March 13th, 2006

Yemeni Press Sees Video Games as Root of all Evil

How far would you go to get your gaming fix? Would you skip school or work? Steal money? Offer your body to the guy behind the counter at GameStop?

A Yemen Times article claims that a distressing number of Yemeni children have answered yes to those last few question because they're "addicted to playing video games."

In fact, there are few evils for which the Yemen Times does not find a video game link.

The article, written by Mohammed Al-Jabri, says that Yemen is one of the Arab world's poorest countries and many children can't watch television or play video games at home. The few that can are limited to the odd times when they're not at school, the mosque, studying, or helping their parents at work. So how does a young Yemeni gamer get his or her game on?

Most Yemeni cities have video game shops, establishments where customers can pay to play. A ten-minute block of time costs 40 riyals (about 20 cents). Children exploit the times when their parents aren't watching them by visiting these places during school, prayer time at the mosque, and qat sessions (a social activity that involves chewing a leafy narcotic for hours). Children in Yemen typically receive a small allowance but if that's not enough, many will resort to theft.

"Three years ago, a father discovered that his 15-year-old son had managed to steal 5,000 riyals (25 bucks) from his pocket. After a harsh beating, the teen confessed to his father that he spent the money playing video games with his friends. The father therefore put him in prison as punishment."

Ouch. Other children, unable to obtain sufficient funds, subject themselves to sexual abuse at the hands of game shop owners, trading sexual favors for game time.

The article also blames video games for aggressive behavior, poor scholastic performance, and a variety of health ailments such as "backaches, dry eyes, migraine headaches, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, etc."

Reporting from San Diego, GP North American Correspondent Andrew Eisen

Nintendo DS Keeps Old Brains Working Like Young Brains

Nintendo said they were trying to reach new markets with the DS, and that they have - the elderly!

Mainici Daily reports Isamu Shishido, a 67-year-old Japanese retiree discovered Brain Training For Adults - or Brain Age to us westerners - not wanting to "end up some crazy old man ...I want to play a little everyday before going to bed."

The title has seen praise from doctors and neuropsychiatrists, almost universally noting that the game's light intelligence puzzles stimulate the brain and can offset dementia and Alzheimer's. "It's a good form of stimulation - especially for old people living alone,", said Kyoto doctor Takeshi Kihara.

Kihara's hospital even stocks DS systems for patients to use - "We've made ten Nintendo DS's available and they're almost always rented out.". The doctor even recommends that patients "of a certain age" buy themselves copies of the game to keep themselves stimulated at home.

The only catch with this, however, is that DS stocks have been running low in Japan since the release of the newly-reformed DS Lite. I just hope Mr. Shishido can remember to go out and get one later...

Reporting from the U.K., GP International Correspondent Mark Kelly

Wednesday Hearing on Delaware Game Bill; Thompson to Testify

GamePolitics has confirmed that on Wednesday outspoken Miami attorney Jack Thompson is slated to testify at the state capital on behalf of HB319, video game legislation sponsored by Democratic State. Rep. Helene Keeley (left).

Rep. Keeley's bill would prohibit a person "from selling or renting a video game, if rated, unless the official rating is clearly displayed. This Act also makes it unlawful for a person to sell or rent to an underage person and requires proof of age prior to sale or rental."

Missouri Video Game Bill Struggles For Committee Vote

The new politics of video games does not always translate to legislators versus the game lobby. Sometimes it's as simple and old-fashioned as Democrats versus Republicans.

As reported by the Columbia Missourian, House Minority Leader Jeff Harris, a Democrat, is, for the second year in a row, struggling to get his bill, HB1467 heard. Like similar proposals in other states, Harris' bill would make it illegal to sell games rated "M" or "AO" to anyone under 17.

"These games unnecessarily show graphic violence and graphic sexual situations," he said. "This is one step that we should take to protect kids and support parents."

Harris bill hasn't moved to a committee vote yet, a situation he blames on the Republican-controlled State House.

"Evidently, the governor and the speaker simply don't have any inclination to move this legislation," Harris said. "I think it's good, common sense, bipartisan legislation. I would hope the governor would embrace this and we could get things moving."

Republican House Speaker Rod Jetton (left), however, claims to support Harris' bill.

"You think, 'well, it's just boys playing games,'" Jetton said. "But they've got some pretty graphic and really not very good things on there. I thought his bill was a good idea, I'm very supportive of it. For minors, it's very appropriate to limit those kind of things."

Harris' bill is now before the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee. As previously reported by GamePolitics, the bill will die in committee if action is not taken by May.

