the post says that when EA talked about how the game's ending would work, they may have described it in a way that was misleading to consumers. Marjorie Stephens then list two examples from EA on the ending:

12 comments | Read more

AllOut.org Thanks EA For Same Sex Relationships in its Games with Online Petition

April 10, 2012 -

AllOut.org, an online advocacy group representing the LGBT community, issued a press release last week announcing an online petition with over 60,000 signatures supporting Electronic Arts' and BioWare's inclusion of same-sex relationships in its games. Last week EA responded to a flood of letters and emails from two family advocacy groups haranguing them for "exposing children" to same-sex relationships in games like Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic and accused them of giving in to pressure from LGBT advocacy groups.

3 comments | Read more

Copyright Alert System Gets a Who's Who of Advisors from Advocacy Groups

April 3, 2012 -

The Center for Copyright Information, an organization that was created to oversee a new anti-piracy regime negotiated by content providers and internet service providers last summer, has begun to take shape and some of its key leaders are surprising. The organization announced on Monday that the names of its executive director and several members of its advisory board. At face value, the choices to serve as the architects of the "Copyright Alert" system could strike a balance between the interests of rights holders and the rights of users.

| Read more

EFF Issues Appeal for Help to Fight Against SOPA and Protect IP

November 23, 2011 -

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is taking up arms against the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and they want your help to do it. The advocacy that supports internet rights and freedom of speech online says that these new bills are "a threatening sequel to last year's COICA Internet censorship bill" and that this legislation "invites Internet security risks, threatens online speech, and hampers Internet innovation."

WiscNet Activists Make Wisconsin Lawmakers Say Uncle

June 16, 2011 -

Whoever said you can't fight city hall has never been to the great state of Wisconsin. State legislators (admittedly a bit more powerful than city hall) found themselves overwhelmed with calls after trying to cut the throat of Wisconsin's state educational Internet system. The public phoned members of Wisconsin’s state Assembly and browbeat them into submission.

The calls were so overwhelming, according to published reports, that lawmakers in the state immediately put together revised legislation for WiscNet that would allow it to receive funding from the University of Wisconsin's Division of Information Technology. The Assembly quickly added provisions to the state budget, with final approval taking place early this morning. WiscNet provides Internet for most of Wisconsin's public schools and libraries, and many citizens in the state think it is a vital and important service.

| Read more

Amnesty International Releases Bulletproof iOS Game

April 20, 2011 -

The French chapter of International human rights organization Amnesty International has released an iOS game called Bulletproof. The goal of the game is to raise awareness about human rights violations around the world and to raise money for the organization. The game, playable on iPhone and iPad, cost a mere 0.99 cents. The group celebrates 50 years of fighting for human rights around the world. It's hard to hate on Amnesty International, unless you're a maniacal dictator that jails and tortures people..

The game was created by Mobigame and is sponsored by French ad agency La Chose. In Bulletproof, players tap the touch screen to stop bullets from a firing squad trying to execute a condemned man. While the design sounds simple, the message is powerful. You can send a powerful message by buying it and supporting the organization. You can buy it here.

5 comments | Read more

RIAA Targets Spain, Canada, for Piracy Watch List

February 18, 2011 -

The Recording Industry Association of America and its partners at the International Intellectual Property Alliance recently submitted their ‘piracy watchlist’ recommendations to the Office of the US Trade Representative. The RIAA pointed to two countries as being the worst of the worst when it comes to intellectual property theft: Spain and our comrades to the north - Canada.

This is particularly interesting because this week Spain passed a tough new law to combat piracy. The Sinde law (nicknamed for its sponsor) is aimed at shutting down file-sharing sites that traffic in illegal downloads. Even though the public and some in the Spanish movie industry opposed the law, it will become the rule of the land by summer, says TorrentFreak. But the RIAA claims this is just a baby step and that even more needs to be done to combat theft.

6 comments | Read more

UK Government Spends £2.78 Million on Road Safety MMO

January 17, 2011 -

According to information gathered by Puffbox, the United Kingdom's Department of Transport has spent £2,785,695 ($4,425,576.95 USD) on a free-to-play educational MMO called Code Of Everand. That number includes costs for the fiscal year 2010 - 2011. The game, developed by U.S.-based Area/Code (Spore Island for Facebook and Drop7 for iOS), was designed to teach kids road safety. The game allegedly has 170,000 users worldwide.

