Game Biz Veteran Criticizes ESRB, Calls for Congressional Regulation of Games

May 14, 2008 -

John Douglas, a former game industry worker who says he has played over 7,000 titles, has once again criticized violence in video games.

As reported by Christian news site OneNewsNow, Douglas has called upon Congress to create legislation regulating video games. From the report:

Douglas... contends that the recent release of Grand Theft Auto IV shows that the video game industry will not regulate itself. The former police officer points out that the game has received an "M" (Mature) rating, which means that anyone under the age of 17 years should not play the game...

Douglas is especially critical of the ESRB, and advised parents not to trust its ratingss:

Currently the people rating these games for the ESRB don't even play these games. There's needs to be some kind of common-sense application that's put forth as to how these games are rated... Why isn't there a law to prevent it? Because every time the state passes a law that says children cannot play these games, it's [labeled as] a crime. The media coalition and the industry itself, they hire attorneys, they file an appeal, they find a judge, and they have it overthrown saying it's a violation of the First Amendment.

Douglas, who now runs Grand Design Productions, a "family friendly" animations studio, refers to violent games as "spiritual cyanide" in a video interview.

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Late Late Show Host Plays GTA IV Controversy for Laughs

May 13, 2008 -
Craig Ferguson (left), host of the Late Late Show on CBS, has a great monologue on the GTA IV controversy.

Kotaku has the video...

GP: Thanks to GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen for the heads-up.

 

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In UK, Conservative MP Blames Youth Crime Surge on Video Games

May 13, 2008 -
A Conservative Member of Parliament has pointed to mature-themed video games as contributing to a surge in juvenile crime in the UK, particularly among girls.

As reported by the Daily Mail, MP David Ruffley (left) said:
Selling 18+ rated violent computer games such as Grand Theft Auto IV to underage children is more likely when many retailers have no fear of being caught, as my figures demonstrate.

This poor enforcement of the law is damaging to children. But I'm not surprised when officers are overwhelmed by a colossal amount of red tape.

The figures Ruffley referred to indicated that, nationwide, only eight fines had been imposed for selling mature-themed games to minors in 2006, the last year for which data is available.

Via: Next Generation

Is Hillary Clinton's Face on GTA IV's Statue of Happiness?

May 13, 2008 -
Since the April 29th launch of Grand Theft Auto IV, fans have been scouring the game for Easter Eggs, those secret items tucked away by game designers and prized by fans.

One persistent claim is that GTA IV's Statue of Happiness, the game's take on the real-life Statue of Liberty, bears the face of Hillary Clinton. Senator Clinton, of course, was the leading political critic of the Hot Coffee scandal which surrounded the last major release in the series, GTA San Andreas. You can compare the images and decide for yourself.

We've also heard that the tablet held by the statue makes reference to Hillary, but we've not seen proof of this yet. Perhaps we should grab a chopper in-game and check this out...
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Read Take-Two's GTA IV Lawsuit vs. Chicago Transit Authority

May 12, 2008 -
As GamePolitics  has previously reported, Take Two Interactive sued the Chicago Transit Authority in U.S. District Court over the CTA's recent decision to pull advertisements for Grand Theft Auto IV from its vehicles and facilities.

GP has obtained a copy of the lawsuit and you can grab it here (43-page pdf). From the complaint:
Take-Two's GTA IV advertisments promote an entirely lawful, mainstream entertainment product enjoyed by millions of Americans...

Defendants [CTA and ad company Titan Outdoor] are state actors. The advertising space that CTA maintains on Chicago's mass transit system is a public forum. CTA and its agents... for years have displayed a wide variety of political and issue-oriented... messages...

The removal of the [GTA IV] advertisments... followed a report by the local Fox News affiliate questioning why CTA allowed advertising for an "M" rated video game in light of a recent wave of violent crimes in Chicago... The Governor of Illinois has previously criticized other games in the Grand Theft Auto series... Neither the recent crimes nor the Governor's personal views on video games permitted CTA or Titan to violate Take-Two's constitutional and contractual rights...

Former Dukakis Campaign Manager Complains About Plot Elements in GTA IV (Spoiler Alert)

May 12, 2008 -
In the latest media whinge about GTA IV, syndicated columnist Susan Estrich (left), who ran Michael Dukakis' ill-fated 1988 presidential campaign, criticizes some of the game's non-interactive plot elements:
From what I’ve heard about the ending... In one version, so I’m told, your cousin and his bride die in a drive-by shooting at their wedding. In another, your girlfriend gets killed...

