China Decision on WoW Coming Soon

January 4, 2010 -

It appears that China's feuding regulation agencies may have made peace that could lead to gamers in the country being able to play World of Warcraft again.

According to a brief item in JLC Pacific Epoch, China's General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) and the Ministry of Culture have come to an agreement about whether NetEase has been illegally operating its license for the MMORPG World of Warcraft. According to "an unnamed insider." the two sides apparently have agreed that regulations were broken, as the story says that a "punishment" will be announced in mid-January.

It remains to be seen what the punishment will be, but at least a decision appears close. The case has been in limbo since mid-September after GAPP told NetEase to stop charging for new WoW accounts and halted its review of an application by NetEase to allow players to play the WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade.

If the sanctions stop short of completely shutting down NetEase in China for its "illegal" activity, it could pave the way for resumption of gameplay on NetEase servers when the sanctions are lifted. If GAPP and the MoC go so far as to ban NetEase from operations, WoW parent Blizzard Entertainment may be forced to find another company in good standing to operate its WoW servers in China.

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WOW Playing Fugitive Busted with Help of Blizzard

January 4, 2010 -

An Indiana man wanted on drug charges was tracked down in Canada, thanks to his World of Warcraft addiction.

Following a 2007 warrant issued for his arrest, Alfred Hightower of Howard County, Indiana had fled to Canada reports KokomoPerspective.com. Hightower was wanted on charges of dealing marijuana and both schedule III and IV controlled substances.

Detective Matt Roberson began tracking the wanted man using information obtained from a childhood friend of Hightower’s. Roberson eventually learned of Hightower’s dependence on WOW and subpoenaed Activision Blizzard for more information on the fugitive.

The publisher's cooperation seemed to surprise Roberson:

“They don’t have to respond to us, and I was under the assumption that they wouldn’t,” said Roberson. “It had been three or four months since I had sent the subpoena. I just put it in the back of my mind and went on to do other things. Then I finally got a response from them. They sent me a package of information. They were very cooperative. It was nice that they were that willing to provide information.”

After zeroing in on Hightower’s location using a combination of WOW billing address, IP address and Google Earth, Canadian authorities were alerted and Hightower was nabbed in Ottawa, Canada and deported to Minnesota, where U.S. Marshals held him for Howard County authorities.

The article also features a link to a WOW Armory listing for Hightower’s character, a Level 80 Tauren Shaman.


Thanks Dan!

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Winona Ryder, Depeche Mode Factor in WOW Lawsuit

November 24, 2009 -

World of Warcraft maker Activision Blizzard is the latest target of a lawsuit by serial suer (or professional plaintiff) Erik Estavillo.

Filed this morning in the Civil Division of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, the civil complaint charges Activision Blizzard with “deceitful” business practices, as it “continues to maintain a harmful virtual environment to many of its customers by forcing them to follow the game’s sneaky and deceitful practices.”

Among Estavillo’s claims is that WOW is designed for a gamer “to walk or run at a calculated slow pace, resulting in the player taking longer to get where he or she needs to go in the game.” This slow pace, says the plaintiff, leads to a longer time needed to finish game play or quests, in turn leading to more subscription revenue for Activision Blizzard.

Estavillo also complains that faster transportation is not available until a player levels up accordingly, or purchases an expansion pack.

The plaintiff then likens his health problems (OCD, Agoraphobia, Panic Disorder, major depression and Crohn’s Disease) to the afflictions that ailed the late EverQuest gamer Shawn Woolley, who took his own life on Thanksgiving morning in 2001.  Estavillo stated that he “doesn’t want to end up like Shawn did as he [Estavillo] relies on videogames heavily for the little ongoing happiness he can achieve in this life.”

Estavillo subpoenaed Depeche Mode founder Martin Lee Gore and actress Winona Ryder to provide testimony on his behalf regarding the subject of alienation.

Gore was subpoenaed because “he himself has been known to be sad, lonely, and alienated as can be seen in the songs he writes,” and Ryder because of her and Estavillo’s common interest in the J.D. Salinger book The Catcher in the Rye. Ryder would be able to, “explain the significance of alienation in Catcher in the Rye and will also testify to how alienation in the book can tie to alienation in real live/video games such as World of Warcraft.”

Estavillo is seeking punitive damages of $1.0 million and a court order that WOW implement changes that address the issues of his complaint.

Other lawsuits filed by Estavillo include one against Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), following a banning from the PlayStation Network, and a recent suit that targeted Microsoft and Nintendo—the former over an Xbox 360 red ring of death and the latter over a firmware update that disabled his Homebrew Channel.

