January 26th, 2006

Devil May Cry Gamer Convicted in Murder of His Sister

The headline in the UK's Sun tabloid is typically sensationalistic: "Video Nut Slayed Sister".

The story describes the Old Bailey trial of a 16-year-old found guilty of setting fire to his family home two years ago - a blaze which claimed the life of his 11-year-old sister. The boy also struck his brother in the head with an axe during attack, leaving him with brain damage.

The court heard testimony that the defendant was obsessed with Dante (left), a half-human, half-demon character in Capcom's Devil May Cry.

The boy's demented plan was to kill his family and be adopted by rich parents. Police investigating the case found a note reading, "Operation New Life. Kill family. Lose memory. Get adopted by rich couple. It all starts."

The Sun reports that in the wake of the conviction, UK pressure group Mediawatch accused the video game industry of "living in denial" of the consequences of their products. Devil May Cry was rated for players 15 and up under the UK system. The game was rated for 17 and older by the ESRB.

25 to Life Game Writer Troubled By Moral Dilemma

The man who scripted 25 to Life is apparently having second thoughts.

According the the London (CA) Free Press, hip-hop journalist P. Frank Williams told reporter Steve Tilley, "After doing this game, I experienced kind of a moral dilemma."

Williams understands the cops-and-robbers shooter has outraged some law enforcement groups and game violence critics.

"I do see their point. I can admit it is a little extreme," he said. "It's wild to be in Toronto where you guys are having the unusual spate of gunplay. It's indicative of our culture, but we have to be careful also with video games like this and just be safe and smart."

Williams is a former Source magazine editor and hip-hop awards show producer who splits professional time between Los Angeles and Toronto, said 25 to Life is not meant to promote violence, but to hold a mirror to the world.

Take 2 Board Member Bails Over Hot Coffee, "Unhealthy Atmosphere"

The fallout from Hot Coffee is still going on, and likely will be for a long time.

According to a report on The Street.com, Barbara A. Kaczynski, a key member of Take-Two's board of directors, has resigned, citing last summer's scandal surrounding GTA San Andreas as a factor.

A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicates that Kaczynski resigned Jan. 19 from the board as well as from related positions as chairwoman of the board's audit committee and member of the corporate governance committee.

Kaczynski's letter of resignation was brief, but a second letter, written on her behalf by her attorney, cites concern caused by ""several matters requiring the board's attention."

These included, the "discovery of illicit images depicted in its Grand Theft Auto video game, the Federal Trade Commission's investigation of Take-Two following that discovery, and various SEC inquiries directed at Take-Two and its employees."

The letter from Kaczynski's attorney says also that more recent in-house issues have increased Kaczynski's belief of an "increasingly unhealthy relationship between senior management and the board of directors ... characterized by a lack of cooperation and respect."

Kaczynski, the daughter of an NYPD detective, was appointed to Take-Two's board in July, 2004. According to her bio, which as of this writing is still available on Take-Two's website, Ms. Kaczynski is a CPA who previously served as the CFO of the NFL, and has also worked for Time, Inc. and Price-Waterhouse.

GP: Sounds like there could be another shoe yet to drop on this one... Reuters has more on this.

Take 2 Wins Another Boobie Prize

Following a disastrous summer, it's shaping up to be a pretty bad winter for Take-Two Interactive as well.

Today's previous story dealt with the unexpected resignation of Take Two board member Barbara A. Kaczynski, who cited, among other issues, Hot Coffee and an "unhealthy atmosphere."

Now comes word - via Next Generation - that Business 2.0 has included the Hot Coffee scandal on its list of 2005's 101 Dumbest Moments in Business.

Weighing in at #15, under the headline, "A perfectly good orgy of violence and mayhem, ruined," the Business 2.0 write-up is at least the third dunce cap award for Take-Two in recent times. In December, Take-Two boss Paul Eibeler was named Worst CEO of 2005 by MarketWatch. Also in December, the Hot Coffee affair was named to Fineman PR's list of "Worst Public Relations Blunders."

GP: Some funny stuff in the Business 2.0 piece, including write-ups on Electronic Arts and Infinium Labs.

Cops Mixed on Need For Speed Involvement in Fatal Toronto Crash

Young men have been driving recklessly since chariots were the primary means of transportation. Any teenage boy working to pay for car insurance knows that, and so do his parents.

Perhaps that's why a Toronto police detective refused to blame Need For Speed for yesterday's horrific crash which killed a 46-year-old cab driver.

Detective Paul Lobsinger told Global News, "This is a death that should never have happened. By all accounts, the two 18-year-old college students were drag racing, with each driving a Mercedes-Benz at a high rate of speed.

"There is no doubt in my mind these young boys did not intend to kill this person," the detective added. Although the fact that a copy of Need for Speed (no info on which version) was found in one of the boys' vehicles has been widely reported in Canada and the United States, Det. Lobsinger refused to point a finger at the video game.

"There is a small percentage who have difficulty separating reality and simulation, fantasy. It's a very, very small percentage," he said. "This was not the game's fault. There are millions who play this game and don't go out and do this."

But then there is this from the Toronto Sun, by way of Kotaku:

"A veteran street-racing expert says there's no surprise video racing games may be linked to the high-speed crash that killed a Toronto cabbie...

'You have life imitating art,' York Regional Police Sgt. David Mitchell, one of the original founders of Project ERASE -- Eliminate Racing Activity on Streets Everywhere, said of the connection between gaming and street racing.

'The video games and everything our younger generation is exposed to definitely has something to do with (street racing),' he said, noting some kids raised on high-octane race games may blur the line between fantasy and reality.

GP: Well, at least Sgt. Mitchell thinks games are art. But isn't art - in the form of NFS - imitating life, at least the street racing sub-culture? Really, we find this entire controversy rather silly. So what if NFS was in the car? Was there an Xbox or PS2 in there as well? Was the driver supposed to be playing the game? Obviously not. And if someone wants to allege that a game influenced behavior, does the game have to be carried around as proof? Based on that logic, no one would argue that Doom influenced the Columbine killers since they didn't take it with them on their rampage.

Wacky Texas Guv Candidate Gets a Little Wackier

Earlier this week, GamePolitics broke the news that Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Star Locke (that's him in the, um, nice hat) was advocating a 50% tax on violent games.

However a GP reader has spotted an apparent change in that policy, as listed on Locke's campaign website, Star Over Texas. According to his site, Locke is now advocating a 100% tax on violent games. Hey, why not 500%?

Gamers who are also junk food junkies (and, really, aren't we all?) will also be appalled - or amused - by Locke's proposed 50% "grease tax" on fried food and 50% tax on soda.

Interestingly, Locke introduces his unusual taxing proposals with a paragraph that includes the phrase, "... putting certain dangerous actions and dangerous products out of the reach of children thereby keeping our most precious blood-our children out of 'HARMS WAY.'"

Thanks to GP reader Wayne for the 411...

Breaking: Video Game Connection Alleged in MD Day Care Shooting

According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, the 8-year-old boy who accidentally shot another student at a Maryland day care center earlier this week had been influenced by an unspecified violent video game.

Montgomery County prosecutors say that convicted felon John L. Hall, Sr. (left) showed his son how to use the weapon and allowed him to play the violent game. Police have charged Hall with weapons offenses. He is currently incarcerated in lieu of $50,000 bail.

"The father was basically grooming the son toward having a propensity for guns," Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler.

In addition, investigators say the boy had made threats against police, discussed decapitation, and outlined a simplistic plan to commit a murder which read, "Phase 1, get weapons. Phase 2, kill the hillbilly."

Hall's family said the boy is "troubled."