GP: In the celebrated film The Godfather, Sonny Corleone is gunned down at a toll booth. Michael Corleone's first wife Appollonia, is blown up by a car bomb. The Godfather himself is badly wounded in an assassination attempt. And yet Michael carries on.

These are dramatic devices which advance the story. Why shouldn't a game feature such plot turns? Does Ms. Estrich understand that the player doesn't control these non-interactive cut scenes? Or would Estrich chastise the video game medium for employing the same dramatic license extended to cinema?

It's also interesting to note that, while Estrich's son (age unspecified) apparently enjoys GTA IV, she's worried about everyone else's kid:
There’s no question that our reviews of the latest in this infamous series are not in sync. [My son] thinks it’s a great new game...

It’s not my son I’m really worried about. He does well in school, follows the important rules and generally gets bored with most video games before they get in the way of life. It’s his generation, the generation that he is going to grow up in and live with, full of kids who take this stuff for granted and spend more time with it than with real life, that worries me.

GP: Estrich comes off as both out of touch and two-faced here. And, while we had previously noted Estrich's column, our old pal Jack Thompson informed us that she was once Dukasis' campaign manager.
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Researcher: What GTA IV Gets Right About Gangs

May 12, 2008 -
Writing for Slate, Sudhir Venkatesh, a professor of sociology and African-American studies at Columbia University and the author of Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets, discusses the portrayal of underworld relationships in Grand Theft Auto IV:
I found that Grand Theft Auto actually offered a less sensational portrait of gangland and ghetto streets than the one put out by most cops, politicians, policymakers, and even academics. There is nuance in the game that exceeds most of the conventional portraits of American cities...

Not that I'm suggesting that we turn to GTA IV to solve the gang problem...  The game is a carnival of violence, deceit, and cruelty that makes you slightly nauseated after playing for only a few hours... But I have to admit that I was surprised a video game had such a well-developed, fine-grained understanding of human nature.

The game's success can be traced to a simple principle: Niko Bellic, the protagonist who roams around Liberty City, making his way in the world by building relationships... the point is that a lone wolf can't survive. Niko has to take a risk and trust somebody...
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Exclusive GP Interview: Congressman Talks Video Game Ratings, Video Game Rape, The Daily Show

May 9, 2008 -
An exclusive GamePolitics interview with Rep. Lee Terry (R) demonstrates that the Nebraska Congressman, co-sponsor of a new video game ratings enforcement bill, has a grasp on some video game rating issues, yet a flawed understanding of others. 

As reported earlier this week by GamePolitics, Terry and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) introduced the Video Games Rating Enforcement Act. If approved, the bill would mandate that game retailers check IDs of mature-rated game buyers. The measure would also require that information detailing the rating system be posted in view of customers. Terry spoke to GP about the proposal:
This is a rather simple bill in that it focuses on making sure that retailers ID young folks when they try to buy an M or A[O] rated game. And this is kind of my approach instead of trying to micromanage by legislation the standards or content...

What we'd rather do is just make sure that parents are empowered with information, what the standards really mean and then what's specifically in that game and then to make sure that retailers don't subvert the parent's decision... If they don't want their child to have an M-rated game, the retailers don't sell it to them...

Based on the timing of the new legislation, we asked Terry whether it was planned to coincide with the intense publicity surrounding the April 29th release of Grand Theft Auto IV. Terry, however, maintained that the timing was purely coincidental:
As a matter of fact, I almost thought about waiting another week or two. I will have to take some responsibility. Mr. Matheson brought this to me several months ago and... it kind of got pushed to the back burner. So it was more coincidental... but [the GTA IV hype] probably did heighten the scrutiny of the bill within the press, which is a positive thing. But we did not wait until Grand Theft Auto IV came out to drop the bill. That was coincidental.

Oddly enough, the Terry-Matheson bill, which addresses video game rating enforcement, was introduced on Wednesday, less than 24 hours before the Federal Trade Commission's latest report gave glowing marks to the video game industry for its retail ratings enforcement. Terry, however, was clearly not acquainted with the results of the FTC report, citing 69% as the rate at which FTC secret shoppers were able to purchase M-rated games. That figure, however, is from the FTC's 2003 survey. In 2006 the number dropped to 42%. Yesterday's figure was an impressive 20%. We asked Terry about the FTC report:

Some GTA IV Buyers Troubled by Bugs

May 9, 2008 -
Next Generation is reporting GTA IV glitches on the PlayStation 3 version.

