January 8th, 2006

Game-Bashing Utah Congressman Gives Radio Interview

Last week GamePolitics reported on Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, a Democrat who plans to propose federal video game legislation in Congress this year.

Matheson revealed further information about his upcoming bill during a Thursday radio interview with host Doug Wright KSL-1160 (Salt Lake City). The congressman told Wright that he initially became aware of video game content issues while watching an unspecified documentary on the Grand Theft Auto series.

"It's very disturbing to me," he said.

Speaking about his upcoming legislative proposal, Matheson told Wright, "I'm looking for something. This isn't the total answer, but something to help bridge the tide, if you will, or at least create another hurdle in terms of younger children being exposed to this material without their parental knowledge."

Although his bill is based on the ESRB system, Matheson expressed concern about the ratings.

"There is an open issue here about whether (the game industry's) ratings are appropriate. This is sort of the fox in the henhouse. The industry gets to set the ratings for their own material."
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Flier With Dubious Video Game Link Causes Fear at Florida School

Zombies... video games... Saturday Night Live... school violence...

Is there a link?

A Florida newspaper has reported a possible video game connection in regard to some mysterious and vaguely threatening fliers circulated last week at a Tallahassee high school.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported in Saturday's edition that an employee of Leon High School first discovered the flier near the school's parking lot. As many as nine more found by students at various locations were turned over to school administrators. As described by the Democrat, the fliers depict "several males lying in what appears to be the bed of a truck and shooting guns at a group of people." The Tallahassee Deomcrat has confirmed that the line drawing depicted here is the picture in question. A police investigation is underway.

The paper reports that the picture "may be related to a video game," although no game is specified. A shorter piece in Friday's edition suggests the video game link theory originated with officials of the Leon County Sheriff's Office. In response to the discovery of the fliers, school officials ramped up security measures and additional deputies are patrolling the school.

"We take it extremely seriously," Principal Rocky Hanna told the Democrat. "(The students) want to feel safe."

"We don't see this as a threat," Sheriff Larry Campbell said. "But, in today's times, you can't just write these things off." Campbell added that the responsible parties would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

What is on the fliers that school and law enforcement officials find so troubling? In addition to the image are the words "BE PREPARED" and a handwritten notation which reads "demonoid.com #243751."

Demonoid.com is a BitTorrent file-sharing site. The number refers to a PDF of The Zombie Survival Guide, a parody book written by Saturday Night Live writer Max Brooks, son of famed comic Mel Brooks. According to its description on Amazon, "In this outrageous parody of a survival guide, Saturday Night Live staff writer Brooks prepares humanity for its eventual battle with zombies... a member of an anti-zombie team must be sure to have with him at all times two emergency flares, a signaling mirror, daily rations, a personal mess kit and two pairs of socks."

Could that be where the "BE PREPARED" message comes in? The book also contains numerous simple illustrations. We found the one depicted here on page 152. It certainly matches the description of the flier stirring up official concern in Tallahassee.

Although the Democrat reports that "'Zombie' is a video game," GP is not so sure. There are plenty of games based on zombies, of course, but we can't recall a single one actually named "Zombie."

"This underscores the importance of parents knowing what their kids are doing online," school superintendent Bill Montford said. "This should be a wake-up call to parents. Students shouldn't be involved in games where people are being shot."

GP: This is a bizarre story that seems very likely to be a case of much ado about nothing. School officials and police, of course, must err on the side of caution, but from a cultural perspective, it's fascinating to see how a non-existent video game connection is dredged up, giving the story an extra element of menace. Note that school officials, law enforcement and the Tallahassee Democrat all refer to the video game connection as if it were a given. In fact, a very small amount of digging reveals there is no game link.