Nassau County Ready to Pass ESRB Signage Law

October 26, 2006 -
Parents who find the ESRB system challenging should have an easier time deciphering the ratings while shopping for video games in Nassau County, New York.

As reported by The Northender, a committee of the county government has approved a bill which requires game retailers to post signs detailing the rating system. Retailers will also need to make printed information on the rating system available to consumers. The measure is expected to be finalized on November 1st.
"The rating level printed on the cover of the game is not enough," said legislator Dave Mejias (left), a Democrat who also happens to be running for Congress. "Requiring retailers to clearly post the ratings information will provide parents with all available information and allow them to better protect their children from the violent and gratuitous behavior displayed in many video games." 

Also testifying was Dr. Elizabeth Carll of the American Psychological Association, no stranger to research involving video games and violence. Dr. Carll's testimony included:
“Efforts to improve the rating system for video games would be a first step in providing additional helpful information as to the content of video games.” 

If this measure passes, which seems to be a given, it won't be the first such law. California enacted a similar measure in 2004. Georgia added one in 2005. The video game industry doesn't generally oppose such legislation. Retailers who violate the proposed Nassau County bill could be fined up to $500.

Comments

Busy is a perfectly fine excuse, I mean, it's better than "I was too busy smoking crack to learn about video game ratings".

In all seriousness, Andrew is right, if these people were buying something for themselves, they would ask all about it. IE: for women, when they buy MAC they ask the make-up lady at macy's why it's so freakin' sweet, for guys (and gals) they ask the dude at sears which power drill is the best for thier most common usage.

I actually don't buy that parents are up in arms about how confusing the ESRB ratings are, I'd like to see some poll numbers because IMO it's just part of a slippery slope and election tactics. I can only hope that once the democrats control the senate and congress they'll give up on this bullhonkey once and for all.

Don’t mind the action but I don’t like the reasoning:

“Parents are busy and the information they need to make informed decisions to better protect their children is not readily available. Many parents are unaware of the video ranking system, and do not know what level of content is associated with each rating.”

Horse pucky. First of all, “busy” is not an excuse when it comes to parenting. Second of all, all the info parents need is readily available. Age recommendations are on the front of the box. Content descriptors are on the back along with a URL to the ESRB where parents can go to get more info. Never mind the fact that most retailers have literature on the subject and will explain it to you if you ask.


Andrew Eisen

@Terminator44

Ah BASIC, brings back memories of convincing a substitute teacher that DOOM was our term project. And convincing the next one that the beeping from the computer meant it was infected, and the power supply was going to explode. ;)
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Just wanted to say that I obviously don't need to finish my post, as others have done it for me. That's the last time I post in my free time in Basic Programming.

How long until they tell adults what games they can and can not play? It's one thing to keep violent games out the hands of children. Will the federal government try to tell adults what they can and can not play?

At least he's not proposing a bill that would make it illegal to purchase M rated games.

The way i see it soon enough the democrats will start small with little esrb warnings stickers and soon will ask more and more. The democrats are literally creating this issue and its comparative to something like Intelligent design and prayer in school for republicans. Who honestly cares about that shit? Your distracting from the bigger point while scoring points with your radical base. Its the same deal with the esrb ratings and the democrats who find this some sort of fighting ground for their moral superiority. Most these democrats don't even care about the issue cause there is no significant amount of game companies in their state. and when you guys go into "the gaming compines are just trying to make a profit with their lying employees" Jesus fucking Christ. like someone said its just bad sales to lie about your product and companies trying to make a profit? what fucking country do you think this is? Of course they are trying to make a profit ! EVERYONE is trying to make a profit. I'm not going to go into it but companies have far more blood on their hands for profit than this, and those were far greater and needed moral crusades than this.

Hope it does pass. By doing things like this it actually takes more tools away from politicians and anti-game activists in the future.

On the face of it the law seems fine. I just would argue that it should apply to other media like films, books and music too.