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GAPP Snaps, Shuts Down WOW in China

November 3, 2009 -

As China’s General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) and the Ministry of Culture continue to flex their muscles over control of the country’s game industry, World of Warcraft gamers and operators are feeling the brunt of the infighting between the two entities.

Reuters reports that GAPP has stripped NetEase of the ability to operate The Burning Crusade, the latest version of WOW. GAPP cited a “gross violation” of regulations and ordered NetEase to stop charging users to play the game and to cease taking new subscriptions.

NetEase has since responded, saying that they “believe that they are in full compliance with applicable PRC laws and are currently seeking clarification from the relevant governmental authorities.”

Roth Capital Partners analyst Adam Krejcik said of NetEase, “These guys are essentially stuck in the middle of this power struggle.”

Until September of this year, GAPP was responsible for approving all game content within China. The Ministry of Culture assumed some of these duties, but GAPP appears unwilling to give up its authority, leading to the current infighting. WOW was launched in China on September 19 with Ministry of Culture approval, but no GAPP approval, which is now coming back to haunt NetEase.

Analysts estimate that Chinese WOW activity contributes 5 or 6 cents a year per share to Activision’s earnings.


Thanks Greenfenri

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Imagining the Web Minus Net Neutrality

October 29, 2009 -

A reddit user has created a striking visual representation of what *could* happen if net neutrality laws are shot down.

The image is based tiered pricing plans that some cable and Internet companies currently offer (lending, perhaps, an increased measure of reality to the illustration) and imagines, for example, websites such as Hulu and YouTube as part of a "Hollywood Tier," available for $10 over the price paid for basic Internet service.

More relevant here is the rendering of a “Playground” tier that includes Valve’s Steam platform, World of Warcraft, Gametap, Electronic Arts and Real Arcade, offered for a $5 surcharge. Yikes!

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Gamer Compares WOW to New Girlfriend

October 6, 2009 -

A study conducted by Singapore’s National Institute of Education reveals that its youth rack up an average of 27 hours a week playing videogames.

The group has polled over 3,000 students during the course of the three-year study, which The Straits Times reports is still ongoing. Lui Tuck Yew, acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts was reportedly “quite surprised and a little bit shocked” at the number of hours spent gaming.

Lawrence Lee, a 16-year old World of Warcraft player, called four hours of gaming a day “nothing,” and compared the game to fledgling love:

It is the novelty, like getting a new girlfriend. You want to spend every minute with her.

Singapore has formed an inter-ministry committee to address “cyber-wellness” issues.

Read the entire scanned article at the Education Soon blog.

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Bake Cookies, Beat Internet Addiction

September 23, 2009 -

More details on exactly how a new facility treats Internet addiction have emerged via an article on the ShanghaiDaily website.

The reStart Internet Addiction Recovery Program, which opened its doors earlier this year in the state of Washington, takes a cold turkey approach to treating Internet addicts and attempts to fill their days with a mix of counseling and daily chores, such as baking cookies.

The program has its first patient, 19-year old Ben Alexander, who said his World of Warcraft addiction caused him to flunk out of the University of Iowa. The center can handle up to six patients at a time, but draws the line at accepting Internet sex addicts, as the retreat’s owner, Psychotherapist Cosette Dawna Rae, lives in the facility with her family.

This story claims the 45-day program costs $14,000, differing from earlier reports that pegged the figure at $45,000.

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Hardcore WoW Playing Senator Announces Run for Lt. Guv of Guam

September 4, 2009 -

We've written before on GamePolitics about Ray Tenorio (left), a member of Guam's Senate who also happens to be a hardcore World of Warcraft player.

But Tenorio has an announcement to make about his next political move, and he sent it here, which is kind of cool:

Hafa Adai (Hello) Game Politics.com.

I hope everyone at GamePolitics.com are healthy and doing well. As most everyone in WoW are eyeing level 85 in the Cataclysm expansion, waiting to take down the Lich King and still grinding heroic Ulduar...

I wanted to let GamePolitics.com know first that I am running for Lt. Governor with my friend, Senator Eddie Baza Calvo, who is running for Governor... 

I want to let your readers know that, among the numerous web sites and related comments to the articles about my gaming life some years ago, I understand the issues faced by the people who write on GamePolitics.com.

 

Perhaps together, we can continue to let people, voters and those in positions of authority know that gamers are the same as those who do everything from clean public parks, fight and die for democracy, conduct intricate procedures in professional careers, and, Yes, even make policy...for our communities, everywhere around the globe. That simple fact is rarely said but is the basis for an even broader discussion on the depth and breadth of people who enjoy gaming and still carry out their responsibilities.

Tenorio's WoW character is Paleray, a level-80 Dwarf Priest on the Silverhand server. He belongs to the Knights of the Marianas guild.