Joystiq notes that, despite Take Two chairman Strauss Zelnick's assertion that the game has no glitches, a PS3 patch has been released.

Today's Mirror reports:
Internet forums dedicated to the game have been flooded with complaints from buyers.

Hundreds of posts claim the £44.99 game does not work properly on the Sony PlayStation 3 console or on Microsoft's Xbox 360. And a HMV stores spokesman said: "We have had people come back to us saying that their game has been freezing."

Others say they cannot play it on the net because online servers are jammed.

Personally, I've gotten to 16.05% through the game (GTA IV tracks this) and have had no problems in either single or multiplayer using the Xbox 360 version. But you can't discount so many glitch reports. As a consumer, it makes me wonder about some of those perfect review scores...
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Journalist Calls Out PTC on GTA IV Drunk Driving Claims

May 9, 2008 -

Taking  the Parents Television Council up on an interview offer, Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star spoke with Dan Isett (left), PTC Director of Public Policy about Grand Theft Auto IV.

Along with a number of other watchdog groups, the PTC has been highly critical of GTA IV in recent days. Villarreal, however, reports that Isett's knowledge of what is actually in the game is a bit lacking:

Isett: I’ve actually played ‘Grand Theft Auto IV,’ and it’s right in keeping with previous versions. The series continues to lower the bar and this is the first game that has an alcohol content warning. You get points for driving drunk in this game.

Villarreal: You know that’s not true, right? The game doesn’t have points.

Isett: If nothing else, it’s a rewarded activity. Necessary for advancement.

Villarreal: I don’t think so.

Isett: But there’s an alcohol content warning and a scene of drunk driving, correct?

Villarreal: Yes. Did you play that part?

Isett: No, no. I didn’t get that far...

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Barack Obama / GTA IV Mashup Posters Spotted in L.A.

May 7, 2008 -
Barack Obama may have dissed Grand Theft Auto IV a bit last week, but, on the streets of L.A. at least, the candidate and the controversial game have become one.

G4TV's Attack of the Show producer Luke Wahl spotted some Barack Obama / GTA IV mashups around town:

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Catholic Website Condemns Grand Theft Auto IV

May 7, 2008 -
And you thought the GTA IV bashing was over?

Silly you...

The Catholic Exchange has jumped into the fray, terming the hit game a "dangerous cultural low." Here's more:
I don’t know the answer to this, but out of curiosity, I have a question: What percentage of car-jacking murdering gang members were committed to this life as children?

...There’s something odd about our culture when we try to prevent children under 17 from seeing violent or sexually overt material in a two-hour R-rated movie, but we’re cavalier about selling the same experience - actually, a more offensive experience since it’s entirely non-judgmental - in an M-rated video game that will be played every night for months.

GP: The unnamed writer apparently fails to grasp that the movie and game rating systems are both voluntarily enforced by their respective industries.
There’s only one word to describe parents who would buy this game for their children: Disgraceful.

But retailers, too, must be pressed to check ID before selling the game to children who most assuredly will seek to purchase it. Legally, stores cannot sell children pornographic magazines or handguns - but they can legally sell video games to children that contain pornographic content or that teach children how to gun down cops.
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Tracking the GTA IV Media Frenzy

May 7, 2008 -
It will be a long time until we again see the like of last week's Grand Theft Auto IV media feeding frenzy. Perhaps it will take the release of GTA V.

The highly-anticipated launch was fraught with cultural and political significance which elevated the level of interest in GTA IV far beyond that of any previous video game. Last year's Halo 3 launch may have held the pre-GTA IV sales record, but didn't come close in terms of cultural impact.

Love it or hate it, every blogger, watchdog group, TV news station, special interest, politician, columnist and talking head seemed to have something to say about GTA IV. Here at GamePolitics we basically turned the entire week's coverage over to tracking the GTA IV controversy. And why not? The hurly-burly surrounding Grand Theft Auto IV was on everyone's mind.

Game scribe Kyle Orland has penned a nice summary piece on the media frenzy for GameSpot, tracking the major coverage received by the game:
As much as Grand Theft Auto IV is being hailed as a revolution in gaming, its release also seems to herald a revolution in mainstream coverage of gaming itself...