Details on the game can be found here. This Puffbox link has a breakdown of costs per player, traffic numbers and more.

Editor's note: 1 GBP = 1.58868 USD, according to exchange rates at Universal Currency Converter.

| Read more

Four Games & Devices Earn NPC Seal of Approval for Holidays

November 15, 2010 -

After a Fall 2010 update failed to include any videogames, the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval awards focused on the 2010 holiday season includes four such entries.

The winners, part of the NPC’s 20th annual incarnation of the awards, were chosen following two months of testing by both parents and kids in the NPC’s test centers. Entries are judged by “a variety of levels including, but not limited to, price, packaging, design, stimulation, desirability, age appropriateness, instructions and more.”

4 comments | Read more

ASA: UK Heavy Rain Ads Not All Wet

May 12, 2010 -

A series of television ads run in the UK for the PlayStation 3 game Heavy Rain rankled a few feathers due to their timing and violence.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) reported receiving 38 complaints in response to four Heavy Rain ads, with viewers criticizing the violence of the ads and a perceived glamorization of violence. The objectors also worried that the ads were run at a time of day when children could view them.

The last complaint about the ads was that they were run around the same time that a shop keeper in Huddersfield was killed in an armed robbery. The Heavy Rain ads all depicted a scene in which a shop keeper was repeatedly threatened by an armed man with Heavy Rain character Scott Shelby watching. The versions differed in how the Shelby reacted to the situation; he either intervened, attacked or negotiated with the armed robber.

6 comments | Read more

RI Adult Videogame Bill Draws Kudos from PTC

March 10, 2010 -

A Rhode Island Bill that proposes fines and possible jail time for retail employees that sell Mature(M) or Adults Only (AO) rated games to underage consumers has drawn backing from the Parents Television Council (PTC).

S.2156 (PDF) proposes to label it a misdemeanor to sell “M” rated games to anyone less than seventeen years or “AO” rated games to someone less than eighteen years of age. Fines of up to $1,000 and jail time of “not more” than one year are the bill’s proposed penalties. The bill is sponsored by State Senators Frank Ciccone (D), Paul Jabour (D), Beatrice Lanzi (D) and Michael McCaffrey (D).

In urging the Rhode Island legislature to pass the bill, PTC President Tim Winter stated:

36 comments | Read more

NIMF Programs Find New Home, VG Report Card Future in Doubt

January 28, 2010 -

The National Institute on Media and Family (NIMF), which was forced to shutter its doors at the end of last year, has found a taker to carry on some of its programs.

NIMF and MediaWise trademarks, NIMF website content and the NIMF programs Say Yes to No, Switch and through-U will be transitioned to the Search Institute, an independent nonprofit with a mission of providing “leadership, knowledge, and resources to promote healthy children, youth, and communities.”

NIMF founder David Walsh on the changeover:

Search Institute has been a trusted resource for parents, educators and community leaders for 50 years. We are excited that the work of the National Institute on Media and the Family will not just survive. It will thrive.

Search Institute CEO Peter Benson offered:

We are honored to have been selected as the new home for these great resources. We look forward to offering these tools and ideas as part of our efforts to help families, schools, and communities work together to ensure that all children and youth succeed.

We asked a NIMF spokesperson if The Search Institute might also perpetuate NIMF’s annual Video Game Industry Report Card and were told that the “Search Institute is evaluating all of the programs from National Institute on Media and Family over the next 3-6 months and will determine which ones to continue to offer in the future.”

4 comments

FTC: Virtual Worlds Offer Real Explicit Content to Minors

December 10, 2009 -

A congressionally-mandated Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report looks into the availability of sexually and violently explicit content in online worlds to minors.

Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks examined 27 virtual online worlds, including Second Life, Build A Bearville, IMVU, Neopets, Runescape, There and YoVille. Selected worlds investigated ran the gamut from those intended for kids to those aimed at adults only.

