September 21st, 2006

Developer Attends Utah Video Game Hearing, Offers Impressions

You want the inside scoop on yesterday's video game law hearing in Utah? We've got it covered like a blanket here at GamePolitics, including the impressions of a local game developer who attended the hearing.

Although he indicated last week that he would be there, anti-game activist Jack Thompson didn't make it due to what he described to GP as a "pressing litigation matter" in Florida.

Lame duck bill sponsor David Hogue (R) and Rep. Scott Wyatt, apparently the bill's new sponsor, offered an amendment to have HB257 mirror the language of Thompson's ill-fated Louisiana video game law.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, according to an industry source, did a thorough job of explaining the bill's constitutional problems to the committee. As GamePolitics has previously noted, Shurtleff has a friendly relationship with the ESRB, and has engaged in a Utah-based campaign to educate parents about video game ratings.

GP has learned that some legislators apparently left the hearing, causing the committee to lose its quorum just after lunchtime. That development led to an adjournment with no action taken on the bill. Discussions are likely to resume next month.

As mentioned, a video game developer attended the hearing. We provide his report, preserving his request not to publish his name. The content, which arrived in e-mail, has been edited slightly for readability (not that it wasn't well-written, but the author didn't plan on it going straight into a GP article. Material in parentheses was inserted by GP. We greatly appreciate this on-the-spot info):

"Well, Jack Thompson wasn't there today, so I'm disappointed... What did happen is that the sponsor, Rep. Hogue, came up and talked about his bill. He brought up Columbine, and all sorts of school shootings. He described how violent 'videos' were, and how they should be regulated."

"He brought up the American Psychological Association (APA); how violence in video games made kids violent; and how kids between 14-18 are in a critical development stage. And of course, he brought up those favorite whipping boys, 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' and - as Hogue calls it - 'The Bully'."

"Then they brought up an amendment to the bill, and basically changed the bill so that instead of defining certain types of violence, they just use the same three prong test as with pornography. Some committee members brought up the idea of porn equalling violence in video games, asking 'if we can regulate porn, why can't we regulate violence the same way?' At least one committee member did bring up the first amendment, and it was discussed briefly."

"The Attorney General (Shurtleff) came up and discussed the bill and its likelihood of passing court scrutiny. He mentioned that every district court has ruled against every violent video game law made so far, and that the odds of this bill surviving court scrutiny was 'very slim'. Rep. Hogue tried to defend the bill, saying that this bill does something different from other bills, and that it doesn't try to take games off of shelves. Other committee members brought up concerns about supporting a bill that would be 'tied up in the courts' and 'waste of money defending it'.

"Then an old lady came up and complained how society was becoming more violent, and that something needs to be done. She said that this bill needed to be passed, and it didn't matter if we wasted money defending it. It's for the children, etc."

"The ESA guy (apparently a lobbyist - the industry routinely offers testimony at these hearings) came up and talked about how in eight court cases so far, we've won eight of them. He mentioned the ESRB, and how he was working with the Attorney General in promoting the ESRB to Utah parents. Then, during question time, well, some of the committee members were rough on him. One of them nearly accused him of making violent games for kids. Of course, the ESA guy wasn't a game developer, but an attorney, so he really couldn't comment on that. Other committee members appeared to honestly not know what the ESRB was, and has questions about it."

"After the ESA guy, time ran out and several members of the committee had to leave. They tried to deny a motion to adjourn, but they left anyway. They decided that this issue was of too great importance to leave unresolved, so they shelved it until October. I'm rather disappointed that I didn't get to speak, but at least I get a chance to refine my testimony for next time."

British Official Calls for Investigation of Al Qaeda Video Game

Police in the U.K. may soon be tracking down the creators of a computer game designed as an Al Qaeda propaganda tool.

On Monday, GamePolitics reported on Night of Bush Capturing, a crude first-person shooter in which the player targets President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The widely-covered story even made its way into the mainstream press.

Now comes word that a member of Parliament is urging British police to take action against the game's creators. As reported by today's Sun, Labor Party MP Andrew Dismore has called for a probe into Night of Bush Capturing. The shadowy organization which produced the game, the Global Islamic Media Front, is apparently based in the U.K.

"The police should prosecute whoever is behind this," said Dismore. "Soliciting murder is a serious criminal offence and the producers of this game should be dealt with."

Dismore has previously lobbied against British-based Islamic radicals, including cleric Abu Hamza, now jailed for inciting murder.

The Sun also dishes on the furor surrounding a new board game, War on Terror (seen at left), which bills itself as "a family game for 2-6 players... You can fight terrorism, you can fund terrorism, you can even be the terrorists. The only thing that matters is global domination..."

Scandinavian Pol to Brits... We'll Take Your Video Game Industry

"Hey, U.K., if you don't want that video game industry, we'll take it..."

That seems to be the message some Scandinavian officials are sending to their British counterparts. As reported by, Erik Robertson, leader of Nordic Game, a government-funded organization, criticized the British government for not supporting the country's video game industry.

"I would say that if the British government and politicians in Britain keep refusing to support their industry," Robertson said, "the third in the world in terms of size - from the Nordic perspective: good idea."

Norwegian minister for culture and church affairs Trond Giske (seen at left, perhaps preparing for the release of Forza Motorsport 2) echoed Robertson's remarks.

"I'll be careful giving advice to politicians in other countries," Giske said, "but I can say what our objectives are towards this industry. I view it as a cultural industry, as a media branch. This is something people develop their impressional skills, their ability to see the world in different angles and ways, and I think it's very important that we have ways of telling stories from our own culture also in this industry as in movies."