For all the moral scolds getting column inches, many mainstream outlets seem to be offering a genuine counterpoint this time around... Overall, the mainstream media seems to be at least considering the idea that this game is no more of a threat than comic books or rock and roll were back in their most controversial days...

Judging by the media coverage, it's a Grand Theft Auto world, and the rest of us are just playing in it.
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Miami-Dade Transit Officials Explain GTA IV Ad Ban Decision (sort of...)

May 6, 2008 -
It took a few days, but GamePolitics has tracked down some background on the process which led Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) officials to pull ads for Grand Theft Auto IV.

As we reported late last month, the South Florida transit agency yanked GTA IV ads from bus shelters following pressure by anti-game attorney Jack Thompson.

While following up on this story GP communicated with MDT Deputy Director Hugh Chen and Marketing Director Michael DeCossio. It was media relations official Manuel Palmiero, however, who ultimately supplied the information below. What follows are GP's question, MDT's verbatim answers and a few bits of commentary:

GP: The GTA IV ads themselves are inoffensive. Is Miami-Dade Transit making a value judgment as to the underlying product? If so, this judgment is based on…?

MDT: The Miami-Dade County Commission has adopted three resolutions in the last five years dealing with violent video games -- R-1447-03, R-248-04 and R-573-06. You may look up all three at www.miamidade.gov/govaction/searchleg.asp?Action=searchleg.

The first resolution specifically condemned the “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” video game for its “hate-filled messages" and for appearing “to encourage or condone violence against ethnic minorities” and called on retailers to remove the game from their shelves. The other two condemned violent video games in general and urged retailers not to make such games available to minors. 

Miami-Dade Transit is a department of Miami-Dade County and as such follows the policies set by the Miami-Dade County Commission and Mayor.

(GP comment: This seems a rather bureaucratic justification. None of the three resolutions address public transit. Nor do they direct county agencies to take a hands-off posture with regard to video games. Nor does MDT answer the question as to whether they made a value judgment concerning GTA IV, although it seems obvious that they did.)

GP: Which official made the final decision to remove the ads?
 
MDT: After receiving and evaluating the request for removal of the ads, MDT staff made the recommendation to remove them.  [Ad company] Cemusa was instructed to remove the ads last Friday, April 25.

(GP: we received this info from MDT on Friday, May 2nd)
 
GP: Is MDT familiar with Change the Climate vs MBTA, in which the US First Circuit Court ruled that a quasi-governmental transit agency could not restrict ads based on viewpoint?
 
MDT: Miami-Dade Transit is a department of Miami-Dade County and as such is a unit of County government, not a quasi-governmental transit agency.

(GP comment: This answer is puzzling. The First Circuit Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for a quasi-governmental agency to restrict free speech. Since MDT is organized as a full-fledged unit of government, it has at least as much - and probably more - of an obligation not to restrict free speech. Nor does the answer acknowledge the Change the Climate case.)

GP: Is MDT aware of [complainant] Mr. [Jack] Thompson’s longstanding contentious history with the publisher of this game [Take Two Interactive], including his involvement on the plaintiff side in a pair of wrongful death lawsuits seeking $1.2 billion?
 
MDT: We were not aware of this information but it is not relevant to the matter at hand and would not have affected our decision to remove the ads.
 
GP: Other than Thompson’s, were any other complaints received about the ads?
 
MDT: We are not aware of any others to date.

GP:  Would you characterize MDT as a unit of government, as opposed to quasi-governmental? (I note the .gov website address)
 
MDT: As stated above, MDT is a department of Miami-Dade County government and therefore is a unit of government, not a quasi-governmental agency.

GP: What other types of ads are restricted? Alcohol? R-rated movies? How about a cable show along the lines of The Sopranos or Sex in the City? 

MDT: MDT's contract with CEMUSA lists several types of ads that are restricted, including:

-Advertising that contains traffic-related symbols or words like "Stop," Drive In" or "Danger" that are designed to distract vehicular traffic

-Ads containing immoral, lascivious or obscene material as well as ads promoting businesses engaged in any activity that requires that exclusion of minors

-Ads for alcoholic beverages
 
In addition, the contract states that MDT may "at its sole, absolute discretion" disallow any questionable ads, such as those that may violate community standards as we understand them based on our knowledge of the community and the feedback generated by certain types of ads in the past.