At least one instance of sexually or violently explicit content was found in 19 of the 27 virtual worlds, with five labeled as having a “heavy” amount of explicit content, four containing a “moderate” amount, while a “low” amount was found in 10 virtual worlds.

Kid-oriented (designed for children ages 13 and under) virtual worlds fared a little better, with seven featuring no explicit content, six featuring a “low” amount and a single world labeled as having “moderate” explicit content.

The report also examined the ways in which virtual worlds designed for older teens or adults kept out younger children. It was found that “most” worlds used an age-screening mechanism tied to a birth date entered in the registration process and half of these worlds did not accept kids who re-registered on the same computer using a modified birth date.

The Commission recommended five steps for virtual world operators to take in order to limit the exposure of kids to explicit content:

  • Ensuring that the age-screening mechanisms virtual world operators employ do not encourage underage registration;

  • Implementing or strengthening age-segregation techniques to help ensure that minors and adults interact only with their peers and view only age-appropriate material;

  • Re-examining the strength of language filters to ensure that such filters detect and eliminate communications that violate online virtual worlds’ conduct standards;

  • Providing greater guidance to community enforcers in online virtual worlds so that they are better equipped to: self-police virtual worlds by reviewing and rating online content; report the presence of potential underage users; and comment on users who otherwise appear to be violating a world’s terms of behavior; and,

  • Employing a staff of specially trained moderators whose presence is well known in-world and who are equipped to take swift action against conduct violations.


What defines explicit? The Commission developed its own factors, looking to Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rating criteria.

The full report, in PDF form, can be grabbed here.

26 comments

Inside Germany’s “Killer Game” Fight

November 4, 2009 -

EuroGamer has an insightful piece up entitled “Killerspiele,” which takes a look at the state of controversial games in Germany.

The article begins by detailing the failed “Killer Game Drive” put on by the Aktionsbündnis Amoklauf Winnenden last month in Stuttgart, noting that Harry Schober (pictured left), a father of one of the German school shooting victims from earlier this year, founded both the organization and the game round up.

Other aspects covered include a detailed look at Germany’s game rating system, which “goes further than any other to ensure that unsuitable videogames don't get into the hands of unsuitable players,” and the positive effect that a gamer-driven, grass-roots effort had upon government.

Where the piece’s author—Simon Parkin—excels though is in his ability to frame perfectly both the anguish of Schober and the outrage of gamers, who feel that their rights are being affected by attempts to limit access to certain games:

We should always be mindful that videogames offer mere fleeting entertainment while life, in contrast, is infinitely precious. The former should never threaten the latter. Hardy Schober's anguish may be misplaced and his tabloid-friendly skip stunt deserving of mockery. But more than that, he deserves a conversation. If gamers cannot afford him that, then in some ways, they really are to blame.

26 comments

Watchdog Group Finds Dairy Queen Game "Egregious"

May 22, 2009 -

Stopping by your local Dairy Queen over the holiday weekend? If so, here's something to consider:

Ice cream-centric PC game DQ Tycoon has come in for some freezer burn, courtesy of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

The Boston-based CCFC turned its attention to DQ Tycoon as part of its ongoing campaign to lobby Scholastic, Inc. to drop non-books items such as toys, make-up and video games from its school flyers. In a press release issued earlier this week, CCFC termed the game "egregious":

CCFC plans to continue to track Scholastic Book club offerings. One of the more egregious recent findings was the Dairy Queen video game, DQ Tycoon, which appears in Scholastic’s June 2009 Arrow flyer.

The Orlando Sentinel's education blog picked up on the theme:

Some might suggest that  DQ Tycoon isn't in the same league with a Newbery Medal winner for children's literature, such as Joseph Krumgold's And Now Miguel, my personal favorite.  But it apparently gets equal of better billing in the book club fliers. That coming of age book about a Hispanic boy in New Mexico, which won the Newbery in 1954, has been "thinker" literature for kids for 55 years. Will DQ Tycoon meet that test??

While it's true that DQ Tycoon is probably not going to change anyone's life, GamePolitics just had to ask: What's so bad about a game based on ice cream? CCFC spokesman Josh Golin responded.

