June 22nd, 2006

The Daily Show Roasts Congress Over Video Game Hearing

This morning, certain members of Congress are probably hoping their constituents don't watch The Daily Show.

Host Jon Stewart laid comic waste to a June 14th Congressional video game hearing in a lengthy segment titled "Player Haters" on last night's show. You can view the program here.

Some Stewart highlights:

"Violent video games were the latest target of Washington's election year ire. Hearings were held to... what, exactly?"

"Who wants to be the first person to sound like an out of touch jackass? Oh, you! Congressman Upton..." (Rep. Fred Upton R-MI)

Mimicking Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry's halting declaration that he was concerned about the game play of his three young sons, Stewart said:

"...and as I... stand there... watching them play these violent games... helpless to do anything about it... I can't help but wonder... where the system has failed..."

Stewart also mocked Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) who, in a bizarre opening statement at the hearing, opined that well-to-do suburban kids "can play Grand Theft Auto or similar games without turning to a life of crime but a poor kid who lives in a neighborhood where people really do steal cars or deal drugs... might not be so fortunate."

"Wealthy suburban kids don't do those things," Stewart said, "Like my good friends those Columbine boys... Seriously, the House of Representatives is filled with insane jackasses."

Stewart then cut to a silly stand-up with Daily Show regular Samantha Bee, billed as the programs's "Senior PlayStationologist," reporting from San Andreas. Action from the GTA game was projected behind Samantha as she spoke, saying in part, "Nobody believes there is really a connection (between game violence and real violence). This issue has been resolved in studies. Politicians are just beating a dead hooker here."
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ESRB Commits to Parents. Senators Commit to Getting Elected

Question: What do you get when you combine a politically-beleaguered ESRB with a desperate incumbent Senator and a rising star with presidential aspirations?

Answer: The ESRB Retail Council's "Commitment to Parents" Wednesday press conference, attended by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA), George Allen (R-VA) and Mark Pryor (D-AR).

GP has scoured the ERC's bullet points, which appear worthy enough, but which could just as easily have been announced at the ESRB's office in New York City rather than in the rarified political air of Washington, D.C.

The Senator with election-year problems would be the arch-conservative Santorum. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Associated Press reported yesterday that Santorum trails Democratic challenger Bob Casey, Jr. by 18 points in the latest polls. Even more telling, the same poll showed Santorum receiving an anemic 38% approval rating among Pennsylvania voters.

So, yeah, the Santorum campaign is in a bad way. Showing up to promote the ERC surely can't hurt on the family values front. And having three U.S. Senators stand by its side is a political shot in the arm for the ESRB, which suffered a Congressional beat-down just last week in a committee hearing chaired by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL).

George Allen's career prospects are moving in the opposite direction from Santorum's. The former Virginia Governor and first-term Senator is said to have designs on filling Dubya's seat in 2008.

So what role do Senators Santorum, Allen and Pryor play in the ESRB's new initiative?

Window dressing, apparently. Allen has a blurb on his website about the event, but somehow managed to interpret what he was supporting as an announcement about "a new ratings system for video games."
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ABC's Nightline Mainstreams Pentagon Battlefield 2 Fiasco

It has been quite a day for video games on the tube.

Over coffee this morning we had Jack Thompson being Jack Thompson on CNBC's Squawk Box.

Then we howled as Jon Stewart flayed Congress over last week's video game hearings. And now the "Samir" story has gone mainstream, courtesy of ABC News and Nightline.

Who's Samir?

As reported last month by GamePolitics and Water Cooler Games, an important Congressional committee was wrongly told by employees of the Pentagon that a Battlefield 2 fan video was an insidious al Qaeda recruitment and propaganda tool.

In reality the video was cobbled together by a gamer named Samir, a Dutch citizen and BF2 devotee. GP's Colin McInnes scored the first interview with Samir (excerpts from which will appear in the upcoming issue of PC Gamer U.K.).

Late last month NPR picked up on the fiasco and now ABC's Jake Tapper has taken it to the masses with a terrific seven-minute expose on just how a Pentagon bureaucrat, prompted by a highly-paid defense contractor, managed to bungle this story.

Frankly, as a U.S. taxpayer, GP expects quite a bit more for the $7 million which the government paid to the contractor, Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC).

ABC interviews Samir on camera (but with the gamer's face hidden, see accompanying screen cap) as well as the Pentagon official who made the erroneous declarations to the House Select Intelligence Committee. It's definitely worth watching.

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