Wednesday, September 27th, 2006
    1:54 pm
    GamePolitics Has Moved !!!

    After 18 months on LiveJournal, GamePolitics is sporting a new look.

    As of this past Monday, our new site was up & running. You'll still find us on the web at www.GamePolitics.com. The new site uses WordPress for the blog portion, and has lots of new goodies...

    For you LiveJournal die-hards, the bad news is that I'm not going to be updating the LJ any more. However, I will leave it active indefinitely as an archive.

    Nor will I be unscreening comments. The need to do that was a big reason for the move.

    The new site has an RSS feed as well.

    Tuesday, September 26th, 2006
    9:21 pm
    Monday, September 25th, 2006
    12:46 pm
    Jack Thompson Lawsuit to be Filed in Albuquerque

    We're all going to have to learn to spell "Albuquerque."

    That's because we're going to be hearing a lot about the New Mexico city, since Jack Thompson's promised video game violence lawsuit is going to land there today. As reported by the Albuquerque Journal Thompson and a local attorney, Steven Sanders, will file a wrongful death suit based on the July, 2004 murders committed by Cody Posey, 15 at the time.

    Posey, 15 at the time of the killings, was found guilty early this year of murdering his father, stepmother and stepsister. Sentenced as a juvenile, he will be held until he turns 21. The defense maintained that Posey was severely abused by his father.

    The video game connection is not yet clear.

    12:19 pm
    Safe Sex Game

    Hot Coffee it most definitely is not.

    As reported by Joystiq, the University of Connecticut is soliciting proposals for a "safer sex video game."

    According to UConn bid specs, the goal of the project is "to test the feasibility of using a PC-executable game (non-Flash) format to change the safe sex practices of an otherwise hard to reach group – urban emerging adults."

    The University wants vendors to make the game "fun, motivating, and efficacious." That last one's not a dirty word, by the way.

    If trials are successful - and no, GP does not know where you go to volunteer - the game will be distributed "broadly." As Joystiq notes, Europeans are already ahead of us in using game tech to teach safe sex.

    Proposals from game developers are due back to UConn officials in November.

    Sunday, September 24th, 2006
    11:33 am
    GP Server Switch on Monday

    It looks like GP finally will move to our new format and new server tomorrow. If you'd like, you can check out the beta of the new look.

    So, we will definitely have some amount of downtime, depending upon how smoothly the transition goes.

    Forums will also go down at the time of the switch. I expect them to be back up later in the week.

    Finally, LJ comments are disabled during the transition.

    Keep your fingers crossed...

    11:07 am
    Editorial Roundup: Longing for Pong, Games as Societal Scapegoat

    This week's editorial/opinion roundup takes us to Canton, Ohio and San Francisco.

    In the Canton Republic columnist Tom Martin writes, "When I was a kid, spinach was good for you and video games included neither murder nor sex. What a difference a few decades make."

    "...I had Pong. I knew Pong. Pong was a friend of mine... I know Ms. Pac-Man ate a lot of those gremlin things... but as far as I know she didn't pop a cap in somebody's keister."

    "I've seldom been one to wax poetic about yesteryear. Yesteryear often comes back to us with the blemishes airbrushed out... playing Pong didnt make me aspire to play pingpong, tennis or another racket game in the real world. So maybe no one will want to join a street gang after playing 'The Warriors.' But making sport out of theft, murder, prostitution and senseless destruction seems wrong on every level. Maybe our spinach isn't the only thing tainted"

    Inside Bay Area columnist Tom Leupold writes about the public perception of games:

    "...despite evidence to the contrary, games are still seen as the sole providence of teenage boys, at least by the mainstream media. I asked (Prof. Dmitri) Williams (seen at left) why..."
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    10:30 am
    Australian Official Thinks Bully Rating Too Lenient

    Some politicians in Australia are taking issue with the official government rating given to Rockstar's controversial Bully, or, as the game is now known outside of the North American market, Canis Canem Edit.

    The West Australian is reporting that New South Wales Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt is concerned about what she considers an overly-lenient rating given to Bully by Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC). Ms Tebbutt urged parents to keep the game out of the hands of their children, and has requested that the country's Attorney General review the classification.