(GP comment: Now that Take Two has sued the Chicago Transit Authority over that agency's removal of GTA IV ads, a similar suit against MDT seems highly likely...)

Take Two Sues Chicago Transit Over Pulling of GTA IV Ads

May 5, 2008 -
Reuters is reporting that Grand Theft Auto IV publisher Take Two Interactive is suing the Chicago Transit Authority over the CTA's recent decision to remove ads for the game from its vehicles and facilities.

As reported by GamePolitics, the CTA pulled the ads about a week before GTA IV launched. The move followed a sensationalistic Fox News report which seemed to draw a linkage between GTA and a rash of local shootings. From Reuters:
Take Two accused the authority and its sales agent, Titan Outdoor LLC, of violating a $300,000... ad campaign agreement that included running "Grand Theft Auto 4" poster ads on the sides of buses and transit display spaces throughout the Chicago transit system scheduled for six weeks between April and June.

The suit seeks an order for the transit authority to run the ads as well as monetary damages of at least $300,000.

GP: Congrats to Take Two for standing up for its rights. Let's hope they bring the same kind of legal pressure to bear on Miami-Dade Transit as well. There, GP readers will recall, Jack Thompson pushed the agency into removing ads from Miami bus shelters.

Glenn Beck: Video Game Bloggers Are "Losers"

May 5, 2008 -
Socrates, Plato, Aristotle... Morons!

N'Gai Croal, Brian Crecente, Stephen Totilo... Losers!

So sayeth Glenn Beck, anyway.

Beck exploited the popularity of the Grand Theft Auto IV phenomenon again this evening. It was Beck's second GTA IV-themed segment in the last few days.

GamePolitics readers will recall that Beck allowed Jack Thompson to smear the ESRB and several major retailers last week without once advising his CNN Headline News audience that they were listening to a lawyer facing possible disbarrment.

Dr. Cheryl Olson, co-author of Grand Theft Childhood was Beck's guest this time. She was quite reasonable, but Beck made faces during certain parts of her commentary.

The highlight of the segment came when Beck played the role of the martyr:
I will tell you that all these video gamers... they're bloggers, as well as video gamers - they're writing all kinds of stuff about me [that] I'm the enemy now of video gamers. I could care less about video games. Video game bloggers? They're losers...

UPDATE: Mark Methenitis, an attorney who pens the excellent Law of the Game blog, has written an open letter to Glenn Beck regarding Jack Thompson's appearance.

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Tivo Alert: Grand Theft Childhood Authors on Glenn Beck Tonight

May 5, 2008 -
Last week we were treated to Jack Thompson's view of Grand Theft Auto IV on the Glenn Beck program.

This evening we'll hear what should be quite a different perspective as Drs. Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner, authors of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games will appear on Beck's show.

(CNN Headline News, 7PM & 9PM).
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Columnist: GTA IV "Stimulates Dark Impulses"

May 5, 2008 -
In the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, columnist Katherine Kersten has a lengthy whine about Grand Theft Auto IV:
Games like GTA IV stimulate and glamorize our dark impulses. They create a taste for the psychological thrill that can come from dominating and degrading others. They encourage us to strip our fellow human beings of their dignity, and view them merely as objects of violence or sexual desire.

The hazards of violent games will only increase as new, more advanced technologies like the Wii system take hold... you can act out a game physically.

The average 32-year-old man who plays violent video games -- and spends his free hours fantasizing about murdering passersby and roughing up strippers -- is likely to be someone's husband and father. What qualities of character will his wife find when she looks to him for love, steadiness and fidelity?

And when his young son looks to Dad as a role model -- well, that's the problem, isn't it?
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Bully-Bashing Canadian Pol Issues GTA IV Warning

May 5, 2008 -
A Canadian legislator who criticized Bully: Scholarship Edition in March has taken note of the GTA IV release, advising parents to monitor what their children play.

John Nuraney (left), a member of British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly, makes some reasonable points in an op-ed for Burnaby Now:
One of the top video games for boys in grades 3 to 6 is Grand Theft Auto... While it is admirable that our children of today adapt very quickly to this technology, it is also alarming that, without proper guidance and supervision, they can fall victims to the unscrupulous, complex morals presented in this particular game...

There is a great need for public awareness and debate on the topic of youth and new media. Parents, teachers and retailers must take an active role to ensure that the developmental needs of children and youth are met in an increasingly electronic age...

