Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence Regarding Alcohol Use in Games

July 7, 2008 -

 Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) charged today that the ESRB is "under the influence" when it comes to depictions of alcohol use in video games.

His comments were prompted by Beer Pong, from JV Games. As reported by GamePolitics, the title has previously come under fire from education and substance abuse organizations. In response to those concerns, the game has recently been renamed as Pong Toss (although JV's website still lists it under the original title).

Blumenthal, mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate, issued a press release calling on the ESRB to change the rating of Beer Pong from T (13+) to what the AG refers to as "adult" (presumably the ESRB's Adults Only rating). The A.G. is quoted in the press release: 

The rating T 13+ -- suitable for teens 13 and older -- is absolutely inappropriate. The video game rating board is under the influence -- rating frat party video drinking games suitable for minors. Even as JV Games agrees to alter its Beer Pong video game, both it and the rating board stubbornly deny the damaging influence of alcohol depiction in video games.

 

The ESRB astonishingly downplays and dismisses alcohol depiction in rating the suitability of video games for minors. Parents have the first and last say over their children’s games -- but they deserve to know all of the facts. The ESRB, claiming to consider age suitability in its ratings, has a moral and ethical responsibility to consider all potentially damaging material in the products it rates.

 

This issue is urgent because the 'Frat Party Ganes' promoted by JV Games may soon offer others in this planned series.

ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi responded to Blumenthal's criticism of the video game industry rating board in a statement:

Although we respect Attorney General Blumenthal’s right to disagree, the fact is that ESRB’s role is not that of censor.  Our job is to impartially and consistently label content about which there may be a diversity of views so consumers can make informed choices for themselves and their families. 

 

‘Pong Toss’ involves nothing more than players tossing virtual ping-pong balls into plastic cups, which hardly qualifies it for our most restrictive rating of AO (Adults Only 18+)... 

In addition, GamePolitics has obtained a copy of a June 12th letter from ESRB President Patricia Vance to Attorney General Blumenthal on the Beer Pong issue. It reads in part:

While the assignment of ratings does require that judgments be made about the age-appropriateness of different types of content, it would be improper to assign ratings solely based on the depiction of behavior which may be understandably discouraged by society at large. To illustrate, many car racing games require players to barrel down city streets at high speeds – illegal behavior that certainly should not be encouraged... Still, none of this changes the fact that racing games... tend to be rated E... That actions in a game might, in the real world, be associated with minimum age requirements or be generally discouraged does not, in and of itself, relegate that game to the most restrictive ESRB rating category, Adults Only. Such contextual elements are weighed in the ratings process, however...

 

This title is being made available solely as WiiWare, which means it will not be available at retail, but may be downloaded, for a fee, directly through the Wii console. WiiWare games, available by the hundreds, rarely have marketing or advertising associated with them, and typically draw scant attention. Given this, our concern is that a greater number of consumers (including the age group about which you are most concerned) will be made aware of this game and resolve to play it as a result of publicized statements of advocacy groups and others. Ironically, this is likely to result in more rather than less consumers being drawn to this game, particularly those very minors all of us seek to protect.

 


Comments

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence ...

I don’t see the connection between the alcohol use in games and the teenagers ending up in alcohol rehabs. It’s not like if you kill people in a game, you have to do it in real life. Everyone knows the side effects of alcohol. A game can’t change someone’s mind.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

As the plethora of above users have noted, there are man games which employ alcohol to one degree or another. This I have no problem with, but it's only with games that focus on it that I can understand there could be  a problem.

===========================================================================

Andrew William

[url=http://www.legalx.net]Used Cars[/url]

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

@kevin

I agree with you completely about ESRB, my personal opinion is that they are doing a fine job.  I think they are consistant with movie industry and as long as they continue to do so, i've got not problem.  I have yet to buy a game where I didn't think their rating was accurate.

You are correct about about companies (cereal, toys, what have you) marketing to children, the point I was trying to make is that in the end your the one that buys it.

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

After reading many posts opn this subject from multiple sources the question I have is.....