Wrong reasoning, Wrong idea, and thus wrong action.

If parents want info about the videogames their child plays, they should be forced to actually use a bit of effort instead of just looking at a poster as if it is an ad.

The ESRB has a website. I said this back when Jack Thompson himself challenged me on this point when GP was in LJ format. "yeah, signs are stupid. I'm all for parents getting information, the correct way"

http://gamepolitics.livejournal.com/274533.html?thread=22620773#t22620773

I suppose the ratings system for movies suffers from the same "problem" then? What do you see on the movie poster for an R-rated movie? You see the name of the rating and a brief age description. The same thing you see on the ESRB ratings stickers. If you actually bother to turn the game over and look at the back, you can see a point form breakdown of the reasons for the game's rating, which is more than you get with movies. I don't see how ratings like "Everyone", "Teen" and "Mature" are confusing. If parents took 5 minutes to actually learn something about what their kids are doing, we'd all be better off. Even just going to the ESRB website, which anyone with half a brain can manage, gives you all the info you should need as a parent. I am goddamn sick and tired of society making these excuses for lazy and/or stupid parents.

Wow. Are parents really that stupid? On the label, it says exactly what the little letter stands for, be it everyone, 13+, or 17+. It's not rocket science, and I would like to think that any semi-intelligent person could figure the ratings system out without exerting a whole lot of effort. I guess the problem with that logic, though, is that America doesn't have an abundance of semi-intelligent people, and even less of an abundance of actual smart people.

Soooo, when are they going to require the same for MPAA ratings?

This is why these bills should be shot down. Not just because they are attacks on something politicians don't understand. Not just because they unfairly single out one form of entertainment. But because they are an ineffective solution to a non-existant problem. The information is already there. It only takes less than a minute to flip the game case over for a full list of content descriptiors. If the parents won't read that, what makes you think they will pay any attention to these signs?

The ESRB and the gov't can do all they can to promote the ratings, but in the end, it's up to the parents to fufill their part of the deal and pay attention. They should do at least that much for their children.

Any parent who is unable to understand the ESRB ratings is too stupid to be a parent in the first place. The content descriptors are right on the back. Any parent who admits to being confused by them is pretty much admitting they don't know how to read.

Isn't this a solution in search of a problem? Doesn't membership in the video game retailers association (don't remember the acronym off the top of my head) already require this?

This is great to hear, it could get a few politicians off the band wagon. A blatant warning sign of content that anyone can see is a pretty nice waiver for retailers in general.

Wow, that bill pretty much sums up, keep doing what you have been doing for years now. Or else." That seems rather redundant.

Didn't the ESRB have Penny Arcade whip up a couple of posters to aid in increasing awareness of the ESRB's presence?

Isn't this bill just going to force retailers to do what the ESRB has been wanting to do for a while now?

Finally a politican that will do something for video game worriers that give them a clear view that video games contain.

The reason the MPAA films don't need one (currently) is because as stupid as that system is, it's been around so long everybody knows it. And like it or not, that's a valid arguement.

However games and the ESRB in particular have not been around long enough that the majority of people purchasing them for children have any idea what it means... (though we could argue it doesn't mean anything since the ESRB system has to many grey areas).

I'll put it this way. My older brother is in his 40's and has a child in elementary school. Both he and my sister in law work full time, most of the time they pull far more then your average 9 hour days (my brother honestly works close to 14 hours). Now both of them played video games back in the Atari days off and on, and my brother had an original Nintendo. So they aren't completely clueless when it comes to this stuff.

Now when they decide to go to the movies they can readily pick out what is/isn't appropriate for their kid. But when they go to the game store it's a train wreck. The ESRB ratings are way to loose and open, games aren't rated properly, and the employees flat out LIE just to help get the sale... and they should lie since there is no penalty they'd be a fool and a bad salesman not to.

I can say the same exact thing for everybody on my sister in-laws side of the family. All of them played games, all of them have children (of various ages), some of them have advanced degrees and not a damn one of them can properly navigate the ESRB well enough for it to be of any worth.

