February 6th, 2006

ESA Lauds Chicago Warez Bust

The ESA has just issued a press release on a major warez bust. Here are a few bits lifted from the statement:

"A Chicago federal grand jury last week indicted nineteen members of the international piracy warez group 'RISCISO' as a result of the federal law enforcement undercover investigation 'Operation Jolly Roger.' The ESA today lauded the work of the federal officials whose investigative and legal efforts produced the indictments of the nineteen warez group members for pirating games, software, and movies worth more than $6.5 million.
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Bono Mulling Take-Two Takeover?

Kotaku is citing a New York Post report which claims rock star/human rights activist Bono is looking over beleaguered Take-Two as a potential acquisition.

Bono already has a foot in the game business thanks to a large investment in Pandemic Studios and Bioware last year. According to Kotaku, even its current distressed condition, the acquisition price of Take-Two could be as much as a billion dollars.

GP: The NY Post, by the way, has the most obnoxious registration process we've ever seen. Best not to go there.

Super Bowl Contest Winner !!!

GP fans - those who cared - were right on the money in predicting the Super Bowl. In our poll, 35% picked the Steelers, while 27% (Microsoft employees, mostly) went with the Seahawks. 37% expressed no interest in the outcome

Our bonus contest asked reader to predict the actual final score. No one guessed the actual 21-10 final, but GP reader tsaul (LJ icon pictured) was closest with a 21-13 prediction. Grats to tsaul, and contact me for your game swag prize!!

Games Tweak Corporations, Political Policies

In-game advertising - the so-called "advergame" - is on the rise as companies acknowledge the ability of videogames to reach millions of potential customers. But not all gamers are not amused. According to a report on CNet, some cynical coders are creating videogames to carry on the time-honored tradition of the corporate send-up.

Dubbed "anti-advergames," titles such as Disaffected! have been created to lampoon big corporations. Disaffected! (screen shot at left), for example, puts the player in charge of running a FedEx Kinkos location. Persuasive Games, developer of Disaffected! explains it this way: "Feel the indifference of these purple-shirted malcontents firsthand, and consider the possible reasons behind their malaise - is it mere incompetence? Managerial affliction? Unseen but serious labor issues?"

Other anti-advergames, such as La Molleindustria's McVideoGame, target McDonald's. Not all focus on corporations, however. Some contain political messages. In Gonzalo Frasca's September 12, players try to kill terrorists with missile strikes, but the blast usually takes out civilians as well, and outraged or weeping bystanders transform into terrorists themselves.

While there is a potential issue of copyright infringement, most anti-advergames are satire, a protected form of speech. Even so, most creators release their games for free, a defense mechanism that allows them to truthfully claim they didn't profit, should corporate lawyers decide to get testy. Then again, as news of late has shown, no press is bad press. Brad Scott, a digital branding expert, says companies that get singled out might actually benefit from anti-advergames, "You can almost use it as, 'Boy, we've become such an icon as a brand that we're being mimicked by video games.'"

Ian Bogost, one of Persuasive Games founders, is happy if people start asking questions at the very least. Ironically, some "anti" companies also produce straight advergames themselves. According to Bogost, "Just as many independent filmmakers work on television spots and music videos to fund their features and documentaries... we work on advergames to fund our social and political games."


"Nut Case" Killer with GTA Link On Trial This Week

Demarcus Ralls called himself a "nut case." The 21-year-old man belonged to a small but vicious Oakland street gang that went by that name as well.

As reported by today's San Francisco Chronicle, Ralls is on trial for his life this week, charged in a string of murders and robberies that plagued Oakland over a 10-week period of 2002 and 2003.

"This small gang of thugs drove up Oakland's violent crime rate by themselves," said Mayor Jerry Brown. "These arrests probably saved some lives and made Oakland a much safer place."

Ralls, who turned 18 during the crime spree, has confessed to five killings and 23 robberies. He told police he and other Nut Case members would spend their days taking drugs and playing Grand Theft Auto III. When they became bored with the game they would act out what they'd played in real life.

An Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner has issued a gag order in the Ralls trial. But the Chronicle reports that case files show the Nut Case crimes were committed for thrills and bragging rights.

In Wake of Rampage, New Bedford Mayor Wants Violent Games Rounded Up

New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang has a message posted on his website in response to the deadly Jason Robida rampage that began last week in a gay bar in New Bedford and ended on Saturday with a police shootout in Arkansas that left a police officer, a West Virginia woman and Robida himself dead. The mayor's statement reads in part:

"This was a hate crime... the actions of a single deranged individual act as a wake up call to our community and once again the nation... This cycle of violence must stop. The guns have to come off the streets. The violent video games have to be taken out of our homes."

We can appreciate that Mayor Lang feels the need to make a response. However, we've yet to see any reports linking Robida to violent games, although there is ample evidence he was into racial hatred, neo-Nazism, and apparently hatred of gays as well. He was a disturbed kid who was no stranger to the local police.

There's also a bit of a disconnect between "a single deranged individual" and removing violent games from everyone's home. Unless we're misreading Lang's release, he is not blaming games for Robida's rampage. Rather he appears to be making some type of generalized statement regarding what he calls "this cycle of violence."

In any case, we're sure to hear more about Robida's motivations, since the mainstream media is all over this high-profile case. If there turns out to be evidence that this twisted, homicidal maniac was also into violent games, we'll report that. If he wasn't, we'll report that too.

In the meantime, we've seen Robida's MySpace web site. In fact, that's where the creepy picture of Robida that accompanies this article was found. While there are a lot of violent, racist and Nazi references on Robida's MySpace, not one word about games can be found.

UPDATE: Our old pal Jack Thompson posted a comment to this article pointing out that today's Boston Herald makes mention that Robida was a gamer. No mention of what he played, however. Nor does a passing mention of video games in Saturday's Boston Globe say what titles Robida may have favored. Nintendogs? GTA San Andreas? Madden? Hopefully, more facts will emerge. As always, check GamePolitics for the truth.