2008’s Game Over is just around the corner and that means it’s time to look back at the top gaming stories of the past twelve months.
With so much happening in 2008, it wasn’t easy to trim the list down to just 15 stories. But we managed, so, without further ado:
15. No Taxation Without Representation: Several states looked into levying "sin taxes" against the purchase of video games and consoles in 2008. Such measures were proposed by legislators in Wisconsin and New Mexico, but ultimately failed to pass. In New York, Gov. David Paterson’s 2009 budget proposal would add a sales tax to digitally-delivered content, including DLC. On the other side of the coin, an increasing number of states are offering tax breaks as an incentive to lure game developers to set up shop.
14. War. Huh. What is Good For? As the US Army made increasing use of its popular America’s Army recruiting game, anti-war protesters marched at a number of Army-sponsored gaming event around the country. Protesters also gathered outside Ubisoft’s San Francisco offices to protest the console version released by Ubi a couple of years back. In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union charged that the Defense Department’s use of the game violates United Nations protocols which bar the recruitment of children into military service.
13. Defectors! The Entertainment Software Association began the year with 28 member companies. Following a number of defection by companies both large (Activision, LucasArts) and small (Crave, NCsoft), it will finish the year with, at most, 21. The economy certainly had something to do with it, but some reports indicated dissatisfaction with new ESA boss Mike Gallagher.
12. Spore Triumph Turns to Controversy: It was supposed to be legendary game designer Will Wright’s crowning achievement, but Spore will be remembered more for install limits and loading unwanted Securom DRM on player’s computers than for its game play. Yes, EA eventually backed off on some of the security measures but not before several class-action suits were filed by consumers. The game’s DRM issues fueled a debate about piracy that is still raging.
11. ESRB and Retailers Earn High Marks: The Federal Trade Commission released the results of its annual secret shopper study and the video game industry did itself proud. According to the FTC, retailers properly enforced M ratings 80% of the time, with GameStop earning an eye-popping 94% grade. Clearly, the ESRB is getting the word out to parents and retailers are doing a better job of training their clerks to enforce game ratings. The ESRB also expanded its parental outreach program with a very cool ratings widget and continued wooing political figures with the lure of free advertising via ESRB-funded public service announcements.
10. Rise of the Game Consumer Movement: The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) continued to expand its representation of issues important to gamers by addressing DRM, Net Neutrality and Universal Broadband, among other concerns. Gamers showed themselves to be a very powerful grassroots force, using the power of the Net to mobilize against Spore’s DRM and respond to author Cooper Lawrence, who blithely – and incorrectly – trashed Mass Effect on Fox News.
9. In the Eye of the Beholder: Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in upstate New York invited Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal to present his controversial Virtual Jihadi game exhibit and then booted him from campus when the school’s Republican Club protested. Forced to use a private art gallery in neighboring Troy, Bilal again found himself shut down when Republican city officials drummed up a long-ignored building code violation. Bilal eventually returned to Chicago where he teaches art. The ACLU sued city officials in federal court.
8. If You Can Make Video Game Law There, You Can Make it Anywhere: Led by Republican State Sen. Andrew Lanza, New York passed a video game bill in 2008 and Gov. David Paterson (D) signed it into law. However, the law, which takes effect in 2010 is essentially a showpiece and lacks teeth. Game sales will not be restricted in any way. How can you be sure? Easy: the video game industry did not file its usual constitutional challenge. See the Rest of the List After the Jump…