    "I'm concerned that its message for violence is undermining what we're doing in schools to counteract bullying," she said. "I also want (the A.G.) to assure me that everything that needs to be taken into account has been taken into account in this classification process."
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    10:15 am
    America's Army Begins "Real Heroes" Campaign

    Sports games endeavor to include accurate player rosters and game adaptations of movies try to use real actor voices and likenesses whenever possible. So it should come as no surprise that the U.S. Army is using real soldiers as characters in its America's Army game.

    "The America's Army Real Heroes program puts a face on some of the exceptional Soldiers who are at the forefront in defending our freedoms. With Real Heroes young adults can learn about the accomplishments of some of the heroic men and women that make the Army the world's premier land force," said Colonel Casey Wardynski, Project Director.

    Players who download the latest version of the free online game will be able to interact with four such Heroes during training missions and while exploring an interactive Virtual Recruiting Center.
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    3:31 am
    Pennsylvania Legislators Hold Video Game Hearing

    Add Pennsylvania to the list of states examining the video game violence issue.

    As reported by the Harrisburg Patriot-News a committee of the Pennsylvania House held a hearing in late August to consider the effects of violent games on children.

    Rep. Ronald Waters (D) said, "I watch young people play these games, and they play them for long periods of time. It's hard for me to watch that kind of activity without wondering what kind of effects it's having on them. What are we doing subliminally to our children that we allow them to entertain themselves with this type of activity..."

    Waters expressed concerns about Grand Theft Auto and worried that the ESRB rating system might not be working at the retail level. Although he would support video game legislation, Waters was more interested in research similar to the federal government's proposed CAMRA study.

    "I'm just asking for a study," Waters said. "Whatever the outcome of the study is, I'm willing to accept it. If we find that there is no consequences of this, then I will be someone who will say 'OK, I accept the study.' But if the study says yes, there are things we need to alarm parents about, then we need to make sure that parents know that."
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    Saturday, September 23rd, 2006
    11:18 am
    Jack Thompson Ready to Drop Another Game Violence Lawsuit?

    Jack Thompson has been teasing a planned lawsuit which he says will be announced Monday.

    On Friday GP was treated to a subject-line only e-mail which read, "So, Dennis, you going to my big news conference Monday?"

    Not if you don't tell me where it is, Jack.

    Later, GP and GameSpot received a similar message, saying only, "Big news conference by Jack Thompson Monday. Hooah!"

    Hooah, indeed. This morning the anti-game activist dropped a little more news in the comments section of GP's The Political Game column on Joystiq. Thompson wrote:

    "On Monday, September 25, Thompson will journey to another state and announce, with his co-counsel, the filing of what will likely prove to be hugely significant wrongful death action against Sony and Take-Two..."

    So, it's a GTA case...
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    11:12 am
    GP on Joystiq: Will Jon Stewart Save Gaming?

    Oops!

    Forgot to mention yesterday's The Political Game column on Joystiq, wherein GP concludes that only one man can save video games from political craziness...

    10:51 am
    Having Trouble with Audio of Utah Video Game Hearing? GP Can Help

    A number of readers have expressed difficulty with trying to listen to the audio of Wednesday's video game hearing before the Utah legislature.

    If you are still having issues, GP has thoughtfully placed it on the web for download in MP3 format. Click here.

    It's a 56mb file, so be patient.

    And if you're playing catch-up, click the link for all GP coverage of Utah's game legislation efforts.

    10:29 am
    Regarding the Controversy Over Monday's APA Study & Game Violence Article

    On Monday of this week, GP carried an item, No "Direct Causal Link" Between Games & Violence in APA Report.

    It sparked a bit of controversy. It was suggested in certain quarters that GP ignored the views of Dr. Brad Bushman (left) of the University of Michigan, a member of the APA committee which issued the August, 2005 resolution.

    That's not at all correct. In raising a particular question we turned to the two listed contacts for the APA study, Dr.Elizabeth Carll, committee co-chair and Dr. Dorothy Singer of Yale. There were a total of six committee members involved in the report. Dr. Bushman was among them. Not feeling the need to contact all six, we went to the two that the committee itself suggested.
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    7:18 am
    Online Game Lampoons Airport Security

    Air travel hasn't been much fun since 9/11.

    Fear, heightened security regulations, long waits and inconvenience are standard features of flying commercially these days.

    Fortunately, a new online game may give you a chuckle next time you're queued for the metal detector. Prof. Ian Bogost and his Persuasive Games studio have released Airport Security, a satirical take on ever-changing regulations for air travelers.

