November 22nd, 2005

Twins Drown While Dad Plays Video Game

This might be the saddest story GamePolitics has ever covered.

Toledo's Channel 13 News reports that a 24-year-old man has plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the drowning deaths of his 10-month-old twins. Gregg Kleinmark of Fostoria, Ohio left the babies in a bathtub for at least a half-hour while played an unspecified video game and caught a smoke.

The man's wife, Rachael Kleinmark, has since filed for divorce and obtained a protection order against her husband. Gregg Kleinmark, wracked by guilt and remorse, has tried to commit suicide twice since the deaths of the twins. He told Channel 13 he visits their graves every day.

"I messed up and it's going to haunt me for the rest of my life," he said.

Kleinmark will be sentenced in January.

Chinese Parents Lining Up for MMO Lawsuit

Suing Blizzard is fast becoming a massively multiplayer pastime in China.

Numerous sources reported earlier this week that the parents of a boy who leaped from a 24-story building are filing suit against Blizzard in relation to the young man's supposed addiction to World of Warcraft.

Today's China Daily indicates that 63 additional parents have decided to proceed with a joint lawsuit against online game companies. At issue is online game addiction, widely viewed as a national health problem in China, where MMO's are often referred to as "e-heroin."

On Monday, China Central Television reported that a high school student in Hunan Province had cut off his little finger as a way to demonstrate his commitment to kicking his Web addiction. According to statistics cited by China Daily, 15 percent of the country's youth - or about 2.5 million people - are addicted to MMO's.

Zhang Chunliang, refereed to as a "cyber addiction expert," is spearheading the collective lawsuit.

"A child's addiction to Internet games means the ruin of a whole family," said Zhang. "Indulging in a virtual cyber world causes players to mix the virtual world with the real world."

Zhang, who claims to have visited over 260 Internet cafes, says he has gathered data on more than 700 cases of MMO-related injury, suicide and fatigue.

Pixelante T-Shirt Contest Voting Continues

Despite bad weather, voter turnout has been heavy in the GamePolitics Pixelante T-shirt contest voting. With many precincts reporting in, we have no reports of voter fraud and don't expect any.

In early results, exit polls show mbleigh in the lead, but it's really too early to call this one. We plan to leave the voting booth open through Friday.

If you are looking for the designs, we have moved the shirts off the main page because GP's appalling lack of HTML skill was causing the entire home page to do bizarre things. You can see the designs here.

If you'd like to vote, use the poll at the right side of the main page. If you are reading GamePolitics via RSS, you won't see the poll. Just click here to link over to the home page.

T-shirt design finalists


Funky Winkerbeam on the First Amendment

It's not exactly a video game story, but...

...cartoonist Tom Batiuk, who makes Funky Winkerbean has a current storyline about a comic book shop owner being prosecuted for selling mature-themed comics. Readers may find some striking parallels to current happenings in the video game space.

The segment began earlier this year, but picked up most recently on November 12th and continues through today's edition.

Many thanks to GP reader Verbinator for the tip!

Thompson, Alphabetically ...continued

...and then there is Alabama.

Last Friday, GP broke the story of Fayette County Judge James Moore's stunning decision to kick Thompson off the Strickland vs. Sony case. If we can say one thing about Jack, he certainly doesn't turn tail in the face of adversity. Not only did he file a motion to overturn Judge Moore's action, he indicated that he would be reporting the judge for alleged ethical violations.

In addition, Thompson alluded to a mysterious "fixer." In a letter to the state's Judicial Inquiry Commission, Thompson wrote:

"...We had heard going into this civil case, before it was even filed, that a particular Western Alabama lawyer had to be part of our litigation team or Judge Moore would not give us a fair hearing... This lawyer himself claims, openly, that 'Judge Moore will not allow you to survive summary judgment if I am not on the case.' For too long we have heard swirling around this Judge allegations of improper influence..."

"...This is almost like My Cousin Vinnie, but with the benign Judge in that comedy replaced by the Judge in And Justice For All... Beyond the allegations of others that cases before Judge Moore can be fixed by the lawyer who claims to be able to fix them...

While Thompson has avoided naming the alleged "fixer," he filed a curiously-worded motion with the Fayette County Court yesterday, asking for its help in obtaining local counsel. The motion contained this sentence:

"Undersigned has received recommendations as to who would be best local Alabama counsel for that purpose, and the name that keeps popping up is Clatus Junkin."