Guam is a territory of the United States and has one non-voting member in the U.S. House of Representatives. Tenorio is a member of Guam's 15-member unicameral legislature.

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13 Arrested After Chinese Teen Is Killed at Internet Addiction Camp

August 10, 2009 -

Last week GamePolitics reported on the tragic death of 16-year-old Deng Senshan (left). The Chinese teen was beaten to death by employees at a camp for Internet addicts.

IDG is now reporting that 13 people have been rounded up by Chinese investigators. The facility itself, the Qihang Salvation Training Camp, has been shut down after authorities found that it was unlicensed. 122 students receiving "treatment" there were sent home to their families. From the IDG report:

Conservative [Chinese] officials blame hugely popular online games like World of Warcraft for getting teens hooked on the Web, harming their grades in school and dividing them from their parents. Some of the camps have used shock treatment on students, but China banned the practice last month.

UPDATE: More at Slashdot...

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Female Gamer Sees Sexism At Play in MMOs

August 10, 2009 -

Are the virtual worlds portrayed in massively-multiplayer online games inherently sexist?

Although she believes the situation is improving, Jaime, a veteran female gamer, still sees a great deal of sexism in MMOs. In a column for MMOsite she explains her view:

From my own experience, in the early days of MMOs – looking back at Ultima Online and EverQuest – there was a definite attitude that women simply didn't play games... Female players who identified their gender... [were] ignored. Women... [had] their skills and abilities in the game questioned...

Players began to slowly accept that there were women playing MMOs... Nonetheless, the attitude itself was still low and chauvinistic. I can recount at least half a dozen times while playing Dark Age of Camelot... [receiving] requests for pictures, breast size, age, if I was available for dating, and various sexual requests and connotations...

There's also been one constant: the harassing of female characters... whispers soliciting cybersex, of course, but also more innocent gestures such as the use of emotes to flirt at, kiss, poke, tickle, tease, grope, slap, and otherwise virtually sexually harass a female character.

Not surprisingly, Jaime sees the anonymous nature of the online world as a major contributing factor in MMO sexism.

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ECA Urges Gamer Action on Net Neutrality

August 5, 2009 -

The Entertainment Consumers Association is urging gamers to stand up and be counted for Net Neutrality.

In an e-mail circulated yesterday, the ECA issued a call to action:

Now is the time for you to stand up for your rights and join millions of Americans of every political persuasion in the fight for Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the principle that ensures that gamers are free to go where they want, do what they like, and connect with whom they choose onlin. Congressmen Ed Markey (D-MA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) have introduced H.R. 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009.

Take action now and tell Congress to make Net Neutrality the law of the land. Without Net Neutrality, your Internet Service Provider is free to: charge you extra for playing World of Warcraft, to interfere with Xbox Live, or to completely shut off your ability to access for favorite web sites. Net Neutrality effects your entire online experience...

This is our best chance yet in making sure that Net Neutrality is passed by Congress. The head of the FCC supports it, the President of the United States supports it, and we're asking you to make sure to tell Congress you support it. Take a moment to send them the message to make Net Neutrality the law.

A suggested letter to Congressional representatives is available from the ECA website.

GP: Gamers, this issue may not inflame passions in the same way that the censorship debate does, but it's just as important in the long run.

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

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Outraged WoW Gamers Inexplicably Have Accounts Suspended

July 31, 2009 -

Numerous World of Warcraft gamers have found their accounts unexpectedly suspended, apparently through no fault of their own.

Ars Technica reports that chargebacks were filed against the accounts by PaymentOne; however, many of the WoW players affected insist that they have never used PaymentOne's services to cover the game's $14.99 monthy fee.

Mike Thompson of Ars Technica explains:

Chargebacks are normally used as a method of consumer protection—a last line of defense against shady retailers... Exactly why and how these chargebacks were applied to the aforementioned accounts has yet to be determined, but they've caused the accounts to have negative balances with Blizzard, which has led to their suspension until the issue is resolved...

Posts in the forum thread show that Blizzard is willing to discuss the unauthorized charges, but there haven't been any definite results from pursuing this course of action yet... A quick Google search shows this isn't the first time that allegations of fraud and unexpected charges have been leveled against the company.

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Treating World of Warcraft Addicts Right Inside the Game

July 28, 2009 -

Let’s say you’re hopelessly addicted to World of Warcraft.

You play for 16 hours a day. You’ve lost your job, your friends, and you hardly eat or bathe anymore. Obviously, you need help but you’re unwilling to tear yourself away from your PC and see a counselor.

Well, if you’re not going to them, maybe they can come to you - in Azeroth.

Dr. Richard Graham, a consultant psychiatrist at the Tavistock Centre in London, would like therapists to join the game in order to treat addicted gamers right where they’re spending all their time.