Did this guy even play the game?????? WTFBBQ

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

No. Nobody has. It's not out yet.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

  Headline news is running a segment on Beer Pong saying it glorifies substance abuse and promotes teenage drinking.  The host is suggesting that this game "plants the seed of teenage drinking".  If anyone can get this footage and link it I would appreciate it as I missed the beginning of it.

  From what I've seen so far, they're trying to link teenage alcohol use to video games, but considering this game has yet to be released I don't understand how that could be.  I'd thought adults that buy alcohol for kids or leave it where they could get it made more of an impact, but hey who the hell am I?

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

@stinking kevin

This is that slippery slope, at what part do we start censoring words and who is the moral authority on this.

Nobody can ever be, but when ESRB rates a game they take into consideration everything including song lyrics and then they give it a rating of E, T, etc.  More so, the ratings include descriptors like, Mild Language, Excessive violence, Alcohol reference, bla bla bla.  This is to give meaning to the assigned letter so parents make an informed decision.

Nobody markets to underage children; they market to the parents of underage children because they’re the ones with money.

In your example of Strip Poker Orgy there is probably a good chance that "Orgy" is one of those words that would send the rating to a "T" just like "Beer" did.  Since "T" is 13 (I think) and older, it's probably safe to assume that a 13 year old has crossed that term or has the mental faculties to deal with the meaning.

If a parent doesn't want a "T" rated game then they simply say "no" or turn on parental control.

It’s not ESRB’s job to censor anything, it’s the parents.

 

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

It is a slippery slope, for sure. But at least it's a slope being navigated by the ESRB, which is set up to make subjective suggestions, and not required to make immutable black-and-white rulings.

 

Considering the ESRB content descriptors you mention, I am not sure whether this Beer Pong game would have any "alcohol reference" descriptors or not, since the only reference seems to be in the title itself, and not in the game.

 

As the parent of an under-aged child, I disagree with your statement about marketing to parents instead of children. Think of all those cereal manufacturers and toy companies -- their ads and cartoons and product tie-ins are aimed at my son, not at me (even though I watch them too!). I think it works the same way for some games -- though not necessarily this one.

 

In any case, I have never, ever suggested that it's the ESRB's job to censor anything. It is absolutely the ESRB's job to be consistent with itself, however -- that's the best you can hope to do, when you are in the business of making subjective judgments with few (or no) objective facts to go by.

 

So its not really a question of whether or not an average 13-year-old understands the basic concepts of drinking games or orgies, it's a question of how the ESRB will consistently handle games that use these concepts in the titles and marketing of games -- even when these concepts are not depicted the games themselves.

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Fox News is running a story on it as I post.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Since the game has now been re-titled, this is moot, but I think that the heart of the original controversy was not about whether there was any alcholol consumption depicted in the game. I think it was about whether or not a game's title and marketing should be considered in its ESRB rating.

 

Let's say there's a WiiWare game coming out called Strip Poker Orgy. There is actually no orgy depicted in the game, nor is there any sort of sexual intercourse at all. Characters do take off articles of clothing when they lose a hand, perhaps, but their naughty parts are all pixilated and barred out, so there's absolutely no nudity in the game, either. So, it's really nothing but a regular old poker game, set in a vaguely frat-house-like setting, but the developers chose the title "Strip Poker Orgy" because they thought it might be more immediately recognizable to their target demographic.

 

So, is it cool with us all for Strip Poker Orgy to receive a "T" rating? After all, there is a strip poker activity in some of the Sims games, too, and they are all rated "T."

 

Still, I have to admit, under the premise of ESRB system, to me it still doesn't seem quite right to be marketing Strip Poker Orgy to people who are (in general) far too young to properly understand the concepts implied by that title, even though those concepts are never actually realized in any way within the game itself.

 

 

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

This brings to mind Alice in Wonderland.  There's a catapillar smoking hookah, but it's still marketed as a children's movie, by Disney, no less.  Perhaps it too should be given a rating often reserved for pornography?  Rated X for drug references.  The absurdity is astounding.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

The only people who assign "X" ratings any more are the publishers of X rated films. That is, filmmakers don't get an "X" rating unless they assign it to their own films.

