January 29th, 2006

Columnist: "Buy Them the Sports Games"

In what has been a rather troubling week for gamers and the game business, Texas has contributed more than its share of silliness.

First there was gubernatorial candidate Star Locke, who wants to impose a 100% sin tax on violent games (along with fried chicken and soda pop). Now comes Norma Alonzo, a columnist with the Plainview Daily Herald. In a column that primarily trashes T.V., Ms. Alonzo tosses in some ill-informed video game advice at the end:

"Now, one of my non-favorite topics - video games. With the big frenzy about having the coolest and most modern technology, video games have to be closely monitored. For this topic I simply say - buy them the sports video games and you will most likely be on the safe side."

But what about Midway's popular football title Blitz: The League? The sexy, violent and profane sports game was bashed on CNN by no less a critic than Jack Thompson.

What if your kids aren't into sports?

Isn't it okay to like Tolkien or Tetris, but not the trap play?

What if your children are of the feminine variety and there are no female-oriented sports games?

And, hey, why aren't the big hits in Madden or the drop-the-gloves fighting in NHL 06 considered violent?

We realize Ms. Alonzo is well-meaning, but comments from poorly-informed pundits like her only serve to reinforce anti-gaming prejudice among those who aren't in the know.

Take Two Meltdown?


Badly mismanaged video game corporation with good IP assets. Some travel required (Federal Trade Commission hearings in Washington D.C. and lawsuit defense in Fayette, Alabama); must be prepared to clean house. $15 per share or best offer. Owner must sell!! Call 1-800-TakeTwo. Ask for Paul...

Between the acrimonious departure of director Barbara Kaczynski and the company's being named to Business 2.0's list of 2005's 101 Dumbest Moments in Business, it has been a bleak few days for Take Two, but we didn't realize just how bad things were.

Citing a New York Post report, Kotaku reports that the Grand Theft Auto publisher is looking for a lifeline in the form of a buyout.

An unnamed "source close to the company" told the Post, "For a fund, it is a bet that the cash flows from sales of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Liberty City Tales, and new management could get around the growing liabilities."

As Kotaku points out, "The geniuses running the company have managed to burn through $200 million in cash in the past year, leaving just $100 million. This week, an analyst also rated the stock a 'sell'..."

MarketWatch has more on Take Two's financial straits.

EDITORIAL: E3 Booth Babes Pay the Price For Game Biz Politics

Simply put, the ESA's ban on "booth babes" at the 2006 E3 Expo stinks. It's a politically-correct ploy by the video game industry that will have a negative financial impact on the dozens - if not hundreds - of actresses and models who typically work at the show.

While we understand all of the arguments against booth babes (tacky, exploitative, etc.), they've been a part of the E3 landscape forever. E3 is a trade show, and exhibitors use a variety of means to attract attention to their wares. The time-honored booth babe is just one such method, along with army men, singers, celebrities, quiz shows, t-shirt tossing, gear give-aways, and on and on...

Nor is GP buying the argument that scantily-clad booth babes stop nerdy E3 attendees in their tracks, thus blocking the aisles. A show like E3 is all about creating a buzz for one's game or system or peripheral. Ever been to Nintendo's exhibit at E3? Mario & Co. purposely designs the display area to be one huge traffic jam, making it look like they have more buzz going on than the GameCube perhaps merits.

In fact, E3's aisles are jammed because the ESA lets too many people into the show. The number goes up every year, and a good many of the attendees have minimal qualifications for admittance. Like the two guys I met last year from Drunk Gamer, a fan site about the nexus of games and beer. Nice guys, but...

Shutting out the booth babes will also take money out of the pockets of Los Angeles' massive population of aspiring actresses, most of whom seem to find a gig at E3. For the booth babe, E3 has always represented three days of work at a decent wage. Thus, the local L.A. economy takes a hit as well.

Finally, GP, cynic that he is, doesn't believe for a moment that the suits at the ESA made this decision in a sudden burst of enlightenment. This flip-flop from past practice is strictly political, an attempt to massage the game industry's sagging public image. With the first post-Hot Coffee E3 coming up, we're quite sure the ESA expects an unprecedented level of scrutiny from the media, from Wal-Mart, from politicians, and from the Religious Right.

Ultimately, the struggling actresses and models of Los Angeles will join the ranks of those paying the price for Take Two's mismanagement of the Hot Coffee fiasco.

UPDATE: GameCloud has a lengthy, balanced report on the booth babe issue. Next Generation has a well-reasoned commentary that takes a position opposite of GP's. The IGDA's Sex & Games SIG has articles on the booth babe controversy here.