CCFC: The game is egregious because it's an ad for Dairy Queen masquerading as a video game and ads for Dairy Queen have no place in schools. It is particularly galling that Scholastic is enlisting teachers as a sales force for the game because, at a time of heightened concerns about childhood obesity, many schools are limiting the types of foods that can be sold and marketed on their premises.  I think it's safe to say that without Scholastic, DQ would be unable to promote Blizzards (as many as 1,200 calories) in elementary schools.

GP: In my experience the "tycoon" game genre generally would seem to have at least some educational value, forcing players to plan, strategize, allocate resources, etc. Not exactly Manhunt 2. I noticed that the game next to DQ Tycoon in the ad is "1701," which I've played and which also brings a lot of historical flavor as well as the previously mentioned elements to the mix.

CCFC: I don't dispute for a second that some video games can have educational value. Our concerns are a) the highly commercialized nature of so many of Scholastic's offerings  (not just the games) and b) the fact that Scholastic sells so many things that are not books in its "book clubs".

The fact of the matter is that books clearly play a special role in schools which is why Scholastic is allowed into classrooms and given the unique opportunity to sell directly to students.  Scholastic is exploiting that access by selling so many things that aren't books.  I'm sure Game Stop or Toys R' Us would love to have teachers hand out circulars for them every month.

GP: So, why does CCFC hate ice cream? Just kidding...

48 comments

Parents Television Council Applauds California's Supreme Court Appeal of Violent Video Game Law

May 21, 2009 -

Media watchdog group the Parents Television Council has applauded Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal court decision striking down California's 2005 violent video game law as unconstitutional.

While video game industry lobbyists and video game consumer group the Entertainment Consumers Association criticized Schwarzenegger's decision, PTC President Tim Winter (left) praised the California appeal in a press release:

There should be no question that unaccompanied minors should be kept from purchasing adult video games that research has shown can be harmful to them, just like there are reasonable restrictions on other products that can cause them harm. This California law was designed to enforce the video game industry’s own voluntary retail guidelines... Our own research found that video game retailers sell M-rated video games to minors 36% of the time.  Clearly, this law is needed...

The [video game] industry doesn’t follow its own rules, and they don’t want a consequence for violating them.  Video game retailers, developers and publishers actually profit when their age restriction policy is ignored.  This creates an inherent and unworkable conflict of interest.

We hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case and rule in favor of the families and children that this California law was intended to protect.

Winter is referring to the PTC's 2008 secret shopper survey, which found that underage buyers were successful at purchasing M-rated games 36% of the time. A survey released by the Federal Trade Commission earlier in 2008 found only a 20% success rate for underage buyers.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

38 comments

Australian Watchdog Group Slams House of the Dead: Overkill

March 19, 2009 -

An Australian parents' group is protesting the MA15+ rating assigned to Wii zombie shooter House of the Dead: Overkill.

As reported by the Melbourne Herald-Sun, Pro Family Perspective director Angela Conway is leading the charge against HOTD:O. The game recently set a Guinness Book record for profanity. Said Conway:

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.

176 comments

Watchdog Group Rejects Complaint Over "Early Death" Ad

March 19, 2009 -

Over the years, video games have been linked to societal ills ranging from poor academic performance to extreme antisocial behavior.  So perhaps it came as no surprise when the game industry reacted poorly to U.K. health group Change4Life’s “Early Death” ad which visually linked the sedentary nature of video game play to dying before one's time.

Several game industry types spoke out against the ad while trade magazine MCV and trade association Tiga (representing UK game developers) went as far as to submit official complaints with U.K. ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority.

Less than two weeks later, the ASA has decided not to take any action against the ad. In its ruling the ASA said:

Most readers would understand that the ad was discouraging a sedentary lifestyle and used the example of playing a console game as an illustration of the type of behaviour which might lead to long-term health problems if no exercise were taken alongside more sedentary activities.

Interestingly, the ASA also said that it received a complaint from someone not affiliated with the video game industry:

One parent objected that the ad was offensive and harmful because it frightened her young child who became scared that she would die if she played video games. The ASA Council sympathised with those concerns and understood that the reference to future health might, for some, be upsetting. However, it considered that the ad was unlikely to cause undue fear or distress to parents or children.

You can read the ASA’s entire response at MCV.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...

