February 1st, 2006

Chilling Effects Dept: Starforce Whistles Up Feds on Blog Site

Following the recent, disturbing trend of threatening law enforcement action to silence online critics, StarForce, Inc. has apparently requested the FBI to investigate Boing Boing, a popular blog for alleged harassment.

Boing Boing's "crime?" It had the temerity to criticize StarForce's copy protection software, which the company licenses to publishers of computer games.

Boing Boing claims the copy protection, used to thwart software pirates, causes instability on installed PC's. The blog site has called for a boycott of games published by companies that use StarForce. Similarities.org has posted a large list of video-games that employ the copy protection scheme. StarForce clients include a number of well-known game publishers, incuding Ubisoft, Strategy First, Namco, and CDV.

StarForce's ham-handed response to the proposed boycott was a letter accusing Boing Boing of violating "approximately 11 international laws", noting that, "I [PR Director Dennis Zhidkov] have also contacted the FBI , because what you are doing is harassment."
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JFK Reloaded Runs Out of Bullets

It is the video game equivalent of an urban legend - oft-repeated but simply untrue.

Numerous American politicians have partially justified attempts at legislating video game content by claiming they were trying to prevent kids from buying a game where the object is to assassinate the president.

The game to which they are referring is JFK Reloaded, a downloadable-only product from U.K. developer Traffic.

Readers may recall that Governor Rod Blagojevich denounced JFK Reloaded in order to help pass the Safe Games Illinois Act in 2005. More recently, State Senator Vi Simpson of Indiana has repeated the assassination mantra in her efforts to create game legislation in her state. Simpson said, "Right now, kids can walk into just about any store and get their hands on a video game in which they can shoot police officers, use drugs, steal cars, rape women or even assassinate a president. That's frightening to say the least."

Blagojevich, Simpson and other pols pushing game sales legislation either don't understand or choose to ignore the fact that no child - or adult, for that matter - ever bought JFK Reloaded in a store as it simply was not distributed through retail channels.
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Kansas "Partnership with Families" Includes Video Game Legislation

Master Chief, we're not allowed in Kansas any more - maybe.

As reported recently by GamePolitics, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, promised during her State of the State address to assist parents by "giving them access to tools" which included "limits on access to violent video games."

While Sibelius didn't specify her intentions, the implication was clear: another round of video game legislation. GamePolitics, of course, is tracking the story. Yesterday, the other shoe dropped.

As reported by the Kansas City Star, State House Democrats unveiled a "Partnership with Families" plan including legislation that would make it a misdemeanor to sell violent or sexually explicit video games to minors.

There's more about the Kansas Dems' plan on the party's website, including the upcoming bill's title, "The Child Protection from Violent Video Games Act."

Also - just like the dirty magazines at your local convenience store - the proposed legislation would require those violent games or sexually explicit games to be kept behind the counter at retailers. Once again we see games equated with porn.

GP: While the legislation seems doomed to go down the same path as previous bills, we like the blog format on the Kansas Democratic Party's website, which even allows comment.

Will North Carolina, Connecticut Join L.A. in Suing Take Two?

By way of Kotaku comes word that state attorney generals in North Carolina and Connecticut have requested records and information from Take Two relating to the Hot Coffee scandal.

The information is contained in the company's annual report, which was filed yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and is available online.

While no suits have been filed by North Carolina or Connecticut, such action seems possible, perhaps even likely, given the request for records.

State-level video game legislation sponsored by Sen. Julia Boseman came close to passage in North Carolina last year. Connecticut, of course, is the home state of U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, a longtime watchdog of the video game industry. In addition, a Federal Trade Commission investigation of Hot Coffee has been ongoing since last July.

But the revelations concerning North Carolina and Connecticut aren't the only juicy bits in the annual report. Under the heading "Legal Proceedings," are listed the following:

- four class-action suits over Hot Coffee: two in New York state, one in Illinois, and one in Pennsylvania. As described by Take Two's annual report, "The complaints seek unspecified damages, declarations of various violations of law and litigation costs. We believe that these complaints are without merit and we intend to vigorously defend and seek dismissals of these actions."
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Native American Group Calls for Boycott of Gun

Does Activision's so-so shooter Gun portray Native Americans in a negative way?

That's the claim made by the Association for American Indian Development (AAID) based in Seattle. The group has called for a boycott of Gun, a Wild West-themed first person shooter, for what AAID terms "derogatory, harmful and inaccurate depictions of American Indians."

Activision describes Gun as a "realistic epic action/adventure that lets gamers experience the brutality of the lawless West... corrupt lawmen, warring tribes, cold-blooded outlaws, and ruthless renegades."

In particular, AAID objects to the game's alleged condoning and trivializing of the "near genocide of Native Americans", likening it to glamorizing slavery, lynching, or the Holocaust. Of particular concern to them is Gun's portrayal of "the slaughtering of 'renegade' Apaches, the atrocity of 'indian scalping' and incorrect portrayals of Native American traditions."

The boycott demands that Activision edit the game, and re-release it "in a manner that is responsible to the great Apache people and is culturally and historically accurate to the struggle and plight of all people of American Indian ancestry." If the game is not edited, AAID insists that Activision pull the game from all retail and online stores.

AAID even addresses the game's "Mature" rating, expressing concern that "young kids will still manage to get a copy of it... and then carry what they've experienced into their interactions with real, live Apaches and other Native Americans."
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