 

The "X" rating has nothing to do with the MPAA anymore, just as the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland has nothing to do with WiiWare "Beer Pong," as far as I can tell.

 

Unless they re-titled the film something like "The Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar," I don't think it makes for a particularly useful analogy to this case. Absurd? Absolutely, well done. But not really too relevant, I don't think.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

 

Any fool can think of a television show, movie, or another game that features alcohol use but is rated for an audience that is not yet old enough to drink. Citing these examples proves nothing, except that you don't understand the point of the ESRB in the first place.

 

It serves no purpose to categorize games based solely on their narrative elements alone. It is how the narrative elements are used in context that determines the age-appropriateness of a game. This is why we need a rating board -- not to objectively determine whether or not alcohol is consumed by a character in a game, but to subjectively determine what sort of overall message that alcohol consumption, as it exists in the context of the larger story, might send. It is exactly because these are subjective judgments that it is so important that ESRB must continue to be independant and voluntary -- a system of suggestions, not of laws.

 

There is an interesting question to be answered with this "Beer Pong" game, but it has nothing to do with alcohol references in PG movies. Contrary to some others here, I found Vance's statement uncharacteristically defensive and bitter. The first quoted paragraph seems to make the same point about context that I tried to make above, however in the second paragraph, instead of simply explaining why it's the ESRB's opinion that this game called "Beer Pong," based on the drinking game "Beer Pong," should receive "T" rating, she accuses Blumenthal of making the situation worse for himself simply by questioning the rating at all.

 

"Ironically, this is likely to result in more rather than less [sic] consumers being drawn to this game, particularly those very minors all of us seek to protect."

 

If it is not completely 100% OK for "those very minors" to be playing this game called "Beer Pong," then the game really should have been rated higher than "T" in the first place, right? Shame on Vance for suggesting that interested parties -- no matter how ignorant or adversarial -- cannot dare even question a rating without complicitly contributing to the demand for the rated content in question.

 

Her message sounds like, "you may not like it, but don't question us or you'll only make it worse." To me, that sounds like exactly the same sort of fear-based institutionalized censorship the ESRB is supposed to prevent.

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

"This is why we need a rating board -- not to objectively determine whether or not alcohol is consumed by a character in a game, but to subjectively determine what sort of overall message that alcohol consumption, as it exists in the context of the larger story, might send. It is exactly because these are subjective judgments that it is so important that ESRB must continue to be independant and voluntary -- a system of suggestions, not of laws."

 

And other media doesn't have to do this why?

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Other media don't "have to do this," but neither does games.

 

When I used the word "need" there, my point was that we need for the system to remain independent and voluntary, as opposed to it becoming an agent of the state that enforces its subjective judgments with the power of law. Too many fools, on these boards and elsewhere, are too often too quick with agruments that 'since ESRB ratings are enforced by most retailers anyway, we might as well just let them become laws.' This sort of blind trust in (or ignorance of) the government frightens me more than anything else in the entire realm of civil rights issues.

 

Anyway, other media doesn't have to do this, but some other media trade organizations also choose to do it with their own independant, voluntary ratings systems, just as the ESA chooses to do it with the ESRB.

 

Understand?

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

I think I could follow on this if there were a few other steps taken frst.

1. All movies that contain b**r need to be re-rated R, including that sick E.T. movie which includes underaged public drunkeness.

2. All movies Rated R (or higher) need to be removed from retail floors. They can still be sold, but they need to be either kept behind the counter or in the back. An ID needs to be checked before you can see the catalog of movies they sold.

3. All b**r, w**e and w**e coolers need to be removed from Grocery floors. These should be sold in Package Stores.

4. It will be illegal to drink in front of children.

5. All comercials selling beer cannot be aired on regular TV channels.

6. Finally, the words B**R, W**N, anf AL***OL should be censored out of all forms of media as per your local obsenity laws.