22 comments

NIMF Sees Madworld as Blemish on Nintendo's Record

March 10, 2009 -

The National Institute on Media and the Family has taken a swipe at Nintendo over the release of Sega's bloody Madworld for the Wii.

IGN reports on a NIMF press release in which organization founder Dr. David Walsh criticizes Nintendo for licensing Madworld, which has been highly anticipated by many Wii gamers:

[Nintendo has] shed its 'family friendly' reputation with MadWorld's release.

 

The release of MadWorld for the Wii brings violent videogames to a once family-friendly platform. In MadWorld, gamers use the Wii Remote to make the necessary physical actions to chainsaw an opponent in half, impale an enemy with a signpost or decapitate a victim with a golf club...

In the past, the Wii has successfully sold itself as being the gaming console for the entire family and a way to bring family-game nights back into people's living rooms. Unfortunately, Nintendo opened its doors to the violent videogame genre. The National Institute on Media and the Family hopes that Nintendo does not lose sight of its initial audience and continues to offer quality, family-friendly games.

GP: While Walsh's criticism of Madworld is not unexpected, the idea that Nintendo is pursuing a family friendly policy went by the wayside with the 2007 release of Manhunt 2 for the Wii.

51 comments

Parents Television Council Assails Federal Court Ruling on California Video Game Law; Urges SCOTUS Appeal

February 23, 2009 -

As GamePolitics reported on Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court has upheld a lower court's ruling that California's 2005 video law is unconstitutional.

The Parents Television Council has now weighed in on the decision. The Los Angeles-based watchdog group criticized the 9th Circuit's ruling and called upon PTC members to support State Sen. Leland Yee's call for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a press release, PTC President Tim Winter (left) said:

Let’s be clear on what – exactly – is going on here: The video game industry has established a policy to ‘protect’ children from a harmful product, yet they file lawsuit after lawsuit to oppose any enforcement of that same policy... The only motivation for the industry to sue is to keep collecting blood money from kids who aren’t supposed to be able to buy these games without their parents present at the time of purchase.

There are very responsible retailers out there – Wal-Mart and Game Stop come to mind – who take their obligation not to sell these games to kids very seriously.  Yet industry representatives claim this law is unfairly biased against them... If the industry actually followed its own rules, then this law would have absolutely no financial impact... 

Shockingly, the Court’s ruling claims that there isn’t enough research to support that children are affected by video game violence.  Yet countless independent studies confirm what most parents instinctively know to be true: repeated exposure to graphic sexual, violent and profanity-laced video games has a harmful and long-term effect on children...
This federal court decision is a disgrace and should be of great concern to all parents – not just in California but across our nation.  We applaud State Sen. Yee’s efforts to see that this decision goes to the U.S. Supreme Court...

82 comments

Common Sense Media Criticizes Full Frontal Nudity in GTA IV Expansion

February 20, 2009 -

The mainstream is beginning to react to the news that GTA IV add-on The Lost and Damned features a moment of full frontal male nudity.

Watchdog group Common Sense Media has now weighed in on the controversy:

It is even more controversial than its predecessors because this game has full frontal male nudity. The game lets you lead a life of crime as part of a motorcycle gang with plenty of gang violence... relentless foul language, drugs and alcohol, and sexual references...

Families can talk about why Rockstar likes to push the envelope and garner controversy over its games? Why did they have to put full-frontal nudity in the game if it's not integral to the story? Do they correlate media outrage with extraordinary game sales? Do players expect Rockstar to stir up controversy with each of its titles, including the Manhunt and Bully series?...

 

56 comments

Watchdog Dings Scholastic for Pushing Video Games, Other Items

February 10, 2009 -

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has targeted Scholastic, Inc. over the bookseller's marketing of items such as video games, jewelry kits and toys to school children.

As reported by the Associated Press, CCFC director Susan Linn was highly critical of Scholastic. The company has been welcomed into schools for decades. Said Linn:

The opportunity to sell directly to children in schools is a privilege and not a right. Scholastic is abusing that privilege by flooding classrooms across the country with ads for toys, trinkets, and electronic media with little or no educational value.