    In the game players must remove prohibited items such as toothpaste and shampoo from passengers' bags before they reach the security checkpoint. New regulations appear randomly, prohibiting, for example, pants. It only takes a mouse click to remove those as well. You character may be reduced to its underwear, but at least he - or she - will be allowed to pass through security.

    Airport Security is chock full of clever touches. Instead of the usual "easy, normal, hard" difficulty levels, for example, players must choose among "fickle, arbitrary and knee-jerk," presumably the security employees' attitude du jour. The airport loudspeaker references the random prohibition of clothing articles with announcements such as "Security fashions are chaging daily. TSA stylists are available for consultation."

    On Water Cooler Games, Ian Bogost explains that Airport Security is the first product of a new partnership between Persuasive Games, Shockwave.com and Addicting Games. We look forward to future efforts.

    Friday, September 22nd, 2006
    6:37 am
    Play Games, Advance Science

    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it." - Agent K, Men in Black

    And, as Rob Goldstone, director of Indiana University's Group Experiment Environments, might add, "Collective behavior is potentially more controllable than isolated individual behavior because of the strong influences among the individuals' behavior." Goldstone's research uses video games to "observe, explain, and computationally model how groups of people behave."

    The game experiments are available online and open to the public. Goldstone's design goal is to have more than five people playing at any given time. But until the project gains more popularity, AI bots fill in for missing human players. At game's end, players can read a thorough explanation of the group behavior modeled and what the experiment results can mean to the real world.

    Group Path Formation is one experiment/game that rewards participants for reaching target destinations but subtracts points for each step. Fewer points are deducted if a previously established path is followed so players must strike a balance between the shortest distance and following in the footsteps of others.

    "At a broad level, the best grounds I can see for being optimistic about the future of humanity is that sometimes people will shun well-trodden roads and forge their own paths," said Goldstone in an email to GamePolitics. "But once they do, it turns out that they are attractive paths for other people to follow. In this way, humanity can be both flexible and efficient."
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    5:45 am
    Take-Two Faces De-listing from NASDAQ

    More corporate problems for Take-Two Interactive?

    According to financial site TheStreet.com, the publisher of GTA and Bully has been notified by NASDAQ that it is not in compliance with filing requirements.

    This was not unexpected, according to the game publisher, due to an ongoing internal review of employee stock options. The investigation delayed filing of third quarter paperwork. Take-Two says it plans to request a hearing with NASDAQ to review the situation and will file the paperwork at issue as soon as practical.

    Take-Two is among several high-profile firms, including Apple, Dell and Novell to have received such notices from NASDAQ.

    Thursday, September 21st, 2006
    12:37 pm
    Listen to Utah Video Game Bill Hearing...

    Audio from yesterday's video game hearing in Utah is now available... Fast forward the recording to 8:24 where the game bill discussion begins.

    New bill sponsor Rep. Scott Wyatt (R) is pictured at left.

    8:12 am
    Scandinavian Pol to Brits... We'll Take Your Video Game Industry

    "Hey, U.K., if you don't want that video game industry, we'll take it..."

    That seems to be the message some Scandinavian officials are sending to their British counterparts. As reported by GameIndustry.biz, Erik Robertson, leader of Nordic Game, a government-funded organization, criticized the British government for not supporting the country's video game industry.

    "I would say that if the British government and politicians in Britain keep refusing to support their industry," Robertson said, "the third in the world in terms of size - from the Nordic perspective: good idea."

    Norwegian minister for culture and church affairs Trond Giske (seen at left, perhaps preparing for the release of Forza Motorsport 2) echoed Robertson's remarks.

    "I'll be careful giving advice to politicians in other countries," Giske said, "but I can say what our objectives are towards this industry. I view it as a cultural industry, as a media branch. This is something people develop their impressional skills, their ability to see the world in different angles and ways, and I think it's very important that we have ways of telling stories from our own culture also in this industry as in movies."

    6:00 am
    British Official Calls for Investigation of Al Qaeda Video Game

    Police in the U.K. may soon be tracking down the creators of a computer game designed as an Al Qaeda propaganda tool.

    On Monday, GamePolitics reported on Night of Bush Capturing, a crude first-person shooter in which the player targets President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The widely-covered story even made its way into the mainstream press.