The story is front-page stuff in Alabama this morning. The Tuscaloosa News quotes Junkin as saying, "If he's talking about me, I'm not that dumb. It questions the integrity not of me so much as the judge. I'm not foolish enough to imply that I could [influence Judge Moore]."

Junkin told Tuscaloosa News reporter Robert Dewitt that he had "one five-minute conversation with Thompson to reconcile differences between Thompson and attorneys who at the time represented the family of one of the police officers. He said he talked to Thompson about working with the plaintiffs but would not agree to some of Thompson's conditions, such as giving Thompson complete control of any contact with the news media."

Stay tuned...

Jack Thompson vs. The World, Alphabetically

Ever tilting at windmills, anti-game violence crusader Jack Thompson now wages a two-front war against a pair of formidable opponents, both of which happen to begin with the letter "A". Coincidence or design? You decide. Here's what GamePolitics knows:

We spent a lost weekend reporting on Thompson's dust-up with massive online retailer On Saturday we chronicled the mounting negative reader reviews and tags appearing on the Amazon listing for Thompson's new book, Out of Harm's Way. We also reported that Thompson issued a deadline to Amazon to remove the reviews.

On Sunday, GP skipped the Eagles-Giants (eh, Philly got hammered, anyway) to bring readers the full scoop on a viral anti-Thompson campaign that employed the full range of Amazon's customer interface in a multi-user backlash against the Miami lawyer. An evening deadline imposed by Thompson came and went, but the nasty reviews, tags, lists, recommendations and user-submitted pictures - like the one at left - remained.

Yesterday, the controversial attorney wrote to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, saying, in part:

"You apparently have in your own corporate division that is supposed to make this illicit activity stop individuals sympathetic to the 'gaming culture' (oxymoronically named). Maybe you need more adults in there... Why would want to knowingly collaborate in violations of the First Amendment, I really can't quite fathom. You're supposed to like books, not spike books... But let me assure, that does so at its own grave risk."

This morning GP notes that the user pics are gone, as are links to lists of gay sex and bondage books. 232 reviews and 154 tags remain, however, as do sex manuals linked to the book's affiliate ad. It's unclear whether the backlash campaign helped or hurt sales of Thompson's book. As we write this, Out of Harm's Way, which has bounced between 16,000 and 192,000, is ranked 88,658 on Amazon.

...continued in next segment

Bezos Blinked

"Jack Thompson eats giants for breakfast."

At least, that's what it says in the listing for the outspoken attorney's new book Out of Harm's Way. After today, it looks like Jack can add Amazon itself to his breakfast menu. In the last 24 hours the online mega-retailer has removed all of the user-submitted pictures as well as many of the less credible negative reviews. User tags remain, however, some quite derogatory.

Amazon's decision affords some degree of vindication to Thompson's position that the reviews were about him and not his book. Thompson's recent dust-up with Amazon - including his legalistic missive to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (left) - are chronicled in detail here on GamePolitics.

The only question remaining is: will the negative material be reposted?

Salon Editor Rips CSI: Miami a New One

Over at Salon, editor Andrew Leonard serves up a scorching review of last night's CSI: Miami episode, "Urban Hellraisers." The show depicted - what else - rampaging video gamers.

Andrew, known to GP to have played a game now and then, is also a man who can turn a phrase. And turn them he does:

"In conjunction with the venom and disgust that enfuses the word 'gamer' when it's spoken by star David Caruso, aka 'Horatio Crane,' it is made clear... that people who play games are but one step removed from pedophiles or suicide bombers in the social hierarchy of evil..."

"When Horatio confronts a slick, smarmy executive from the company that makes the game, the suit refuses to divulge any information about the internal narrative of the game that would help the cops figure out the next target of the criminals. "

Ed: What, they don't sell strategy guides in Miami?

"It turns out that executive isn't just smarmy - he's Satan. Not only is the company providing bad role models to the youth of today, but, in an effort to boost sales in a competitive industry, it's also actively supplying college students with Tec-9 automatics and encouraging them to murder innocent people... This neatly solves the problem of whether video games are responsible for violent behavior."

Ed: Hmmm... wouldn't a certain attorney love to have that on a certain game company?

"Just one hour of watching David Caruso's leaden acting and banging my head against this ridiculous plot did, I confess, make me want to get my own Tec-9 and start laying waste to television executives. But I refrained, just as 99 percent of everyone who has ever played a violent game refrains from throwing a punch at someone in flesh and blood. "

Ed: Make that 99.999%