If you can take care of all this, then you can complain about a ping pong ball game that has the word b**r in it. Normally I would go into a long rant about the hypocrasies of the situation, but I hope I've made myself clear. Also, for some of the slower readers who can't always understand my posts (see some previous replies I've gotten), the above laws would be stupid, but more importantly, they would cost a lot of companies money. And those companies give campiegn contrabutions.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Reminder to douche bag American politicians: The ESRB rates games for countries other than yours who do not have poles inserted in the majority of our colons.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

I like the point made at the end of the letter; The controversy made by that guy complaining is going to give the game a lot more publicity than it otherwise would have gotten given that it's a WiiWare and a rather crappy one at that.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Now maybe I'm out of line, but I can see where this is coming from. An M rating is completely appropriate for something with a title of Beer Pong, since beer is only available to 21+ year olds here. I wouldn't have any trouble with that rating for a game with such a focus as beer.  There really doesn't seem to be much else to it, after all.

But as a broad criterium for games it doesn't work. As the plethora of above users have noted, there are man games which employ alcohol to one degree or another. This I have no problem with, but it's only with games that focus on it that I can understand there could be  a problem.

Something like an RPG that has alcoholic objects shouldn't raise an eyebrow, because it's generally just filler or an optional part. But a game called Beer Pong could raise eyebrows, if just for the name.

Game companies should move away from these eye-catching names and themes and focus on what is truly entertaining. If this game didn't have the name it does I'd bet it wouldn't be noticed by anyone. The devs just want to be noticed, thus the name. They don't care about gaming in general. They just want to make a buck. And that is why they are more harmful than good, and deserve a tougher rating.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

wait a minute...hold the press...does that woman next to the AG have a cocktail in her hand??

GOOD GOD MAN...THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Ok..I'm really trying to To understand this..

So he's saying if a kid plays pong toss and tosses a ping pong ball in the cup they will be encouraged to binge drink beer?!?

Ok, if that's the theory he is following, I grew up watching Tom and Jerry, Bugs, Roadrunner, Felix the cat etc.

So by his theory I should of been encourage to go out and hit people off the head with Acme rockets, anvils and frying pans???!!!  I must of not paid attention watching these cartoons every day, TWICE A DAY for years!

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

FYI can be purchasesd regardless of the rating in any used pawn shop and used gamer store no matter what your age..oh then there is the web with mom and dad's credit card. here's a clue...let parents be parents and stop policing this country

 *************

Sarathi J

ww.alcoholtreatmentclinics.com

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

This guy is going on a crusade because one can toss a ball in a cup....has he Seen grand theft auto??????  which by the way (even with the rating) most kids 10 and up own or have played it!!!!! 

and FYI can be purchasesd regardless of the rating in any used pawn shop and used gamer store no matter what your age..oh then there is the web with mom and dad's credit card.  here's a clue...let parents be parents and stop policing this country...

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

I was brought up back east, I've heard alot about this guy over the years.  It is a scary thought he keeps holding office after being blasted as 1 of the worst abusers of political power on top 10 worst AG lists. I think that #1 spot is now secure after reading this whole thing because it's absurd.  People like him usually have a closet so full of skeletons that it had to be bolted shut to keep them from spilling out.  Kinda makes you wonder if he holds weekly bonfire burnings in his cozy little Conneticut backyard.  I'll bet he and his fascist buddies have "rid the world of all evil with a good ole boys bonfire double top secret decoder rings" too!!!!  Come on, they've got to right?!  I mean it goes well with the really cool "rid the world of evil" cloaks!

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Does he have nothing better to do than complain? Seriously in 5 months I doubt anyone will still be discussing this game (well actually in 5 months it will be december so I'm pretty sure they'll have a violent game to complain about).

---------------------------------------------------- Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it's over they have the same positions they started in.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

I think the parents should protect the children and I agree with Noelle.  He and his wife most likely have a nanny to watch thier kids while he is off burning books and she is off filling her sun tanned spa filled days up with private country club tennis lessons.  It makes sense they would need laws to be passed so someone is watching thier children.  The rest of the world watches they own and helps make right decisions for them without passing ridiculous babysitting bandaid laws or starting protests.  Go figure!

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

So I guess this guy would ban or burn all kids videos and DVD's too because:

Disney's Dumbo-Dumbo and mouse get drunk and sees pink elephants

Disney's Pirates of the Carribean-Capt Jack is always drunk-"Why is the rum always gone!"