[Addicted gamers] don’t exhibit the same outward warning signs as most teenage anti-social behaviour issues do because they’re in their bedrooms most of the time, seemingly out of trouble. Because of this we can’t get through to them in the traditional educational environment or intrude on their actual bedrooms, we need to turn to the internet itself to tackle these problems.

Graham admits that many psychiatrists may not be very good at playing video games and suggests existing players can be recruited to act as “peer mentors” for users identified as problematic.

The project is scheduled to be launched by year’s end by which time Graham hopes to convince Blizzard to waive or at least discount the game’s subscription fee for psychiatrists.

AE:  An interesting idea but, as a practical matter, one wonders how an addicted gamer would react to another player "counseling" him or her to take a break.

Via: Telegraph

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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London Mapped in Warcraft II Style

July 28, 2009 -

For today's geography lesson, we defer to Unterbahn, where Jeffrey Warren found a way to map London in Warcraft II style:

Take a look at this map of London with a Warcraft II theme; I used GSS/Geographic Stylesheets and Cartagen to create a custom map style that displays the entire world as if it were a Warcraft II level. This was done to showcase the abilities of the dynamic mapping framework Cartagen, which is open-source and runs in HTML5's Canvas element. No Java or Flash!

Via: boingboing

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Former WoW Player Details His Game Addiction in New Blog

July 7, 2009 -

A recovering WoWaholic recounts his descent into depression and game addiction in a new blog.

C Gibson explains that WoW Survivor is intended to offer a supportive place for those who found the MMO world a bit too compelling.

In an introductory post, Gibson candidly discusses his own experience:

I was going to school full time in NYC and working. Because of an issue with my family, I became depressed. I stopped going to class, quit a good job for a lamer one... and reinstalled WoW. Instead of dealing with my issues, I ignored them by grinding reputation for a mount while my wife was at work...

 

I was on the verge of losing the person I cared about most over something that really didn't matter to me and had ZERO real life benefits. I agreed to and went to a counseler... and that helped eliminate my depression because I was no longer a passive variable in a world I didn't pay attention to.

I uninstalled WoW and haven't played since. I do read up on the blogs on occassion, and I actually find that that solidifies why I don't play. There is no way to keep up and I don't feel like getting wrapped up in a never ending adventure while my real life crumbles...

GP: When I read such stories, it's hard to know whether the writer's game addiction is a symptom of something else - like depression - or the underlying disease itself. In any case, Gibson's story seems to have a happy ending. He reports that he is successfully pursuing a writing career in NYC and that he and his wife are the proud parents of five-month old.

Via: ExGamer

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Is Gold Farming Really Banned? Confusion Over China's New Virtual Currency Rules

July 1, 2009 -

Earlier this week GamePolitics covered a story by Information Week which reported that new Chinese regulations on virtual currency would outlaw gold farming.

But there appears to be confusion about whether the practice of gathering in-game MMO currency and then re-selling it for real cash will be affected by the new regulations.

incgamers disputes the report, citing the University of Manchester's Prof. Richard Heeks:

This [new Chinese law] therefore is not about what gold farming clients do: use real money to buy these virtual currencies; it’s the mirror image.  And it’s not about the major trade in gold farming such as World of Warcraft, which relates to other types of virtual currency.  And it’s not about buying/selling in-game items.  And it’s not about the power-levelling of avatars. Bottom line: it’s not about gold farming.

In any case, Dean Takahashi of Venture Beat writes, a ban on gold farming may be difficult for Chinese authorities to enforce:

The practice of trading virtual goods for real money is easy to make illegal, but hard to enforce. The gold farmers may not be affected... because of a technicality. Most of China’s gold farmers, who operate in sweatshops with dozens of fellow farmers, operate on servers on foreign soil. The government can only control what goes on with domestic servers...

The New York Times, which did not challenge the notion that the rules would impact gold farming, quoted Indiana University Prof. Edward Castronova, an authority on MMOs. In lauding the Chinese government action, Castonova offered what, to some, may seem like an alarmist view of in-game currency:

This action shows that at least one government is concerned about the way virtual worlds challenge its control of society. As virtual currencies take over more and more purchasing power, control over the effective money supply shifts from the central bank to the game developers.

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Report: China Bans Gold Farming

June 29, 2009 -

If you are planning on buying gold for your World of Warcraft character, act quickly. The price may be going up soon because of an official crackdown which should affect availability in a negative way.

Information Week reports that on Friday the Chinese government enacted new virtual currency regulations which, among other provisions, make gold farming illegal: 

The ruling is likely to affect many of the more than 300 million Internet users in China, as well as those in other countries involved in virtual currency trading. In the context of online role playing games like World of Warcraft, virtual currency trading is often called gold farming...

