April 16th, 2006

Japanese Police Study Effects of Video Games on Kids

IGN is reporting that a new research group has been formed in Japan to evaluate the effects of anime, video games and other influences on children.

Somewhat surprisingly, the research group is under the control of Japan's National Police Agency. Yutaka Takehana - formerly the deputy governor of Tokyo - chairs the group, which held its first meeting on April 10th. Participating in the study are 15 educational and psychological specialists.

The formation of the research group comes in the wake of a change in Japan's CERO rating system which went into effect in March. At that time CERO introduced a series of five ratings for games - A (all ages), B (12 and up), C (15 and up), D (17 and up) and Z (18 and up). Ratings A through D are advisory only, whereas Z has the force of law behind it.

The ratings shift followed Grand Theft Auto 3 - published in Japan by Capcom - being banned for sale to under-18's in two Japanese prefectures last year. The police research group hopes to release its findings during summer of 2006.

AM: It will be interesting to see another culture's take on the effects of games on children. Could anime be bad for kids? Perhaps...

-Reporting from a long way south of Japan, GP Australian Correspondent Alex 'BeardedFerret' Morris

Yet Another Jack Thompson Game

Our old pal Jack Thompson is an inspirational figure to game designers - although probably not in the way the anti-game activist would have preferred.

Now comes word that yet another Thompson-themed game has been released. Beat Up Thompson looks to be a small-scale Flash game in which the player faces off against Thompson in a mano-a-mano battle to reduce one another's hit points.

The player fights as Mario, and has four video-game inspired moves such as "Tetristrike," "Dance Revolution," and "River City Kick." The JT character has only one attack, hurling copies of his book at the player.

This is at least the fourth Thompson game GP can recall since last fall. Others include the GTA mod, Defamation of Character: A Jack Thompson Murder Simulator. Most recently, gamers were impressed by the highly-detailed I'm O.K. - A Murder Simulator, modeled after Thompson's infamous Modest Proposal.

GP: A shout-out to GP reader Charlie Ly for the tip on the new game...

UPDATE, April 18th: The game has apparently been taken offline. We're not sure whether Jack Thompson complained to the host site, however we know he has complained (rather loudly) about GamePolitics reporting on this story. Frankly, we see it as a video game/cultural/political news item about a public figure who chooses to immerse himself in the video game/cultural/political arena. Thompson claims he sees it as a threat. Certainly, that's not how it is intended, any more than today's story about the racist game targeting Mexican immigrants is a threat against them. It is simply news.

It's all very confusing to GP since, while Thompson has called GamePolitics a "terrorist site," he continues to send us other stories, like one today about his ongoing battle with the Florida Bar Association. Are we only supposed to run the stories Jack likes? Should we cede editorial control of GamePolitics over to Jack Thompson?

It's even more perplexing since it was Jack himself who encouraged the design of an ultra-violent video game in his Modest Proposal. The following is a verbatim quote from Thompson's vision of the game to be created:

"O.K. first hops a plane... to reach the Long Island home of the CEO of the company (Take This)... O.K. gets 'justice' by taking out this female CEO, whose name is Paula Eibel, along with her husband and kids. 'An eye for an eye,' says O.K., as he urinates onto the severed brain stems of the Eibel family victims..."

"O.K. then... makes a stop at the Philadelphia law firm of Blank, Stare and goes floor by floor to wipe out the lawyers who protect Take This in its wrongful death law suits... With the FBI now after him, O.K. keeps moving westward, shooting up high-tech video arcades... O.K... must get to E3 to massacre all the video game industry execs with one final, monstrously delicious rampage.
"

What Thompson wrote - and encouraged game developers to create - seems quite a bit more violent than the silly little game this story covered.

Sunday Editorial Roundup

Making the rounds of today's editorials, GP finds two items certain to be of interest to readers.

First stop is the Wichita Eagle, where Opinion Editor Phillip Brownlee gives kudos to Kansas' Republican Senator Sam Brownback for encouraging state legislatures to pass video game restrictions. Brownlee also questions why a bill proposed by Democratic State Rep. Jim Ward hasn't progressed. Brownlee concludes:

"In the end, of course, it's up to parents to act like parents and not let their children play inappropriate video games. And, no, playing a violent video game doesn't mean that a teen will go on a shooting rampage. But it is reasonable and responsible to expect that games rated for adults only are sold only to adults."

Next, Minnesota State Rep. Jeff Johnson, (R - pictured at left), chairman of the House Civil Law Committee, pens an op-ed for the Minneapolis-St. Paul StarTribune in support of video game legislation which he has proposed.

Johnson, who testified before Sen. Brownback's U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on video games last month, is the sponsor of HF1298, a bill which would assess $25 fines against under-17's who attempt to buy M-rated games.

Johnson writes, "My intent is not to make criminals out of kids or to make money for the state $25 at a time. But I hope the new law will catch the attention of at least a few of the painfully oblivious parents in our state who are paying absolutely no attention to some of the garbage their little kids are playing on their video game machines."

Johnson enumerates several games that concern him, including usual suspects GTA, Postal and Manhunt. Oddly enough, he includes Clock Tower 3, a so-so 2003 survival-horror game in his list. GP doubts the game gets played much by anyone these days, much less the under-17 crowd, but Johnson must have come across it somewhere. He also mentioned Clock Tower 3 in his testimony before the Brownback subcommittee.