Disney's Three caballeros - smoke cigars

Disney's Mickey's Christmas Carol - they drink

Muppet's treasure Island-the mice are partying with margaritas

Disney's Alice in wonderland- is major drug inuendos all the way around

Sony Picture's Monster House - the boyfriend drinks beer

All dogs go to heaven-has doggy bar

Disney's 101 Dalmations- Cruella De Vil smokes

Disney's Hercules- drink wine

Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame-drink wine and has a little pole dance action

Disney's Sleeping beauty-drinking song  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hz0abQq6AxU

Amblin Entertainments Hook-drinks

Dreamworks Shrek- Everyone drinks in Pub

Disney's Haunted Mansion-Eddie murphy's character has scotch and cigar

Disney's Beauty and the beast-Gaston drinks  beer

Disney's Pinocchio -gets drunk and smokes cigars while playing pool

Come on now...seriously!


 

 

 

 

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Pink Elephants confused me as a kid, I didn't know the thing that fell in the bucket Dumbo drank from was beer. If beer isn't in the title anymore, who's to say kids will come to that conclusion?

Anyone know if WiiWare exclusive games are ESRB rated? My Wii isn't hooked up to the internet.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Yes, they are. Even the new releases of pre-ESRB stuff like NES games on the Virtual Console are newly ESRB rated.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

[felix.jpg]

 

OH NO....FELIX IS DRINKING A BEER!!  Hide the kids

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

[raiders+marion+2.jpg]

 

Hope ya didn't bring the kiddies to the summer block buster Indiana Jones!!!

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

and Pinocchio's depicted as a minor too

岩「…Ace beats Jack」

岩「…I can see why Hasselbeck's worried about fake guns killing fake people. afterall, she's a fake journalist on a fake news channel」

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Touche!

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Uh-oh,it has drinking in it!Call the government!

I honestly think they don't give a shit about "the children",it seems more like an act to get votes.

It's probably my disdain for Democrats,but the fact this idiot is one(a Democrat)just makes sense,somehow.It's the use of the line"for the children"that gave me the feeling.Liberals love that line.

I take even the merest sight of booze in games is enough to set some 14 year old off?I love that Libertarians never complain about this shit,it's either the "we're doing it for the children!"Democrats or the"we won't let these foul,evil elctro-gizmo things corrupt our precious family values!"Republicans.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Well, considering how 'demonized' marijuana is, I'm surprised none has lamblasted Resident Evil for the liberal use of 'marijuana' in that game.  *chortle*

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

What's next Mr. AG ..Video game burning???!!!???

and since you actually don't look into anything completely before commenting, I am refering to actual video game burnings like the book burnings I'm sure you have taken part in, not copying...just to clarify!

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

HOLY CRAP...GASTON IS DRINKING BEER IN BEAUTY IN THE BEAST...WE MUST GIVE IT A ADULT ONLY PORN RATING!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaBnWZignkQ

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

He was one of the few Disney "villains" that I don't consider to be a true villain- he was just a big ol' douchebag.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Calling the game "Beer Pong" in the first place was a stupid move that they now are having trouble recovering from. It was a self inflicted wound, seeing that unlike some other games mentioned, the game proper doesn't contain references to alcohol, but that the rules and name would possible encourage drinking real alcohol, much like the real game.

If some idiots created a came called "Beer Tetris" it would mislead others to believe that you need actual beer to enjoy busting blocks. With that said, clever and bored minds can make a drinking game out of anything in a video game/TV/movie, so the responsibility falls on the people that drink.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

sick bill of rights

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

Oh god help me Mr. attorney General.  My 8 year old just saw this picture of a beer and now he wants a one.  I don't know what to do.  Please Help for gods sake, he keeps asking for a beer and I don't know what to tell him.  Seeing this advertising is crushing my spirit to think for myself. Please, im begging you, please make this decision for me.  Should I give him a beer or no?  He says he wants is a Beer, I just don't know what to do, he is so influenced by this picture.

Oh God now he wants a lime, what am I going to do.

Re: Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence

 Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

 
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