March 7th, 2006

T.V. Violence Has Twice the Impact of Games, Says Child Psychologist

Why are video games in the political crosshairs these days?

If you've checked out GP's Legislation Tracker, you're aware that the American political scene is crowded with bills designed to restrict kids' access to violent video games. As gamers, we often wonder why games are targeted to the exclusion of other violent forms of media. The boilerplate response from the pro-legislation crowd is that the interactive nature of games renders their effects far more harmful than those of more passive media. But is that really the case?

A recent IGN interview with child and adolescent psychologist, Dr. Richard Gallagher of the New York University Child Study Center offers a contrary assertion.

"Viewing television violence has a stronger effect on youth than videogames... nearly twice as large as the effect of videogames, although the effect of videogames is increasing with the increased violent content... "
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Konami Game Ad Runs Afoul of U.K. Censors

Last week it was Activision's T.V. spots for Call of Duty: Big Red One which drew official ire in Great Britain.

Now, Konami faces complaints over print adverts for its upcoming Crime Life: Gang Wars. But while COD's commercials were judged misleading, some viewers of the Crime Life ads find them simply misanthropic.

GamesIndustry.biz reports that the advert, featuring armed members of hip-hop act D12 and captioned with the tag line "Rule the streets or fall by the wayside," was investigated by the U.K.'s Advertsing Standards Authority (ASA) after the agency received complaints that it was "offensive and irresponsible" on the grounds that it "exploited racial stereotypes, glorified violence and encouraged anti-social behaviour."

Konami and Metro - the newspaper which published the ad - claim they have heard no complaints, adding that they were of the belief that, "people could distinguish between real life and games."

On the subject of D12's appearance in the ad, the ASA concluded "that some readers may not understand that the men in the ad represented the band members and could take the image to be a negative portrayal of black men and be offended by it on those grounds." The organization also criticised the ad's tagline on the grounds it "could be seen to condone violence and present that choice of lifestyle as aspirational in a way that was irresponsible"

The ASA have told Konami not to re-run the advert, and to consult the agency before running ads for similar titles.

-Mark Kelly

JUSTICE FILES: Counter-strike Clan Leader Busted as Pedophile

From Got Frag comes word of a disturbing incident.

A 52-year-old man who helped manage the Green Berets, a competitive video game clan, was busted by police in London, Ontario following accusations that he solicited obscene pictures of young boys he recruited for the Green Berets' Counter-strike team.

The London Free Press reports that George "Spike" Finley, found guilty of possessing child pornography in 2005, was charged with violating the terms of his probation by having contact with minors.

It is alleged that Finley recruited 10 to 13-year-old boys to help manage the Green Berets, advising them to lie about their ages to seem older. Finley then used the popular voice chat program Ventrilo to solicit nude pictures from the boys. The convicted pedophile promised the boys PC hardware and promotions to clan leadership positions as enticements. Potential victims who refused Finley's overtures were dropped from the team.

The leader of the Green Berets, 24-year-old James O'Connor became suspicious after several former members complained to him about Finley's scheme.

"Those children would come to me with crazy accusations..." said O'Connor. "George went on to tell us that this person was just making up the meanest things possible to get back at him for being removed from the team. This whole thing, about George possibly being a pedophile... seemed almost inconceivable. I didn't believe it at first."

After suggesting that one of the boys record the Ventrilo conversations, however, O'Connor and other clan officials turned the matter over to law enforcement authorities.

"Similar situations kept occurring every other month or so for about 4 months," said O'Connor. "I would ask these children for logs of IRC chat and they would always say that they never had any. George was careful to only talk about his perversions on Ventrillo."

GP: Coupled with January's Xbox Live pedophile incident, it's clear that some online predators are turning to multiplayer gaming venues as a source of potential victims.

A shout-out to GP reader Steven Strasser for the story...