February 13th, 2006

"Flowers for Jack" Crosses Over to Mainstream Media

The Flowers for Jack movement has crossed over from an Internet-only phenomenon to coverage in the mainstream media.

GP takes note of Steve Tilley's coverage of FFJ yesterday in the Edmonton Sun. Tilley, who has sparred with Thompson before, wrote, in part:

"Saying anti-video game crusader and soundbite manufacturer Jack Thompson lacks a sense of humour is sort of like saying a snake comes up a little short in the limbs department..."

"The flower delivery to Thompson this week was accompanied by a heartfelt, intelligent and uncynical letter aimed at opening a channel of communication between the video gaming community and its most shrill critic."

"Thompson's response? Bile, spittle and the forwarding of the flowers to some of his most reviled industry foes...

The Miami New Times has a lengthy report on FFJ as well, including a comment from the man who puts the "J" in FFJ.

Red Cross: Game Power-ups Boost Health But Infringe Trademark

Health kit, anyone?

Video games have long employed the Red Cross emblem to depict hospitals, ambulances, combat medics and more commonly, health pickups. David Pratt of the Canadian Red Cross just didn't notice until now.

Pratt has asked that the video game industry discontinue all unauthorized and illegal uses of the organization's emblem. "It is our considered view that the various displays of the Red Cross...are inappropriate and are a breach of international and domestic law. The fact that the Red Cross is also used in videos which contain strong language and violence is also of concern to us in that they directly conflict with the basic humanitarian principles espoused by the Red Cross movement."

AE: I've never been in one myself but I'm quite certain that there is plenty "strong language and violence" in real wars.

Pratt requests that game developers and publishers "mount a comprehensive education campaign about the protected status of the Red Cross emblem." He is concerned that continued misuse would further perpetuate the misconception that the emblem is public property and may be used by any organization or for any commercial purpose. "As Canada is a signatory to the Convention, domestically the exclusive use of the emblem is reserved for the Medical Corps of the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Red Cross Society. This is confirmed in Canadian law under the Geneva Conventions Act and the Canadian Red Cross Society Act."

Not to be left out, the British Red Cross chimed in via GamesIndustry.biz with comments in line with Pratt's. "It is important for videogame manufacturers not to use the emblem in their games, including for matters related to its humanitarian purpose, such as first aid or general medical care," said Michael Meyer, head of international law for the British Red Cross. "The use of the emblem in videogames is both illegal and detrimental to the special protective value of the emblem."

So what does the game industry think of all this? The Vancouver Sun reports the IGDA's Jason Della Rocca admitting that developers haven't yet had a chance to respond because the issue is too new. "I don't think anyone knowingly or willingly infringed on the rights of the Red Cross," he said.
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Gaming a Cure for Senility? Canadian Brain Study Encouraging

We've all heard gamers described as "juveniles who can't grow up." But ironically, some argue that this is due to games' "anti-aging" effect on the brain.

According to a Toronto university study reported in the Globe & Mail, the effects of being a "video game player" were comparable to learning a second language: improved multitasking, visual skills and short term memory.

The study, which looked at 100 undergraduates, found that gamers consistently out-performed their fellow "non-gamers" in mental tests. Those who were bilingual gamers scored even higher.

Prof. Ellen Bialystok suspects gamers, like bilinguals, have learned the ability to block out information that is irrelevant to the task at hand. A new study, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, shows the elderly lose the ability to "power up" certain "task-handling" areas of the brain, such as the frontal lobe, and to "power down" inner brain regions that are active when a person is in "idle/default mode." Those between the ages of 20-30 have no problem "switching gears" between idle mode and focusing on a task, but the ability declines with age. Studies have long shown that learning a second language slows this decline.

Shitij Kapur, a neuroscientist at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says "it would be quite reasonable to expect that these teens are good at multitasking, because they grow up in a world that demands it." Although he notes that the next generation will likely be able to out-perform those that came before it, so it's a "relative impairment."
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GP Readers Gaze Upon the Lighter Side of Jack Thompson

There are some funny people reading GamePolitics

"Funny, how?" You say. "Like a clown? Like they're here to amuse GP?"

Well... yeah, I guess that's part of it. In fact, a couple of readers had me cracking up last week - and the laughs were badly needed. In the midst of Jack Thompson's shrill insistence - despite a public declaration by the district attorney to the contrary - that rampage killer Jason Robida learned his violent ways through playing GTA, GP reader wxdiva broke through the bad vibes with this masterful tapestry:

GP had to shrink the tapestry a wee bit to make it fit in our LJ space, but the full Monty is here.

...and then there are the wall scratchings of caveman Og Thompson. Start reading Og's story here. Then read the second installment. You want more Og? You got it.