The trading of virtual currency for real cash employs hundreds of thousands of people worldwide and generates between $200 million and $1 billion annually, according to a 2008 survey conducted by Richard Heeks at the University of Manchester.

He estimates that between 80% and 85% of gold farmers are based in China.

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Australia Moves to Block Online Access to Games With Content Beyond MA-15+

June 25, 2009 -

Australia's federal government said yesterday that it plans to block access to websites which host and sell games with content edgier than what is allowable under an MA-15+ rating. The unprecedented censorship policy will apply to Australians of all ages.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, a spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy (left) said that the filtering scheme willl apply to downloadable games, Flash games and websites which sell boxed copies of MA-15+ games via mail order.

Colin Jacobs of Electronic Frontiers Australia, an online users' lobbying group, criticized the plan:

This is confirmation that the scope of the mandatory censorship scheme will keep on creeping. Far from being the ultimate weapon against child abuse, it now will officially censor content deemed too controversial for a 15-year-old. In a free country like ours, do we really need the government to step in and save us from racy web games?

Mark Newton, described by the SMH as an ISP engineer, told the newspaper that the plan could affect online-only games like World of Warcraft and Second Life as well:

That [online games] exemption [on content ratings] is the only reason why multi-player games with user-generated environments are possible in this country; without it, it'd only take one game user anywhere in the world to produce objectionable content in the game environment to make the Australian Government ban the game for everyone.

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So Far, Iranian Censors Not Blocking Online Game Traffic

June 25, 2009 -

While the Iranian government has cracked down on communications by restricting Internet traffic during the ongoing post-election unrest, an analysis performed by Craig Labovitz of  Security to the Core suggests that authorities aren't paying attention to the flow of online game data:

While the rapidly evolving Iranian firewall has blocked web, video and most forms of interactive communication, not all Internet applications appear impacted. Interestingly, game protocols like xbox and World of Warcraft show little evidence of government manipulation.

Perhaps games provide a possible source of covert channels (e.g. “Bring your elves to the castle on the island of Azeroth and we’ll plan the next Ahmadinejad protest rally?”)

Meanwhile, Xbox 360 gamer Mike Murikami, blogging for The Examiner, notes:

With the Xbox 360 offering video chat among the features of being an Xbox Gold subscriber, this could easily be an upcoming popular way for loved ones and news outlets to deliver messages to and from the country.

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Gay Pride Month Celebrated in World of Warcraft

June 24, 2009 -

June is Gay Pride Month in the U.S. and the LGBT community in World of Warcraft marked the event with a large-scale celebration on the Proudmoore server.

GayGamer reports that this year's event was the fifth such gathering:

There were a variety of activities including Pre-Parade Festivities, March, Meetup with Alliance, Nude Duel Championship final round, March to Ratchet, Dance Boat Party to Booty Bay, Azeroth's Next Top Model Competition, Crafting Faire and Post-Parade Dance Party in the Bay.

It's great to see events like this happening in WOW and City of Heroes.

Via: Destructoid

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U.S. VAT Tax Would Affect Games, Systems, Online Fees (and everything else)

May 28, 2009 -

Suddenly, there's a good bit of discussion in Washington, D.C. about the possibility of a value-added tax, or VAT.

For the uninitiated, a VAT is essentially a national sales tax. As the Washington Post points out:

Common around the world, including in Europe, such a tax... has not been seriously considered in the United States. But advocates say few other options can generate the kind of money the nation will need to avert fiscal calamity...

A VAT is a tax on the transfer of goods and services that ultimately is borne by the consumer. Highly visible, it would increase the cost of just about everything... But VAT advocates say those negatives could be offset by using the proceeds to pay for health care for every American...

Should a VAT be enacted, it will tax every type of transaction involving a good or service. For gamers, that means disc-based and downloaded software, consoles, peripherals and even monthly fees for Xbox Live, Second Life and World of Warcraft.

The WaPo posits scenarios involving VATs ranging from 10-25% but concludes that a VAT is unlikely - for now.

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Survey Says: One in Twelve Gamers Addicted

May 26, 2009 -

One in 12 gamers shows signs of addiction, according to a study being presented this week at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Congress.

Prof. Vladan Starcevic (left) of the University of Sydney told New Zealand's NZTV that his team reached that conclusion after conducting an online survey of nearly 2,000 worldwide respondents:

Their whole lives revolve around this activity and there certainly seems to be a problem there - there is an addiction. And it seems to us that these people seem to... have other mental health issues, and it seems excessive video game playing is a manifestation of these underlying problems.