What we need in dealing with harmful materials and their exposure to children is a campaign of awareness - a collaborative approach that shares the responsibility amongst parents, children and youth, educators, government and industry.
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New Zealand: Illegal for Parents to Buy GTA IV for Kids

May 5, 2008 -
It is the nature of the U.S. video game market that parents make the final decision about what constitutes appropriate content for their child.

Not so in New Zealand, where the government's chief censor has ruled that parents may not purchase Grand Theft Auto IV for their children.

As reported by the New Zealand Herald, Bill Hastings (left) of New Zealand's Office of Film and Literature Classification issued an opinion that store clerks may not sell the game to parents who are buying it for their teen. Said Hastings:
If it's perfectly obvious the parent is buying the game for the child, don't sell it to the parent. If a game is R18 it's R18 for a reason and it's illegal to make it available to anyone under that age.

In New Zealand, adults buying the game for a minor - even for their own child - could be jailed for 90 days or made to pay a $10,000 fine. The Herald notes, however, that the law has never been enforced.

And while Hastings seems to take his censorship duties seriously, he had some quite reasonable comments about GTA IV's more redeeming qualities:
With the games we ban you have to kill everyone you meet and you're generally rewarded for making the killing more gruesome. In Grand Theft Auto, you don't have to kill everybody you meet - you could drive around and just look at the architecture...

All games in the Grand Theft Auto series have a kind of black satire - an overstatement of machismo. It takes the piss out of Soprano-type things.

By the way, we've heard America's self-appointed censor, Jack Thompson, claiming that the sex scenes were taken out of the Australia/New Zealand version of GTA IV. Not entirely so, according to the Herald:
In the version submitted for classification [in New Zealand], the sex scenes include going to a strip club and getting lap dances. There's also another point where the player can have sex with a prostitute - but in the version sold here, there is no visual depiction, just audio.

Thompson is trying to claim that the game is pornography, making its sale to 17-year-olds (as permitted by its M rating) a crime. If so, it would likely be the world's first-ever sans genitalia porn.

Rhode Island Attorney General Issues GTA IV Warning

May 4, 2008 -
The attorney general of Rhode Island has warned parents about the mature content in Grand Theft Auto IV, according to Legal Newswire.

Of the best-selling, highly controversial game, A.G. Patrick Lynch (left), a Democrat, said:
As video games become more realistic and in many cases, more violent, parents must become more vigilant before buying them or letting their children use them.

Also, retailers and salespeople have a responsibility to better inform parents how violent these games actually are. Grand Theft Auto IV is obviously rated 'M' for a reason, and parents need to keep a game like this away from their kids.

In August, 2007, GamePolitics reported that Lynch had joined with the ESRB in an effort to educate parents about the video game industry's content rating system.
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GTA IV Banned in UAE

May 3, 2008 -
The United Arab Emirates has banned Grand Theft Auto IV, according to a report in The National.

Some gamers, however, have found a way around the loophole by purchasing the game from the duty-free shop at Dubai Airport. The Abu Dhabi airport, however was not stocking the game.

The ban is not surprising, given that past GTA games have been banned in the UAE. And, as GamePolitics recently reported, Sony's popular God of War has been banned as well.

GTA IV Creator: Scotland Ignores Us

May 2, 2008 -
Grand Theft Auto IV developer Rockstar North may be one of the most successful high tech firms in Scotland, but company president Leslie Benzies laments a perceived lack of respect by government officials.

As reported by the Times:
Rockstar North is to video games what JK Rowling is to literature but few, particularly in government, are prepared to acknowledge this. It seems odd that politicians committed to “a smart, successful Scotland” haven't come knocking at Benzies's door.

Of the apparent official shunning, Benzies says:
We'd love to help if we have time. But there are a number of agencies which actively seem to cut us out. There is this weird thing where people think Scotland is so innovative, but if you do anything truly innovative, you get beaten down... This is our home. I love Scotland. I like the people...

We've had such a beating over the past three years - by the American government, the British government, the Daily Mail...

Via: CVG

Police Fret Over GTA IV's Drunk Driving

May 2, 2008 -
If you've experienced the "drunk driving" aspect of Grand Theft Auto IV, you know that it is pretty annoying. It makes it very difficult to control your ride.

Beyond that, it's not a requirement. Nor is it a something that furthers your progress in any way.