The Missourian also checked in with Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), who pointed out, "During his time, Shakespeare wasn't regarded as the literary genius (that he is) today. He was seen as trash and inciting the masses. It would seem that games are the next generation in that regard."

GP: In the interests of disclosure, GP points out that he is an IGDA member.

Thompson Threatens Wikipedia; Says GamePolitics Editor is "Next"

We've had several e-mails from readers indicating that the Wikipedia has locked its entry on Jack Thompson. This all seemed to come to a head late Friday. Given the Wiki's popularity this will likely receive some major coverage the longer the entry stays down. Here's what we know about the situation:

On March 7th, Thompson sent an e-mail to the Wikipedia Foundation board in St. Petersburg, Florida claiming that his Wiki entry contained "a number of false, defamatory, and actionable statements about me. As an aside, you all don't even have my date and year of birth correct, and it goes downhill from there."

Thompson's e-mail doesn't specify which entries he finds offensive. His demand to the Wiki seeks "the real names, addresses, and phone numbers, and any other verifying information, regarding anyone who has posted anything about me at Wikipedia, as they will be defendants."

The outspoken attorney further tells the Wiki board, "You have thirty days to comply with this demand. The Seigenthaler experience shows that you must provide me this information."

"Secondly, I demand that your people contact me immediately so that we together can verify what is true and what is not true at your site. No one in her or her right mind does what you all do - passing off as 'fact' certain anonymous allegations on your web site that no one has vetted in any reasonable fashion. When I tried to correct some of them recently, Wikipedia removed my corrections treating them as 'vandalism.' The person who delighted in telling me that is the head of 'Wikipedian Atheists.' What a surprise. You have twenty days to comply with this demand.
"

Thompson's e-mail further claims that he has suffered "compensable harm" based on the Wiki entry and that he intends to file a libel suit if his demands are not met.

Here at GamePolitics, we take note of the following bizarre threat received in e-mail on March 10th. It was also cc'd to several game journalists. The subject line simply says, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. You're next, Mr. McCauley." The only information in the body is a link to Thompson's locked-down Wiki entry.


From: Jack Thompson [mailto:xxxxxxxxx@comcast.net]
Sent: Friday, March 10, 2006 1:25 PM
To: dennis@gamepolitics.com; Aaron McKenna; Curt Feldman; Tor Thorsen; Brendan Sinclair; mattsaunderson

Subject: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. You're next, Mr. McCauley

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Thompson_(attorney)

Jack Thompson, Attorney
Land line: 305-xxx-xxxx, Cell: 305-xxx-xxxx
xxxx South Dixie Hwy, Suite 111
Coral Gables, FL USA 33146 xxxxxxxxx@comcast.net


GP: I'm not quite sure what to make of this menacing e-mail. I can say that I resent the hell out of its implications and that neither this site nor its editor will be bullied or silenced.

ESA Launches "Video Game Voters Network"

According to a press release this morning from the ESA:

"The "Video Game Voters Network", a new grassroots political network for gamers, officially launched today at www.videogamevoters.org. The website was created as a means for American adults who play computer and video games to organize and take action on important policy issues affecting the computer and video game industry.

'Computer and video games represent one of the most important new media developments of this generation. Unlike many other forms of entertainment they offer players the opportunity to explore, be creative, learn through interaction and express themselves to others,' said Will Wright, Chief Designer at Maxis. 'It is vitally important that we protect and nurture this new art form so that it can reach its full potential. Like most new forms of artistic expression that have come before (music, novels, movies), the primary critics of video games are the people that do not play them.'

The Video Game Voters Network opposes efforts to regulate the content of entertainment media, including proposals to criminalize the sale of certain games to minors, or regulate video games differently than movies, music, books, and other media. The site, a project of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), enables gamers to stay updated about these and other game industry related issues, to register to vote, and to take action by contacting federal, state, and local officials to express their views. Gamers over 18 years old can join the Network and/or send a letter to policymakers at www.videogamevoters.org.

'With over seventy bills to restrict game sales to minors already pending in state legislatures across the country this year, it's time for gamers to make their voices heard loudly and clearly, to let politicians know that they will no longer stand by and let games be the scapegoat for larger social problems,' said ESA president Doug Lowenstein. 'Gamers can join together through the Video Game Voters Network to send a strong message to politicians to let them know that gamers care, that they vote, and that they will no longer tolerate these unconstitutional, unnecessary, and uninformed attacks on this important form of entertainment.'


GP: We've been critical of the ESA - as recently as yesterday - but must give credit where it's due and applaud Doug Lowenstein and his people for this initiative.