Problem gamers identified by the researchers were more prone to being socially isolated, at increased risk of depression and more likely to engage in compulsive behavior. Most seemed to play four or more hours per day and preferred MMOs like World of Warcraft. On the other hand, Starcevic noted that 92% of gamers displayed no problems with their gaming:

Most people who play video games are not problem video game players, to put it in simple terms, they're not addicted to video games. It is a minority of people who seem to have a problem.

As GameCulture notes, the 8% figure arrived at by Starcevic is remarkably close to the 8.5% game addiction rate Iowa State Prof. Douglas Gentile reported in a study released jointly with the National Institute on Media and the Family last month. As GamePolitics has reported, Gentile's research was criticized by ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer and Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson, author of Grand Theft Childhood.

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Australian Paper: Video Game Biz "In Denial" About Game Addiction

May 20, 2009 -

Australia's largest daily newspaper, the Herald-Sun, charges that the video game industry is "in denial" when it comes to video game addiction:

Game addiction looms as a new national health problem for adults...

 

Games are an easy target, but it is true that the computer and video games industry has, unsurprisingly, backed away from the subject of games addiction. A statement from the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia shows the industry is in denial.

"Certainly many young people go through periods of intense involvement in computer game play, for example with a new game, but this is not a lasting obsession for the majority,'' it said.

Coming in for a mention, unsurprisingly, is World of Warcraft.

While there may be an argument to be made for game addiction, the poorly-researched Herald piece fails to make it.

Via: Joystiq

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Swine Flu Researchers Study 2005 WoW Pandemic

May 1, 2009 -

Canada.com reports that researchers are learning how pandemics spread by tracking progress of the Corrupted Blood outbreak that occurred in World of Warcraft in 2005.

Prof. Nina Fefferman of Rutgers University commented:

Suddenly, there did exist [in WoW] an experimental framework to watch how people would behave during an epidemic. That's exactly what we worry about in real-world epidemics — the little behaviours that we don't tell people to do or not to do, because we have never seen this happen before.

For those who don't play WoW, or didn't back in 2005, here's how the game's virtual pandemic went down:

Blizzard Entertainment decided that some players' characters had become too powerful, so they created a virus — called "Corrupted Blood" ...The virus quickly infected any nearby character, regardless of its relative strength.

The programmers imposed a mass quarantine, and expected players to take it seriously because "death" can cause their characters to lose items, strength, weapons and armour they had accumulated over many hours of play.

Yet many players ignored the quarantine, spreading the virus. Eventually, more than four million of the game's six million players worldwide were infected, and millions "died."

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Swine Flu Infects World of Warcraft

May 1, 2009 -

Swine flu may be causing a bit of a global panic just now, but the virus has apparently existed in Azeroth since the days of the Wrath of the Lich King beta.

The pic at left comes from the database at WoWHead, via Giant Bomb.

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PETA Plans Save the Seals Event on World of Warcraft

April 8, 2009 -

The increasingly game-aware People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will hold a save-the-virtual-baby-seals event in World of Warcraft at 1 P.M. EST on Saturday.

According to a post on the PETA site:

Activists from across the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor are banding together to put a stop to the atrocious seal slaughter. Anyone who slaughters baby seals for their fur must surely be in service to the evil Lich King.

 

You must be in the WhisperWind realm in order to fight... go to Northrend, where you will find a zone called Howling Fjord, where the baby seals live on glaciers and boats float in the fjords. This will be the battleground to stop the slaughter.

Unfortunately, casual WoW players will not be able to check the event out since characters need to be level 68+ to enter the Howling Fjord zone. One of the reasons why the Ron Paul WoW campaign rally was so successful was that it took place in a starter zone.

In addition, hardcore WoW fans have posted comments to the PETA article and its Facebook event listing pointing out other concerns:

I actually do find this somewhat ironic, as there is soooooo much animal killing involved during the levelling of your characters.

I am a little aghast that you chose Alliance; if you want to be environmental you really want to be looking at the Tauren mythology. They are one with the earth and they are very environmental. As someone who plays mostly Horde characters, this just comes off as prejudiced.

Whisperwind is NOT a pvp server, most likely you are just going to be a witness to the biggest in game seal slaughter and you will be powerless to do anything about it.

Whisperwind is already a very high population server, which means most PETA members are just going to see the queue screen like the Ron Paul people did.

49 comments

Video Games Get the Blame in Colorado Shooting Spree

March 28, 2009 -

A Colorado police officer has suggested that a troubled 22-year old man who went on a random shooting spree last October may have been influenced by violent video games.

The Denver Post reports that the police investigator made the comment in regard to Stefan Martin-Urban (left), who killed two people and wounded two others before turning his gun on himself:

When Stefan Martin-Urban... pulled a pistol from behind his back and methodically shot strangers, his behavior was eerily similar to characters in the video games he played obsessively.