But, as GamePolitics reported earlier this week, Mothers Against Drunk Driving have called for the ESRB to re-classify GTA IV as "Adults Only" based on the DUI feature.

Savannah, Georgia TV station WSAV-3 reports that the Traffic Commander of the Savannah-Chatham Police Department is also concerned. Lt. Scott Simpkins told WSAV:
How many people are going to go 'hey if I can master this, I can go out and instead of having a glass of wine or a beer with dinner, I can have 2 or 3 because I've been training how to drive intoxicated'? So these are the things that I have to worry about when stuff like this hits the market.
132 comments

Conan O'Brien Has Fun with GTA IV

May 2, 2008 -


Via: GoneMicrosoft
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Jack Thompson on NPR: If You Blinked, You Missed It

May 1, 2008 -
Neil Conan, host of NPR's Talk of the Nation gave Jack Thompson the bum's rush during a three-minute appearance that also featured G4TV's Adam Sessler and a guy named Jim from BushLeague.TV.

Highlights of Thompson's brief appearance include:

Conan: I understand that you think one of the characters in Grand Theft Auto IV is based on you

Thompson: Well, they go into a lawyer's office and they kill him. I had my house vandalized, by the way, today by gamers. I get calls, death threats all the time by gamers... The real issue here is, though, that there is so much sex and so much graphic sex... I'm working with various law enforcement agencies,hopefully with the result that Take Two corporately and the chairman Strauss Zelnick will be indicted for that because this is way, way over the line...

Sessler: I hope you don't mind if I step in there, Neil. Having played the game I have yet to discover the graphic sex Mr. Thompson is identifying...

Conan: John Thompson... Have you played the game?

Thompson: It just came out and I have a life... 

Conan: And which law enforcement agencies are you working with?

Thompson: I'm not gonna tell you.

(GP: this answer seemed to convince Conan to terminate the interview... it's also a question that I have asked Thompson without receiving a satisfactory answer...)

Conan: Alright, well, thanks very much for speaking with us.

Thompson: (chuckle) I'm done?

Conan: You're done.

Thompson: Oh, great. I'll go play the game now.

Conan: Good luck... (click)

UPDATE: To listen to an mp3 of Thompson's 3-minute segment, click here... Or, get the full 16 minutes from NPR's website.

UPDATE 2: Thompson found a more sympathetic ear on Glenn Beck's CNNHL program, which I just caught. Can someone YouTube that? Of course, that nonsense about the military desentizing recruits with video games has been debunked before, but now Beck is parroting it.

Thompson also (again) linked the Red Lake school shooting to GTA and Virginia Tech to Counter-strike.
134 comments

Tivo Alert: Jack Thompson on Glenn Beck Show Tonight

May 1, 2008 -

We've just had an e-mail from Miami attorney Jack Thompson (left) to say that he would be on the Glenn Beck program on CNN Headline News this evening at 7PM & 9PM Eastern (second one is a repeat)...

GTA IV will be the topic, along with, apparently, Thompson's issues with the Florida Bar.

Thompson will also be on NPR's Talk of the Nation at 2:40 PM Eastern.

UPDATE: It's on as I type this. Adam Sessler from G4TV is leading off... Now a guy who played GTA IV for 28 hours straight... Now Thompson, who says that he is portrayed in the game and claims that gamers vandalized his house last night.

190 comments

Blogger Concerned About Violence Against Women in GTA IV

May 1, 2008 -
One of the bloggers at Ladies Lotto has raised the issue of GTA IV's potential for violence against the game's female characters.

clothesminded writes:
In GTA 4... not only can you pick up and have sex with prostitutes, but then you can kill them: with you[r] car, a gun, or whatever you have lying around. The sex is graphic... and the killings have great tag phrases.

In general I don't have a problem with violence in the media, in movies, etc. In this game however... you can make what you want to happen. Meaning you are choosing to pick up the prostitute and kill her, as opposed to driving your car...

After watching... on youtube, i felt sick, sad and angry.



 

111 comments

UK Game Critic Keith Vaz "Not Surprised" About Stabbing in GTA IV Line, But...

May 1, 2008 -
Labour MP Keith Vaz, a longtime critic of violent video games, was quick to relate a recent London stabbing to Grand Theft Auto IV.

Will Vaz be as quick to retract his comments now that further investigation seems to negate such a link?