Claiming "oh but movies don't have to post giant signs saying it" doesn't matter, it's a logical falacy. Games are not movies, by any stretch of the imagination. Even TV is handled differently then movies (because.... they are not the same).

Having a big sign out with a thurough explanation would help many adults purchasing games for children who are not current gamers (and this is the target group), having a fine is the only way to make sure it's out there. Because nobody with half a brain will put out a big sign that could hurt sales if there is no penalty to just hide the sign, or not use it at all.

@psychotix

Now when they decide to go to the movies they can readily pick out what is/isn’t appropriate for their kid.

Because PG makes SO much more sense than T, right? I doubt it. You're just used to the MPAA system. Education of the customer will correct that.

The ESRB ratings are way to loose and open, games aren’t rated properly, and the employees flat out LIE just to help get the sale…

Mind giving some examples? What was the last game you saw where you disagreed with the rating, and why? And when was the last time an employee lied to you what the rating meant?

@psychotix

Are you calling me a liar?

Wrong. Game retailers educate parents/customers at the risk of losing sales.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

@psyshotix

"The reason the MPAA films don’t need one (currently) is because as stupid as that system is, it’s been around so long everybody knows it. And like it or not, that’s a valid arguement."

Yes, it's a valid argument. That doesn't make it true. According to a FTC study, minors were able to get R-rated DVDs much more easily than M-rated games (my kingdom for a link). And the arguement that the parents TRULY understand the ratings, without further proof, is no more valid than the possibilty that the parents simply THINK they know it, yet will still get R-rated movies for their kids. And even if they did understand it, it wouldn't do much good because enforcement is so terrible.

"Now when they decide to go to the movies they can readily pick out what is/isn’t appropriate for their kid. But when they go to the game store it’s a train wreck. The ESRB ratings are way to loose and open, games aren’t rated properly,"

Hate to break this to you, but your brother alone is not a good representation of all parents. They may think they know they understand the movie ratings, but in reality, they are usually far less clear than game ratings. Take Shawn of the Dead for example. The R rating is only a small rectangle on the bottom of the back of the case, in colors that blend in easily with the background. On top of that, the rating descriptors aren't that clear, like "Zombie violence" (what level of violence?).

Now look at a game like Dead Rising. On the lower-left corner on the front of the box, you can clearly see a big black-and-white M rating that contrasts with the box art so it's easy to see. Turn the box over, and you can see a list of specific content descriptors, like "Blood and Gore", which is far more specific that the generic word "violence."

I also don't know what gray areas you're talking about. The game ratings (E,T,M,AO) don't sound that complicated. On the other hand, the movie ratings are less clear, such as the use of PG and PG-13, the two same letters may lead to confusion. Again, just because your brother THINKS he knows the movie ratings, that doesn't make it so.

"and the employees flat out LIE just to help get the sale… and they should lie since there is no penalty they’d be a fool and a bad salesman not to."

This statement is really riduculous. Can you actually SHOW that they are being dishonest SPECIFICALLY to get the sale? And if so, can you PROVE that they wouldn't do the same to sell an R-rated game. Yes, there is no serious penalty for selling an M-rated game to a minor, but the same is true for an R-rated movie. In fact, I'd bet that they would be more likely to sell an R-rated movie because, let's face it, nobody would care, because the moral panic for movies is over.

I'll have more when I get home

Ok so the first thing is we may be in a hullabaloo over nothing.
I am not a law student(but anyone with knowledge feel free to chime in) but precedent for this kind of legislature exists. Back when hollywood was the scapegoat, there was some attempt to federalize the rating system. It was shot down in the supreme court. It is all just an attempt for election ratings.

@psychotix
The movie rating system is almost exactly the same as the esrb. Parents

EC-G ,E-PG ,T-Pg-13, M-R, A0-NC-17
And a parent should be able to tell in the same way they choose movies.

Jurrasic Park, 5th Element both rated pg-13 respectively containing a rack of violence, some titties, and bad language.

Titanic- A relatively calm movie (albiet a breast scene) and it is rated PG-13.

Now consider the following games:
Battlefield2142 and Sims Pets

Both are given the T rating. One is violent, the other has strange themes.

By your argument, your Brother can look at those movies by rating alone and know what is suitible for their children, despite the fact they span a vast spectrum, and were rated for different critera. Yet by looking at a game that says 'Teen 13+' they are at a loss and confused? No, more likely your brother would investigate the movies and be able to discern what he wanted to show. He can't do the same for videogames not because of the ratings, but because he doesn't care enough about them to learn their rating system.

That is the problem. This is not an issue of something being rated incorrectly. In actuallity it is an issue of parental responsibility. We live in a society where child raising is gradually being left to schools and daycares. Not saying if that is a bad thing or not, but now with parents working two jobs it is a fact of american life.
However,Busy or not, if video games are an important interest to one's child, a parent needs to get proactive and learn about the medium. Parents are all willing to do this under other circumstances. EG: Your(american) child starts playing cricket in the park and ends up convincing you to let him join the cricket club. Do you complain when things happen in the game because the rules are too confusing? No you learn the rules to relate to the kid. If everyone did the same thing with the ESRB ratings, this would be a non issue

I think the signs are a good thing. It's not that parents need to be told what the ratings mean, as the ratings are self-explanatory. The purpose of the sign is to make parents aware that the ratings exist in the first place.
That being said, two qualms about it:
1) "You guys are already doing this on your own free will, but now you have to do it." Doesn't the EMA require its retailers to put up signs and run commercials on their televisions? I suppose this will affect the independant retailers, maybe.
2) I don't think parents are as clueless as the anti-gaming lobby would like everyone to believe. The ESRB's report is the only one I've seen to investigate this, and they found... can't remember the numbers. I think it was something like 87% of parents found the ESRB ratings useful when purchasing games for their children. Now, I'd like to see a more independant study on the subject. It's not that I don't trust the ESRB, because I think they're one of the most trustworthy organizations out there. However, if I were to bring up this study in an argument with someone like Thompson, he'd dismiss it. He's already stated that the statisticians who don't agree with him are whores (I think that was the first thing I read of Thompson's that made me realize he was an idiot).
I tried to set up an informal information gathering in the forums, but it didn't really take. Maybe someone with more organizations skills could do a better job than I.

Oh, and @pyshotix
Every person I know who's worked at a game store has told me stories of them trying to talk parents out of buying an M-rated game for their kids. Hell, why would they lie to the parents for a sale? They don't get paid comissions.

The fact of the matter is the information is already out there on every single game box. A huge fuckin' M with the words Mature ages 17+ plus on it, both onthe back and the front, you can't get any clearer then that. The problem is parents just buy the games for their kids anyways and then bitch to the government about not protecting their children.
It's a never ending cycle of stupidity. The responsibility here should fall solely on the shoulders of the parents and no one else. Not the retailers and not the video game industry. If there is ever some showing of proven harm caused by games to kids then and only then should the govenment be involved in this issue, otherwise this is just a morality and appropriateness issue that is the decision of the parents and nobody else.

I am of 2 minds about this. I believe a means of easily accessable education on what the ratings mean will effectively cut the legs out from under the politicos who want to capitalize on the whole anti ESRB "games corrupt kids and are evil" angle. At the same time, I believe that out-and-out focing someone to have a poster about it is a bit heavyhanded and like the oft quoted movie paralell, theatres don't have posters the size of thier movie promotional ones for the sole purpose of explaining thier ratings (none of the ones I went to anyway). It is simply a matter of familiarization, and the ratings themselves are what they are intended to be, a broad guideline to help one make a desicion, not a play by play of "why this is or is not appropriate for whoever." In a funny little irony, I recall that back when my father was a kid, movies that were considered innapropriate for minors (and are now rated R, oftentimes) were indeed rated M (Dr.No for example).

I have to agree with sqlrob, this sounds like a solution in search of a problem. VDSA retailers are already required to post a ton of info about the ESRB ratings, throughout the store and around the till.

This bill would just cover the minority of games purchased through independant retailers.

I mean it's good to have the signage, but to make a big deal about this bill means they're hyping up a non-existant problem, that the "system" is "failing" because parents are being denied crucial info about the ratings. When in fact it's an assumption that games are just for kids, so the ratings don't matter anyway.

Maybe if this bill included funding for PSAs to remind parents to check the ratings, on any media they expose their kids too... But that costs money.

@Pshycotix:

No, lying to customers is being a BAD salesperson. Good reputation is gold in sales. I should know, I've been the top rep in my region for 3 months running, you don't generate referral business and add-on sales by decieving people, you do it by good salesmanship and being upfront. I used to work as an assistant manager at Gamestop and lying about content or lying about ANYTHING in the games was frowned upon, to say the least. So much so that the one Game Advisor who tended to enjoy games like "Driver" knew to specify to people that Driver wasn't necessarily good per se, just that he enjoyed it.

@Thefremen

Maybe he was shopping at Futureshop? I've found they don't so much lie, as just refuse to admit they're clueless about a product. They know what's on the little sticker on the shelf, and I actively mock them when I ask a question, and they read me the sticker that I was already staring at...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

If parents (apparently) can't be bothered to look at the rating information on the box they're holding in their hand (which gives you more than enough information to decide whether a given game is "right" for your child, and in a fairly easy-to-understand manner), I just can't see them taking the time to read a sign that breaks down the meaning of each rating in detail. I know this doesn't need to be said, but this is just another feel-good-protect-the-children-hey-vote-for-me-in-two-weeks-kthx piece of legislation that tries to fix a non-existent problem.

Besides, this legislation wouldn't do anything about the "lying employees trying to make a sale". It only covers signage. If a store employee lies to you about what the ratings mean, that's retail fraud, and is already covered by several laws...

Besides, if an employee tells you that "M 17+" means "It's ok for 12 year olds", and you believe him/her? Honestly, how stupid would you feel? It would be like having an employee try to tell you "Clone High" is a good DVD for kids, when it's got "NOT FOR CHILDREN" written in big letters across the front of the case...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

If this type of legislation does start to include the mom and pop shops (those not under the EMA house), does anyone know if this literature would become a cost to them? Or do their respective agencies deliver them at no cost to the store?

This could possibly be a big cost for those privately owned.

If I had my own video game store, and felt the need to emphisize the ESRB rating system, I would seperate the games by rating. Not in an extreme way, but...lets take the Xbox section as an example. I'd have one section of the wall with games rated Everyone, and Younger. Along the edge of the rack, I'd have a green bar reading "Everyone" over and over. Next section over, just as accessible, one for all Teen games with a blue bar reading "Teen"...and of course the same setup for "Mature", with red signage. All titles will be displayed equally, just divided up.

While a store like Gamestop may think this type of setup is messy, and that it would be hard to locate a title, it is just as easy as the mess most customers have to sort through of used games.

This type of setup would make it obvious to parents that there is something important to the rating system. When a parent can't find GTA because they are looking in the "everyone" section...and the retailer points out it is the "mature" section...it has more impact on the parent than pointing out a tiny image on a box.

"Little Timmy, you can only buy a game in THIS section, that red section is only for grown ups!"

@AlteredBeast

My local video store did that, but then the clerks got tired of being asked where a copy of a game/movie was, because people were always looking in the wrong age category. They found it was easier just to remind parents about the rating if it was "M" or "R". It was annoying for some at first ("I don't even have kids!"), but then after a while people got used to it, and some began thanking the clerks for pointing it out. Although it was still funny when they told me "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was rated R. I resisted the urge to go "no, really?"
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

I cant tell if politicians are smart or stupid anymore its rather quite annoying that they cant tell E6+ from M17+ obviously they cant count...

I'm still fuzzy on this whole "detailing the rating system". How far do they want the retailers to go? Where is the line drawn? How far do you have to break down "Blood and Gore"? "Use of chainsaws"? "Cannibalism"? How about "Mature Themes"?

The parents should just rent the games first if they can't understand or don't trust the ratings and reviews, and if they aren't tech savvy, they should learn for the benefit of their kiddies.

@hayabusa75

I say just force parents to sign a 34-page agreement stating that if they understand what "M 17+" means, and that if they don't, they'll agree to ask. Otherwise they're not allowed to rent/buy. ;)

Oh, and it'll be one page of agreement, followed by 33 pages of "you didn't actually read this did you?"
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Gemini Games
this is why i like my system more no descriptors ,
FF7 Dirge of ceberus on my system would be a T16


EL 2-6
ENV 2-6(non violent)
----
E6+
E10+
--
T13
T16
--
M18+
AO = to pron, varies by state

with my system theres no descriptors or any needed "updates",if you have been paying attention to the ESRB they added early learning and everybody 10+ in the past 2 years. if you remove descriptors and make each age grouping into 2 levels you can classify any game at any time,and haveing the age number by the E,T,M is VERY important since we want to amke sure the fundies understand what not to buy for their kids.

What the hell is wrong with our federal government? Can't they find more important things to worry about? Sweet Judas! If they spent all the energy and bitching they have on video games on the ESRB on say health care, we wouldn't have to play $2000 to get a broken arm fixed! Seriously, I don't get why lawmakers are so hell bent on the ESRB and video games. It's as plain as say on the back of every game about it's content and what age the game is meant for. It's the stupid parents that don't realize that their is sex and graphic violence in GTA before they buy it. No, it's after they buy it for little Jimmy they realize they should not of bought it. So instead of admitting their stupidity, they just say "It's the ESRB's fault for being too vague!" Crap, it's everyone's fault but your own! I'm so sick of these politicians who think video games are the root of all evil. It's the stupid parents out there that need to be handled, not the ESRB and especially not the smart parents who are actually intelligent about what games their kids should and should not play. I wish we could make laws for stupidity. Honestly, that would help a hell of a lot more than these video game laws Congress cooks up.

Let me put it this way:

I went to see my mom after reading all these quotes suggesting that parents are having a tough time understanding the ESRB rating system. With me, I took a Game (rated by the ESRB, of course) and a movie (MPAA rated, like all movies). Now, my mom is in her late 40s, and has never played a game (except maybe Missle Command), but she, of course, loves movies. So I handed her both the movie and the game, and asked her to find the ratings on each. She found the game's rating in like 3 seconds, and didnt even know what she was looking for. She looked for a minute or so, but gave up looking for the movie's rating, even though she had an idea of where it was.

Is t conclusive? No. But it does make an interesting statement. I suggest everyone here, regardless of age try the same with any parent or other adult figure you know, just to see what happens.

That's so wierd, I live in Nassau County, and I had no idea this was going on! hmm... gotta pay more attention. Ill make sure the EB that i work at complies

@Josh
"It's one thing to keep violent games out of the hands of children."

On what legal grounds are you going to support that assertion?

Well, I guess legally you can't support keeping violent games out of the hands of children. What I should of said it's the parental responsibility to keep these games out of the reach of children. However, since the federal government is trying to be the "parent" for all the children, what's going to stop them from being "big brother" to the adults who play violent games?

u dirty little whores!!!
chuck norris screwed ur mom while roundkicking her in the face!!!
thats rite go cry and b like, mom whats with chuck norris
do i have 2 call him daddy???
lol

lehrman terebinthina tartarated intraparochial silverspot goalage rokey tomtitmouse
Am Yisrael Korea
http://www.rops.com.au/
 
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