Those games, authorities said Friday... are the closest police and FBI investigators can come to an explanation for Martin-Urban's actions that killed two and injured two.

"It could be that he was simply acting out a part in a video game. Maybe he had interjected himself into a game in his mind," Grand Junction police Sgt. Tony Clayton said.

 

Like the thugs in "Grand Theft Auto" and warlocks in "World of Warcraft," Martin-Urban showed no emotion...

Sgt. Clayton's remarks notwithstanding, there are indications that the killer was, like so many other random shooters, a mentally disturbed person who gained access to a gun. From the story:

He had no criminal record and had not exhibited any psychotic behavior. But unbeknown to anyone who might have been alarmed, Martin-Urban had purchased a 9mm semiautomatic Ruger...

The only other clue that something wasn't right was his computer log: He spent an inordinate amount of time playing games where the object is to kill and steal.

He played the games as many as 12 hours a day during the last few months of his life. He holed up in a hotel room in Europe during a family vacation last summer and played the games while his mother and sister went sightseeing.

"In the last year, he had no friends. No boyfriend. No girlfriend. No pets. He was consumed with the video games. He spent an enormous amount of time playing them," Clayton said...

Martin-Urban lived mostly in isolation...  after enrolling in a state college... He stopped going to classes within two weeks.

His father had committed suicide in Alaska four days before the previous Christmas...

He had a profile on YouTube where he wrote that he lived in a world "that some people choose to call 'reality.' " His favorite videos included a prophecy that a 2,000- mile-long spaceship containing cosmic beings was going to appear in the Earth's atmosphere three days after the shooting.

In regard to the YouTube video, a local TV station speculated that Martin-Urban may have been part of a cult which predicted that the world would end within days of his rampage.

The Denver Post report also notes that Martin-Urban was a Grand Theft Auto player and even theorizes a link between his GTA play and the fact that most of his victims were getting into a BMW at the time of the shooting:

One of the fanciful cars in the game — the silver Blista — has taillights that resemble a BMW's.

The Rocky Mountain News reported last October that Martin-Urban's aunt worried that he may have been suicidal.

GP: Martin-Urban's self-imposed isolation, his retreat into obsessive gaming, his dropping out of school, the trauma of his father's suicide, and his apparent fascination with the bizarre cult video would seem to be red flags that Martin-Urban was a deeply troubled young man.

Protectionism at Work in China's WoW Lich King Refusal?

March 19, 2009 -

Recent reports that China is throwing up obstacles to the introduction of World of Warcraft expansion Wrath of the Lich King may be economic protectionism at work, says techno-financial site Silicon Alley Insider:

Wrath of the Lich King still isn't on sale in China, waiting on approval from Chinese censors who are nitpicking over "skeletons" in the game. And now it's looking less and likely Activision Blizzard's (ATVI) latest will get approval anytime soon -- China is vowing to make it harder and harder for games like WoW to get the thumbs up.

Blame good old-fashioned protectionism: The Chinese Government hopes to make homegrown, Chinese games more attractive by keeping foreign games off the market.

By way of evidence, SAI points to a report published earlier this week by JLM Pacific Epoch, which tracks business happenings in China:

The [Chinese government] intends to tighten approval criteria for online game imports in an effort to protect the development of domestic online game enterprises and avoid the excessive penetration of foreign culture among Chinese youth...

The central government supports the export of domestic online games as a way to promote Chinese culture, and... plans to organize an overseas roadshow for domestic companies to cultivate efforts abroad...

GP: So, if the JLM report is correct, the Chinese don't want Western games sold there, but would like to send Chinese games here. Sounds like something the ESA - which represents the interests of U.S. game publishers - might want to take up the U.S. government.

24 comments

In Wake of Rampage, German Pol Calls for WoW to be 18+ Rated

March 18, 2009 -

First-person shooters Counter-strike and Far Cry 2 have already come in for mention in relation to last week's horrific rampage shooting in Germany.

But World of Warcraft, not one of the usual suspects in the video game violence debate, has now been thrown into the mix by a German politician.

Welt Online reports that Germany's Minister for Social Affairs Mechthild Ross-Luttmann (left) has turned her attention to WoW:

Ross-Luttmann... aims to achieve a general age restriction for addictive computer games. World of Warcraft, for example – available to minors at the age of 12 – might in the near future only be sold to adults. In addition to this, parents need to be further sensibilized [sic]. “Parents must know what danger potential exists in their children’s bedrooms,” Ross-Luttmann said.