As initially reported by the Times, the incident occurred late Monday night as buyers queued up for the midnight launch of Rockstar's controversial crime game. Initial news reports indicated that the attacker was in line for the game:
A hooded man queuing to buy the new Grand Theft Auto IV, the notoriously violent computer game, stabbed a passer-by in the head and neck. Up to 100 people witnessed the attack.

Vaz told the newspaper:
[Grand Theft Auto] is a violent and nasty video game and it doesn’t surprise me that some of those who play it behave in this way.

However, VNU reports that linkage of the stabbing incident to GTA IV may be a case of "media panic":
"The victim had categorically not pre-ordered the game and GameStation is confident that he was not a GameStation customer; neither was he a part of the queue outside the Croydon store, a source told the Games Radar blog.

The source also said that the stabbing did not occur outside the store, but a quarter of a mile away outside East Croydon station.

Via: Kotaku
51 comments

GP on MN Public Radio Today... Globe & Mail Has Live Chat with Grand Theft Childhood Authors

May 1, 2008 -
Along with DePaul University game design professor Robin Burke, I'll be discussing Grand Theft Auto IV on Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning with Kerri Miller today. The show airs at 10:00 AM Central.

Meanwhile, Drs. Cheryl Olson and Lawrence Kutner, the authors of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, will appear on a live chat with the Globe & Mail at 12:00 PM Eastern.
22 comments

 
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quiknkoldlets take a moment to share some gaming memories, shall we?09/23/2014 - 5:28pm
MechaTama31I buy stuff off the eshop because it gives me the convenience of a flashcart without the guilt.09/23/2014 - 5:03pm
Montewell thanks for the info Eisen; try that the next time i need something off the eshop09/23/2014 - 3:54pm
james_fudgere: MP, i've sent tech support a note - thank you :)09/23/2014 - 3:14pm
IanCNah that wasnt directed at you Andrew :)09/23/2014 - 3:00pm
Papa MidnightRe: SIEGE 2014 Keynote: oh dear...09/23/2014 - 2:44pm
MaskedPixelanteDear GP, something called "doubleverify" is causing some nasty browser issues on my end. Probably one of your ads.09/23/2014 - 2:36pm
Andrew EisenOh hell no. No, it took Nintendo a dog's age just to get to the point its competitors have been at for a while! (And it's still not there yet, in a lot of respects.)09/23/2014 - 2:26pm
IanCSame as PSN handles it, fi you are trying to say only nintendo do that.09/23/2014 - 2:23pm
Andrew EisenYou have to try to purchase something first. Pick a game, hit purchase and if your wallet doesn't have enough to cover it, you'll be given an option to "add exact funds" or something like that.09/23/2014 - 2:05pm
MonteI have seen no option for that on my 3DS; anytime i want to add funds it only gives me the option to add in denominations of $10, 20, 50 or 10009/23/2014 - 2:03pm
IanCWhat Andrew Wilson said. PSN is the same when you make a purchase over a certain price (£5 in the UK)09/23/2014 - 2:02pm
Andrew EisenNeither eShop charges sales tax either. At least in California.09/23/2014 - 2:00pm
Andrew EisenBoth Wii U and 3DS eShops allow you to add funds in the exact amount of whatever's in your shopping cart. If your game is $39.99, you can add exactly $39.99.09/23/2014 - 1:57pm
Infophile@Matthew Wilson: As I understand it, any regulations to force tax online would also set up an easy database for these stores to use, minimizing overhead.09/23/2014 - 1:30pm
MonteReally, the eshop just does next to nothing to make buying digitally advantagous for the customer. Its nice to have the game on my 3DS, but i can get more for less buying a physical copy at retail. And that's not even counting buying used09/23/2014 - 1:18pm
MonteIanC, The Eshop wallet system only lets you add funds in set denominations and the tax makes sure you no longer have round numbers so you ALWAYS loose money. A $39.99 game for instance requires you to add $50 instead of just $4009/23/2014 - 1:13pm
Matthew Wilsonbut thats just it those sites, even the small ones, sell all over the country.09/23/2014 - 11:12am
Neenekoeither that or it would follow the car model of today. big ticket items are taxed according to your residence, not where you buy them.09/23/2014 - 11:07am
NeenekoI doubt it would be the retailer that handles the tax in the first place. If it goes through it would probably be folded in as a service on the processor end or via 'turbotax' style applications.09/23/2014 - 11:05am
 

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