The AP details some of the bookseller's marketing practices which prompted CCFC to act:

Items pitched to elementary school students in the last 14 months include M&M’s Kart Racing Wii video game, an American Idol event planner, the SpongeBob SquarePants Monopoly computer game, lip gloss rings, Nintendo’s Baby Pals video game, Hannah Montana posters and the Spy Master Voice Disguiser.

The campaign said about one-third of the items for sale in Scholastic’s elementary and middle school book clubs were either not books or were books packaged with other items such as jewelry, toys and makeup.

However, Scholastic exec Judy Newman defended her company's offerings to the AP:

We’re losing kids’ interest (in reading). We have to keep them engaged. This (book club) model is 60 years old, and it has to stay relevant to do the work it does. To the extent we put in a few carefully selected non-book items, it’s to keep up the interest... some kids learn through video games.

 

48 comments

LEGO Batman Makes Watchdog Group's List of Terrible Toys

January 22, 2009 -

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has had little to say about video games since joining the 2007 fight against Manhunt 2.

But the Boston-based group has named a popular video game as a finalist in the voting for its first annual TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award.

So, which game has drawn CCFC's wrath? Grand Theft Auto IV? Left 4 Dead? Saints Row 2? Blitz: The League II?

Actually, none of the above. The CCFC has targeted LEGO Batman. Here's what the watchdog group says about the E10-rated game on its website:

How do you turn the ultimate creative toy into a symbol of commercialized childhood?  Begin by partnering with media companies to sell that toy in branded kits designed for recreating movies like Star Wars, rather than creative construction. 

 

Then, dispense with hands-on building altogether by turning your toy into a video game so that instead of deciding what to build next, children choose which cyber weapons to use to beat up their opponent. 

 

Finally, ignore the fact it was rated suitable for ages 10 & up and partner with McDonald’s for a Happy Meal toy giveaway to simultaneously promote the video game, junk food, and the violent Dark Knight movie series to preschoolers.

97 comments

U.K. Watchdog Disappointed, Wanted Madworld Banned

January 16, 2009 -

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.

33 comments

Will New Study Linking Kids' Media Habits to Sex, Drugs & Obesity be Fast-tracked to the White House?

December 4, 2008 -

A study released by watchdog group Common Sense Media this week strongly correlates the amount of time children spend with media to poor school performance as well as negative health outcomes such as obesity, substance abuse and smoking.

Media and Child and Adolescent Health: A Systematic Review is, essentially, a survey of research on the topic conducted over the past 30 years. The study was carried out by researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and California Pacific Medical Center.

From a political standpoint, it is interesting to note that lead researcher Ezekiel Emanuel of the NIH is the brother of President-elect Barack Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Common Sense Media CEO and founder Jim Steyer (left) discussed the Obama connection with Time:

[Rahm Emanuel] will have a strong position in the incoming Administration. And I am optimistic that you'll see a renewed emphasis, from the White House on down, on media, technology and kids. In that sense, I'm very hopeful that Barack and Michelle Obama will be parents-in-chief and role models-in-chief for our country. Barack talked about it repeatedly through his campaign—turning off the TV, turning off the video games, doing your homework, talking with your kids.

Steyer also told Time that the study deliberately stayed away from issues of violence and media:

The research team decided that there was a voluminous amount of studies that focus solely on media and violence. So they wanted to stay away from that... This report doesn't say, nor would Common Sense ever suggest, that media is the cause of all society's ills, or the sole cause of childhood obesity or risky sexual behavior or smoking or alcohol use among teens. But it is a significant contributing factor...

The study's politicial potential is also emphasized in a press release on the Common Sense Media website which quotes former FCC chairman and CSM board member William Kennard:

The new administration has shown a commitment to children and has already made important statements about how it will focus new attention on technology and media. There is a unique opportunity to make real change in the role that media plays in our children’s lives.

46 comments

NIMF Fires Back at GP

December 4, 2008 -

Yesterday on GamePolitics I wrote that watchdog group the National Institute on Media and the Family has been co-opted by the video game industry.

It wasn't the first time I've taken NIMF to task for accepting a $50,000 grant from the Entertainment Software Association, the lobbying group which represents US game publishers. Not surprisingly, NIMF took umbrage at my comments. Spokesman Darin Broton told GameCyte:

We’re never going to stop putting the [video game] retailers or the [video game] industry’s feet to the fire... You can rest assured that we’ll be talking publicly in 2009 about the issue of gaming addiction.