Computer game expert and author of "Digital Paradise" Andreas Rosenfelder is rather skeptical about demands like this. “I don’t see a connection between digital role playing games like World of Warcraft and shooting sprees,” he said. World of Warcraft is a game set in medieval times in which the protagonists can take on the roles of dwarfs, elves and wizards. There is no shooting in this game.

"In heated debates there can easily be some confusion,“ Rosenfelder said.

Ross-Luttmann also hopes to begin a secret shopper program in order to evaluate video game rating enforcement by German retailers.

Via: GameCulture

If You Die, Who Will Tell Your WoW Guild Friends?

March 16, 2009 -

Online game guilds and clans often become something of a second family for devoted players.

But if a WoW gamer unexpectedly dies, how will fellow guildies know?

The Associated Press looks into the issue:

When Jerald Spangenberg collapsed and died in the middle of a quest in an online game, his daughter embarked on a quest of her own: to let her father's gaming friends know that he hadn't just decided to desert them.

It wasn't easy, because she didn't have her father's "World of Warcraft" password and the game's publisher couldn't help her. Eventually, Melissa Allen Spangenberg reached her father's friends by asking around online for the "guild" he belonged to.

The AP notes that some hardcore MMO types are leaving detailed instructions in the event of their demise. There are even online resources that have been created for the purpose:

David Eagleman... set up a site called Deathswitch, where people can set up e-mails that will be sent out automatically if they don't check in at intervals they specify, like once a week...

If Deathswitch sounds morbid, there's an alternative site: Slightly Morbid. It also sends e-mail when a member dies, but doesn't rely on them logging in periodically while they're alive. Instead, members have to give trusted friends or family the information needed to log in to the site and start the notification process...

17 comments

 
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Matthew WilsonI meant from a organizational pov end users get it in contract, but any site that would want to use it for 2 factor would have to pay alot of money12/27/2014 - 5:35pm
IanCSMS is expensive? In what country? I get something stupid a month on my contract. I think it might even be unlimited.12/27/2014 - 5:32pm
Matthew WilsonI am still amazed that 2 factor authentication has not become the norm yet. I get sms is expensive, but Google authanacator api is free for any website to use.12/27/2014 - 5:11pm
PHX Corphttp://techcrunch.com/2014/12/27/anonymous-leaked-a-massive-list-of-passwords-and-credit-card-numbers/ Guys change your passwords: Anonymous Leaked A Massive List Of Passwords And Credit Card Numbers12/27/2014 - 3:25pm
Matthew WilsonThis is impressive video editing. basketball tricks with a basketball. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhCQeFX9GSg#t=18112/27/2014 - 2:01pm
MaskedPixelanteDude was at the center of a pretty serious plagiarism scandal back in 2011, and it was widely known he ripped off other musical pieces well before that.12/27/2014 - 9:33am
Kajex@Masked Right, because his work actually composing music for several Metroid games necessitated plagiarism.12/27/2014 - 9:04am
MaskedPixelanteI can't believe Kenji Yamamoto got another job. Then again, his job on Smash was "musical arrangment", so copying other people's work is right up his alley.12/26/2014 - 9:31pm
Matthew Wilsonthe company that hosts it is a cyber security firm, and from what I understand it is the data they they see just shown publicly.12/26/2014 - 8:22pm
Wonderkarpa question about that website, Matthew...how does it know its a cyberattack or not12/26/2014 - 8:06pm
Matthew Wilsonfor those intreasted in seeing cyber attacks in real time check out this site. http://map.ipviking.com/12/26/2014 - 7:51pm
PHX Corp@MP you can add me on XBL and Nintendo Network if you want, I go under TrustyGem(Same gamertag as on Steam)12/26/2014 - 2:01pm
CMinerI blame North Korea.12/25/2014 - 11:49pm
MechaTama31For the last few weeks, the GP site fails to load about 2/3 of the times I try.12/25/2014 - 11:13pm
MaskedPixelanteOK, is GP having trouble loading for anyone but me?12/25/2014 - 9:21pm
Matthew Wilsonits a bunch of script kiddies. ddosing is one of the easiest thing to do,and most companies can not stop it sadly.12/25/2014 - 5:05pm
MaskedPixelanteI like Nintendo as much as the next person, they're pretty much the only company putting out the games I want to play, but that was pretty embarassing to have NNID go down due to overuse.12/25/2014 - 4:35pm
MaskedPixelanteSee? It's NOT a repeat of last year's fiasco.12/25/2014 - 4:22pm
PHX CorpLizard squad is responsible for The XBL/PSN shutdown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSpZvsoWvig12/25/2014 - 4:17pm
IanCOh shut up bitching about Nintendo. At least they advised people to downloading updates before the big day. Sony/MS? Not a peep.12/25/2014 - 3:50pm
 

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