    Now comes word that a member of Parliament is urging British police to take action against the game's creators. As reported by today's Sun, Labor Party MP Andrew Dismore has called for a probe into Night of Bush Capturing. The shadowy organization which produced the game, the Global Islamic Media Front, is apparently based in the U.K.

    "The police should prosecute whoever is behind this," said Dismore. "Soliciting murder is a serious criminal offence and the producers of this game should be dealt with."

    Dismore has previously lobbied against British-based Islamic radicals, including cleric Abu Hamza, now jailed for inciting murder.

    The Sun also dishes on the furor surrounding a new board game, War on Terror (seen at left), which bills itself as "a family game for 2-6 players... You can fight terrorism, you can fund terrorism, you can even be the terrorists. The only thing that matters is global domination..."

    5:32 am
    Developer Attends Utah Video Game Hearing, Offers Impressions

    You want the inside scoop on yesterday's video game law hearing in Utah? We've got it covered like a blanket here at GamePolitics, including the impressions of a local game developer who attended the hearing.

    Although he indicated last week that he would be there, anti-game activist Jack Thompson didn't make it due to what he described to GP as a "pressing litigation matter" in Florida.

    Lame duck bill sponsor David Hogue (R) and Rep. Scott Wyatt, apparently the bill's new sponsor, offered an amendment to have HB257 mirror the language of Thompson's ill-fated Louisiana video game law.

    Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, according to an industry source, did a thorough job of explaining the bill's constitutional problems to the committee. As GamePolitics has previously noted, Shurtleff has a friendly relationship with the ESRB, and has engaged in a Utah-based campaign to educate parents about video game ratings.

    GP has learned that some legislators apparently left the hearing, causing the committee to lose its quorum just after lunchtime. That development led to an adjournment with no action taken on the bill. Discussions are likely to resume next month.

    As mentioned, a video game developer attended the hearing. We provide his report, preserving his request not to publish his name. The content, which arrived in e-mail, has been edited slightly for readability (not that it wasn't well-written, but the author didn't plan on it going straight into a GP article. Material in parentheses was inserted by GP. We greatly appreciate this on-the-spot info):

    "Well, Jack Thompson wasn't there today, so I'm disappointed... What did happen is that the sponsor, Rep. Hogue, came up and talked about his bill. He brought up Columbine, and all sorts of school shootings. He described how violent 'videos' were, and how they should be regulated."

    "He brought up the American Psychological Association (APA); how violence in video games made kids violent; and how kids between 14-18 are in a critical development stage. And of course, he brought up those favorite whipping boys, 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' and - as Hogue calls it - 'The Bully'."

    "Then they brought up an amendment to the bill, and basically changed the bill so that instead of defining certain types of violence, they just use the same three prong test as with pornography. Some committee members brought up the idea of porn equalling violence in video games, asking 'if we can regulate porn, why can't we regulate violence the same way?' At least one committee member did bring up the first amendment, and it was discussed briefly."

    "The Attorney General (Shurtleff) came up and discussed the bill and its likelihood of passing court scrutiny. He mentioned that every district court has ruled against every violent video game law made so far, and that the odds of this bill surviving court scrutiny was 'very slim'. Rep. Hogue tried to defend the bill, saying that this bill does something different from other bills, and that it doesn't try to take games off of shelves. Other committee members brought up concerns about supporting a bill that would be 'tied up in the courts' and 'waste of money defending it'.

    "Then an old lady came up and complained how society was becoming more violent, and that something needs to be done. She said that this bill needed to be passed, and it didn't matter if we wasted money defending it. It's for the children, etc."

    "The ESA guy (apparently a lobbyist - the industry routinely offers testimony at these hearings) came up and talked about how in eight court cases so far, we've won eight of them. He mentioned the ESRB, and how he was working with the Attorney General in promoting the ESRB to Utah parents. Then, during question time, well, some of the committee members were rough on him. One of them nearly accused him of making violent games for kids. Of course, the ESA guy wasn't a game developer, but an attorney, so he really couldn't comment on that. Other committee members appeared to honestly not know what the ESRB was, and has questions about it."

    "After the ESA guy, time ran out and several members of the committee had to leave. They tried to deny a motion to adjourn, but they left anyway. They decided that this issue was of too great importance to leave unresolved, so they shelved it until October. I'm rather disappointed that I didn't get to speak, but at least I get a chance to refine my testimony for next time."