 

[NIMF accepted the ESA grant because] we’re working on a project to create an online tool for parents to tackle the issues of online predators, cyberbullies, etcetera. It’s not a blank check. It’s for a specific spot on the website.

 

Yes, there was hesitation [about accepting the ESA grant], and if there wasn’t hesitation, I don’t think any of us would be doing our jobs. But I think the end result of giving a parent another useful thing for them to make better decisions at home with their kids is worthwhile.

 

I’ve actually laughed at GamePolitics, because before this, GamePolitics was a frequent critic of NIMF for being too harsh on the industry. It’s a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

I look forward to seeing what GamePolitics has to say in early 2009, and see if they still think we’re in the back pocket of the industry.

GP: I'm glad to see that my comments struck a nerve - they were meant to.

That said, I should point out that I have a great deal of respect for Dr. David Walsh and his organization. But there are certain lines which a self-proclaimed watchdog group like NIMF just shouldn't cross. And accepting money from the very industry you claim to be watching is one of those lines - maybe the biggest, brightest one of all. It's the reason why you won't find any paid video game advertising on GamePolitics, which is owned by the ECA, a game consumer advocacy group.

And while I haven't always agreed with NIMF's conclusions or its methodology, I've always believed that the organization's heart was in the right place. Over the years, David Walsh has been unfailingly respectful in his treatment of the gamer community and gaming press. As we all know, not every game critic behaves with such decency.

Beyond that, it's not a bad thing to have rational game industry watchdogs at work. When operating appropriately, groups like NIMF provide a useful checks-and-balances function. Yes, we may chafe at some of their conclusions, but sparking a dialogue about games and their potential effects on young people can't hurt.

In taking GamePolitics to task, Darin Broton indicates that NIMF will have some watchdog-worthy comments early in the new year.

We'll be watching.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

27 comments

NIMF Report Card Praises Game Biz, Gives Parents an Incomplete

November 25, 2008 -

Mom and Dad forgot to turn an assignment in, apparently.

While lavishly praising the video game industry in its 13th Annual Video Game Report Card, the National Institute on Media and the Family has tagged parents with an "incomplete."

Actually, the "I" grade is NIMF's cutesy way of saying, well, not much, to be honest. Here are the grades along with NIMF's commentary:

ESRB Ratings.... A The addition of ratings summaries is yet another step forward in the growing list of improvements that the ESRB has made in recent years.

ESRB Ratings Education.... We commend the ESRB for intensifying efforts to help parents understand the video game ratings. The ESRB has become the entertainment industry leader in educating retailers and parents about the rating system.

Retailer Ratings Enforcement.... B+  The 80 percent enforcement rate shows significant progress with still some room for improvement.

Gaming Console Manufacturers.... Parental controls, timing devices and parent education efforts are all major
improvements giving parents more tools to supervise game play.

Parental Involvement.... Incomplete  The focus of this year’s report card is providing parents with the information they need. All segments of the industry have made significant improvements in recent years. Parents now have more information and tools than ever before. However, the constant changes present new challenges. Parents need to pay more attention to the amount of time and the types of games their kids play. The parent guide section in this report card is intended to motivate and equip parents to do this.

GP: We can't argue with the grades assigned to the game industry categories by NIMF, and the industry must certainly be pleased. There was a time, and not so long ago, that the ESA and ESRB dreaded this day as NIMF head David Walsh and Sen. Joe Lieberman would step to a Capitol Hill podium and deliver their annual video game beatdown, er, report card.

As to the incomplete for parents, it's meaningless, since NIMF has no way to measure it.

We must also say that the process would be far more coherent if NIMF maintained the same grading categories from year to year. The 2007 version, for example (which was far less complementary to the industry), included grades for "Retailer Policies," (broken down by National, Specialty and Rental) and "The Gaming Industry."

The 2005 version absolutely savaged the industry and included grades for "Ratings Accuracy," "Arcade Survey," and "Industry's 10-year cumulative grade." 

