January 13th, 2006

Russian Press Quick to Blame Postal in Synagogue Rampage

While Jewish leaders blamed Wednesday's bloody rampage in a Moscow synagogue on growing anti-Semitism, the Russian press took great pains today to shift responsibility to video games. Here's what Pravda had to say:

"Alexander Koptsev was a quiet and unsociable young man... became a secluded individual, started spending most of his time indoors and developed an addiction to computer games... was playing a game called Postal-2 before he left home and went to the synagogue... The game which the young man was playing made him a zombie. The man was programmed to demolish and kill... those addicted to computer games often suffer from the so-called videogame epilepsy syndrome. Ardent gamers suffer from headaches, facial muscular spasms and eyesight disorder. The syndrome does not lead to aggravation of mental abilities of a human being. However, it develops certain peculiarities typical of epilepsy: a person may become highly suspicious, aggressive and hostile about everything and everyone. A person who suffers from the videogame epilepsy syndrome can easily grab a kitchen knife, leave the virtual world and look for victims in reality."

"The incident in the Moscow synagogue is an alarming signal indeed. However, this signal warns about the growing influence of virtual reality on the human mind. This is not a matter of "fascism knocking on people's doors," as spokespeople for the Jewish community in Russia put it.
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GP: Huh? We have heard of game-induced seizures, but this is surely the first time they've been linked with violence. And hopefully the last.

GameDaily Biz Names Thompson, Eibeler Most Influential of 2005

Stop the presses!

GamePolitics took some heat recently when we named California Assembly Speaker pro tem Leland Yee our 2005 Person of the Year. But GameDaily Biz has really gone out on a limb. The influential online news journal has been running a countdown all week of Game Industry Persons of the Year. In this morning's edition they reached #1 and named Jack Thompson and Rockstar CEO Paul Eibeler as co-recipients.

From five on down, previous selections named this week by GameDaily Biz have included #5, David Jaffe, designer of God of War; #4, a tie between Microsoft's Peter Moore and Sony's Ken Kutaragi; #3, Epic co-founder Mark Rein; #2, Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata.

In naming Thompson and Eibeler - and wouldn't it be great to get these two together for an awards ceremony - GDB isn't endorsing the actions of either. Far from it, in fact. The report is extremely critical of Eibeler:

"Instead of admitting that (Rockstar) left the (Hot Coffee) content hidden on the disc, the company attempted to blame the mod community... Take-Two had essentially lied to everyone, misled the ESRB.. and undermined its integrity, and put the video game industry firmly in the crosshairs for the mainstream media and politicians nationwide... Furthermore, Take-Two's CEO was named Worst CEO of 2005 by a MarketWatch columnist. Bravo, Mr. Eibeler."
Strong stuff. But Thompson fares no better.

"It seemed as if the antagonistic Miami lawyer grabbed headlines every week, whether it was "Hot Coffee," EA's The Sims 2, Rockstar's Bully, his feud with game comic mainstay Penny Arcade, or anything else video game related. The sad part is that people in the mainstream were taking his words seriously, and that further fed his big fat ego."
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Florida, the New Battleground State For Video Game Legislation

Last year California was the chewy center of the video game legislation lollipop. This time around it may well be Florida.

California had all the elements for high drama in 2005. The state is, of course, the heart of the North American video game industry as well as perennial host of the industry's big dance, the E3 Expo. Add in the larger than life status of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, himself a star in a violent video game or two. Finally, California's video game legislation made for great theater as a fascinating David Vs. Goliath struggle played out. Assembly Speaker pro tem Leland Yee faced down the might and financial muscle of the video game industry in getting his bill not only passed, but signed into law by Schwarzenegger.

In 2006, Florida has all the elements in place to capture the media spotlight, including a famous governor - Jeb Bush - who has appeared in a videogame, or at least specially customized mod of Madden 06. And, as with Arnold Schwarzenegger before him, there are serious doubts as to whether Bush will sign such legislation. Also akin to California, Florida has substantial ties to the game industry. EA's Tiburon Studio, of course, is a major employer in the Orlando area. The University of Central Florida has a prestigious game design degree program, and the well-known Full Sail game design school is also located in Florida.

And Florida has Jack Thompson.

The human sound bite is not only the world's most quotable critic of the video game business, but has several high-profile sideshows taking place, including a bitter fight with the Florida Bar Association that is only going to get uglier. Thompson is already asking to be permitted to testify about the issues during upcoming committee hearings.

How will this play out in the Sunshine State? It's anyone's guess. Last year Leland Yee needed Hot Coffee to get his bill approved by previously reluctant legislators. Florida State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla already has the Hot Coffee issue in his pocket. And if the Federal Trade Commission report on the scandal comes out in 2006, that will only serve to whip up the memory of the video game industry's darkest hour.

What's more, Diaz de la Portilla's bill, SB 492, is already gathering momentum. The bill cleared its first procedural hurdle, the Florida Senate's Commerce and Consumer Services Committee, by a 7-1 vote on Wednesday.

And, Diaz de la Portilla himself is not without baggage. Stay tuned. 2006 will be an intersting year.