March 30th, 2006

Send in Your Pictures Wearing Your Pixelante T-Shirt !!!!

Visualize yourself wearing a Pixelante T-shirt with a breathtaking sunset in the background. Or, more realistically, playing Halo 2 and stuffing Oreos into your face. Or just parading around in your Pixelante T and your tin foil hat... and, hopefully, a pair of pants. No matter, if you're wearing a Pixelante T-shirt in the picture, GP will publish it and make you (sorta) famous.

You'll need to actually buy a shirt first, of course.

While we're talking about this, let GP tell you how wonderful Zazzle - the online service distributing the shirts - is. Zazzle has this deal where you design a shirt (like the fabulous Pixelante Collection). And then, if someone buys one, you get 10% (or, in this case, the Get-Well Gamers get 10%). You can earn an extra 7% by signing up as an affiliate. That would mean 17% on each shirt sold.

Now, no one ever said GP was smart. Somehow I managed to screw up the affiliate registration process (probably distracted by banning a certain someone for the 93rd time) and didn't even realize it. So instead of generating 17% for charity, we were only banging 10%.

GP's phone rang late Tuesday evening. It was a very nice man from Zazzle. Apparently the sudden jump in sales of the Pixelante T-shirts caught their attention and they noticed that we weren't making as much profit for charity as we could. So he walked me through a fix. Not only that, but Zazzle promised to credit us for the extra 7% we'd missed out on for the shirts already sold.

That was damned nice. So GP doesn't normally pimp services, but the folks at Zazzle certainly deserve an attaboy.

Industry Reacts to Wednesday's Senate Hearing

GamePolitics broke the news about yesterday's Senate hearing... Well, actually we broke it back on March 14th, but nobody took much notice - then. Now it seems everybody's tongue is wagging over Wednesday's extravaganza chaired by Sen. Sam Brownback, seen at left (R-KS).

Sadly, GP wasn't able to catch the hearing (life... it is so annoying at times). In the meantime, we're dying to read the reports of those who sat in or listened to the webcast. MTV's Stephen Totilo will have something on it, for sure. Some GP readers have been posting what they heard in our comments area. And, hey, if anyone has an audio file, don't hold back...

What follows is a brief summary of written testimony submitted to the subcommittee by non-attendees...

Hal Halpin, IEMA (retailers): "The IEMA remains firmly committed to ensuring that children do not gain access to video games their parents deem inappropriate for them. But just as the Government has not and should not involve itself in determining what movies minors may watch and what music they may listen to, the Government should not decide what games they may play..."

Crossan Andersen, VSDA (video stores): "while we must oppose legal restrictions, the home video industry understands we have an important role to play in helping ensure that children do not gain access to videos and video games their parents deem inappropriate for them. VSDA and its members are committed to actively assisting parents in this regard."

Leland Yee, California Assembly: "In Ginsberg v. New York, the Court said, 'even where there is an invasion of protected freedoms, the power of the state to control the conduct of children reaches beyond the scope of its authority over adults.' ...And finally, just last year, the Supreme Court ruled in... Roper v. Simmons, that children are different in the eyes of the law because of brain development."

The ESRB's Pat Vance, who appeared before the subcommittee, also has written testimony available here.

Mainstream Media Reports Trickle in from Brownback Senate Hearing

Kansas City Star: "Today's video games are more graphic, more realistic and more barbaric," said Sen. Sam Brownback, visibly disgusted by descriptions of some games Wednesday... In Brownback's room, it was cuts from "25 to Life," "Postal" and "Grand Theft Auto."

One witness, Minnesota state Rep. Jeff Johnson, described other games, including 'Clock Tower III,' in which a small girl's head is sledge-hammered against a wall... Lawmakers insist the ratings on the boxes aren't enough for harried parents who may equate a game with the 'Space Invaders' they played as kids.

Brownback called for more self-policing by the game industry. "I think that would head a lot of this off, if they would show some reserve, that there is something over the top," he said. "To date, nothing's been over the top."

Wichita Eagle: ...Brownback held his first video game violence hearing in 1997. He supports the Children and Media Research Advancement Act, which would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to undertake a massive study of the effects of media on children.

While federal options on regulating games are limited right now, he said, the government can "get more information out there. I'll support more research dollars, because (lawmakers) are dependent on studies" to get bills passed... Brownback said he thought the video game ratings system could be made clearer and be better explained at video stores.

FTC Secret Shoppers Find Fewer M-Rated Game Sales to Minors

The video game industry, desperate for good news of late, got some today.

The Federal Trade Commission this morning released results of its "2005 Nationwide Undercover Shop," a broad investigation into the issue of how well video game retailers follow the industry's voluntary ratings guidelines.

The key question, of course, is how readily children were able to purchase M-rated games. As reported by the FTC:

"The undercover shop saw a decrease in the number of M-Rated video games sold to unaccompanied children. Video games rated "M" by the ESRB contain content appropriate for those 17 and older. Forty-two percent of the secret shoppers - children between the ages of 13 and 16 - who attempted to buy an M-rated video game without a parent were able to purchase one. In the 2003 shop, 69 percent of the shoppers were able to buy one."

The report concluded that national chains were "much more likely" to block underage sales of M-rated games. Only 35 percent of secret shoppers were able to buy from national retailers. Local and regional stores fared much worse, selling the game to too-young buyers 63% of the time.

The FTC investigation was conducted between October 2005 and January 2006 and saw secret shoppers visit game retailers in 43 states. 306 stores targeted belonged to national chains, while 100 were local or regional.

The FTC also announced today that it is studying the idea of conducting consumer and parent surveys regarding the use and effectiveness of the ESRB rating.

GP: The FTC results are a mixed blessing for the industry. Ratings compliance continues to improve dramatically among the large retailers. Even so, a 35% failure rate leaves room for improvement - and provides some ammunition for critics as well. The 63% failure rate for local/regional stores is a greater concern, of course.