In addition to the grades, the report card contains about 30 pages of material regarding topics such as game addiction and a section on aggression research by Prof. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University.

Finally, NIMF's unfortunate decision to accept game industry funding clouds their grading effort. Inevitably, there are those who will say that the one-time watchdog has become a lapdog.

201 comments

UK Watchdog Group Calls for Ban on Upcoming Madworld

August 13, 2008 -

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.

 

69 comments

PTC Spanks Game Industry, Praises GameStop, Best Buy in Secret Shopper Report

July 24, 2008 -

(note: this PTC secret shopper survey is not related to the one conducted by Baltimore's ABC-2 that GamePolitics has reported on over the past couple of days)

Watchdog group the Parents Television Council has issued a secret shopper report in which video game retailers fared noticeably worse than in results issued by the Federal Trade Commission in April.

Overall, the PTC claims that game retailers sold M-rated titles to underage buyers 36% of the time. As reported by GamePolitics, the FTC's secret shoppers succeeded in buying M-rated games at only a 20% rate.

As in the the FTC study, GameStop and Best Buy did very well, according to the PTC. Both retailers sold to underage buyers just 8% of the time. Circuit City (60%), K-Mart (50%), Hollywood Video (50%) and various local and regional stores (47%) compiled the worst results.

PTC president Tim Winter (left) was harshly critical of the video game industry in the PTC's press release:

...a disturbing percentage of video game retailers are failing to prevent America’s children from purchasing violent and sexually graphic video games.  Any failure rate is problematic, but the failure rate we’re seeing is downright pathetic.  Similar to age restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, pornography and other products that are potentially harmful to children, parents deserve a reasonable expectation that age restrictions for adult entertainment products will be enforced at the retail level.

 

It is outrageous that retailers are not exercising greater responsibility, and even more absurd that there are no meaningful consequences for those retailers who ignore their industry’s own age restriction policies... 

 

The video game industry would have us believe that the 1/5 failure rate as reported by the FTC is acceptable and that parents need not worry.  Our analysis shows a 1/3 failure rate.  Perhaps the retailers felt the pressure was off after the FTC’s report was published... While we applaud Game Stop and Best Buy for their commitment to abide by their corporate age restriction policies, the other retailers should be ashamed and must act immediately to improve.

Winter also used the report as a platform to support new legislation introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). The bill targets video game ratings. GamePolitics coverage of the bill is upcoming.

Here is the data on various retailers as issued by the PTC (updated, as Blockbuster was left off of their original version):

 

M-RATED VIDEO GAMES
PTC Results (July 2008)
CHAIN
# of Stores
% Able to Purchase
Game Stop
12
8%
Wal-Mart
13
38%
Best Buy
12
8%
Toys “R” Us
5
40%
Blockbuster
11
36%
Target
17
41%
Kmart
4
50%
Circuit City
10
60%
Hollywood Video
2
50%
Various Local & Regional Stores
15
47%


 

58 comments

New Zealand Clears Morals Group to Petition for GTA IV Ban

July 22, 2008 -

Nearly 90 days post-launch, Grand Theft Auto IV is still raising the ire of watchdog groups.

The New Zealand Herald reports that the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards has been granted permission to appeal GTA IV's R18 rating. The group notes on its website that the appeal will be made to New Zealand's Office of Film & Literature Classification.

The SPCS quotes from a decision issued yesterday by Brendan Boyle (left), New Zealand's Secretary of Internal Affairs:

I found no evidence in the [SPCS] application to suggest that it was vexatious... I then considered whether the application for leave was frivolous (trivial, needless or unfounded, or so untenable that it could not succeed) under the Guidelines... I found that the application for leave from the SPCS appeared to be tenable in that it could possibly succeed. The application was therefore not frivolous. It is also my view that the SPCS has established an arguable prima facie case for the application to be considered by the Board.

Since R18 is New Zealand's most stringent rating, a successful appeal by the SPCS would result in a national ban of the exceedingly popular game.

GP: Thanks to GamePolitics reader Solufien for the tip!

13 comments

 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

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

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
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
Sora-ChanI realize that they have ways getting around it, but one reason might be due to earthquakes.04/17/2014 - 4:42am
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician