GP at Penn State Video Game Conference Today

I’ll be speaking and serving on a discussion panel today for Playing to Win: The Business and Social Frontiers of Video Games at Penn State, so the usual roundup of GamePolitics stories will be a bit abbreviated.

It looks to be an excellent conference, with speakers from all sorts of disciplines, including Jason Della Rocca of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), ESA CEO Mike Gallagher (Gallagher was listed, but I’m told he was sending VP Stephan Mitchell in his place) , Dr. David Bickham of Boston’s Center on Media and Child Health, Adam Thierer of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, First Amendment experts Clay Calvert and Robert Richards of Penn State, noted free speech attorney Larry Walters (via teleconference) and many others.

I hope to live blog portions of the conference.

UPDATE: (okay, here comes the live blogging…) David Bickham did a very nice presentation on the effects of games on children. He’s a good speaker and a couple of people I spoke to here afterward commented independently that a reasoned approach like that has the potential to be far more persuasive than the hysterical rhetoric coming out of Miami. Bickham’s boss is Dr. Michael Rich, who has been a healthcare-based critic of game violence issues in recent times.

On the other hand, I felt that Bickham didn’t pay adequate heed to research that shows games aren’t harmful to kids. I hope to ask him where the Center on Media and Child Health stands on the current Massachusetts video game legislation.

UPDATE 2: My brief (about 15 minutes) presentation has now wrapped up. I was privileged to sit on a panel titled Law on the Frontiers of Videogames with some of the best First Amendment legal minds in the country (the aforementioned Calvert, Richards and Walters) as well as Prof. John Bagby of Penn State’s Institute for Information Policy.

My topic as The New Video Game Consumer: Changing the Equation. I offered my views on important video game consumer issues, talked about game consumer activism, and explained my view of areas in which the video game biz fails its customers. Oh, I also compared having the Video Game Voters Network represent gamers to having General Motors represent drivers. I’ll expect to hear some noise from the ESA over that one. But it’s true.

First Amendment expert Larry Walters argued that video game censorship is the “same old story” that has plagued other forms of media over the years. He argued that “family values” groups are after money and power. However, he also fretted that the recent 8th Circuit decision in the Minnesota game law case was a concern (GP has written in a similar vein). He suggested that the game industry needs to look at that decision in relation to its content, going forward. His reading of the 8th Circuit’s decision is that the state might appeal and could have a chance to succeed. He also mentioned the recent news that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia opined that video game legislation could be constitutional.

UPDATE 3: Adam Thierer gave a very nice lunch time presentation on the ESRB system and issues surrounding game ratings and content. You can see Adam’s Power Point here.

GP: This was a nice conference. I hope that Penn State makes it an annual tradition. I got to meet some terrific folks, including Mike Todd, who heads up the brand-new Penn State chapter of the ECA, PSU doctoral candidate Ibrahim Yucel, whose Saturday presentation on Portal I had to unfortunately miss. I also met a number of GP readers, and that always makes my day…

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