In our latest Letters to the Editor, freelance writer Jon Hochschartner posits that animal rights activists need their own "Bechdel test" to evaluate the mistreatment of animals in video games.
Animal activists need their own rubric to assess anthropocentrism in fictional work that's similar to the Bechdel test employed by feminists to gauge gender bias.
Is Call of Duty: Ghosts really that innovative? In Andrew Eisen's latest video he points out that a certain feature touted during the Xbox One press conference last week has been around since... 1996. Check out the video to your left. At least having a canine companion is new. Oh wait... maybe not...
As it is wont to do sometimes People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is targeting another video game for its depiction of cruelty towards animals, though this time it was induced to do so by GamesBeat who asked the organization for its comment. While I can assure PETA that no animals were harmed in the making of this video game, the organization sometimes has trouble differentiating between what is real and what is not (video games, for example).
In an interview with Reuters, the US Court of Appeals (Chicago) judge who recently tossed the patent litigation case between Apple and Motorola described patent litigants as "animals" and said that many companies should not have patent protections.
Calling it a "socially responsible adventure," MindJolt SGN announced the release of Fluff Friends Rescue. The iOS game, which was developed with the help of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), challenges players to rescue pets, nurse them back to health, run their own animal shelter and contribute to The HSUS.
According a report on the mostly positive web site Care2, "animal activists" (hacktivist?) have hacked a dog fighting game that was removed from the Android Marketplace in April of this year for being offensive.
As part of an attempt to clarify regulations relating to the upcoming Tennessee turkey hunting season, a local judge set aside some time in order to offer some advice to youngsters.
Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon, as quoted in The Chattanoogan, stated:
If young people spent more time in the woods and on the water and away from malls, video games and televisions, our juvenile delinquency and crime numbers would drop.
Moon, who used a bow and arrow to bag two turkeys last season, added, “Very few drug addicts and dangerous criminals are outdoorsmen.”
The Marion Country turkey hunting rules are actually quite confusing; make sure to click through to The Chattanoogan for a full breakdown as detailed by Judge Moon.
Game developer VSTEP is putting a special Greenpeace campaign in its upcoming ship simulation game, Ship Simulator Extremes. The Greenpeace campaign is what the company calls "one of three realistic campaigns" that will be featured in the game when it is released later this month.
The campaign lets players sail Greenpeace vessels like the Esperanza to confront various anti-environmental forces and evildoers including polluters who dump oil and illegal toxic waste into the ocean, whale hunting vessels and more. Players will also be able to take control of the Rainbow Warrior III a full year before its actual completion as well. Finally, the game will feature "nine historical Greenpeace missions" complete with full motion documentary footage and interviews with Greenpeace Captain Pete Wilcox as a reward.
For a sneak peek of the Greenpeace part of the game, check out this video. Ship Simulator Extremes will be released on August 27 at retail and through various digital distribution channels.
Here's a sad story for you: a 21 year old Staunton, Virginia man was arrested Monday night for killing a kitten after it accidently unplugged his videogame system. The story goes that, on Monday evening at 9:00 PM, police arrived at Bruce Jamar Walston's apartment after his girlfriend called 911. Police said, according to an eyewitness account from the man's girlfriend, that Walston "became enraged when the kitten disconnected his video game," hurling the animal into a nearby wall - in front of his girlfriend’s children.
Walston was charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, the highest penalty available for a first time animal cruelty offense in the state of Virginia. Walston, who had been free on bond in connection with a January breaking and entering charge, was held without bond at the Middle River Regional Jail in Verona.
Responding to PETA’s disdain over the use of Pit Bulls as a “fully fledged combat item class” in its Mafia Wars social game, developer Zynga has responded and removed the dog as a fighting tool.
PETA noted that “Countless social gamers stopped plowing their FarmVille fields long enough to voice their objections to Zynga about the game's negative depiction of this most used-and-abused breed, and the company quickly responded in just the right way.”
"Mafia Wars is obviously only a game, but the suffering endured by thousands of pit bulls who are treated as if they were nothing more than burglar alarms or fighting machines is very real," stated PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "By removing Mafia Wars' virtual pit bull, Zynga is no longer perpetuating the mindset that it's acceptable to chain, neglect, and abuse real dogs."
PETA has a little problem with Mafia Wars, and it’s not about the social game clogging up its Facebook stream.
Zynga plans to debut animals as a “fully-fledged combat item class” and is offering two limited edition versions—an African Lion and a Pit Bull.
PETA takes issue with the use of the latter, writing on its blog that:
… perpetuating the image of pit bulls as fighting machines is reckless and wrong. Pit bulls already face a public relations battle and are the most abused breed of dog. PETA's fieldworkers see pit bulls in horrific conditions every day. They are frequently kept chained or penned, they are taunted and trained to be aggressive, and they are beaten and starved—sometimes to death.
A Kotaku reader in Long Beach, California happened by his local animal shelter and noticed that a section of it was sponsored by a videogame developer.
Uncharted, Jax & Daxter and Crash Bandicoot developer Naughty Dog apparently donated funds for the upkeep of one kennel in the facility. We agree with the Kotaku author’s take on the lack of pomp and circumstance surrounding the do-gooding:
Know what I like most about this? This is the first I've heard of it. There wasn't a press release issued with pictures of it being built, or a Spike TV segment showing some guy dressed up as Nathan Drake cuddling lost dogs. It's just...something that's been done.
A picture of the Kennel accompanies the Kotaku post.
Good Naughty Dog.
The latest action from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) targets Canada’s annual seal hunt and includes an interactive component.
The game itself is a rather simple Flash-based, embedded diversion that has players control a baby seal around men armed with clubs as it slips down a hill. While this year’s seal hunt has ended, PETA hopes to leverage the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics in order to draw attention to the grizzly hunt with the hopes of eventually stopping it altogether.
The annual hunt sees baby seals bludgeoned in front of their parents, often before they have eaten their first meal claims PETA. In order to not damage a seal’s pelt, PETA says that many seals are hooked in their eye, cheek or mouth and dragged across the ice, often while still conscious.
PETA’s action campaign sends emails on behalf of the submitter to Canada’s Prime Minister and the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee. PETA also urges a boycott of Canadian maple syrup to further get the point across.
Animal rights group PETA has posted a new online game designed to spotlight the use of animals in breast cancer research.
Breasts, Not Tests is a Whack-a-Mole clone. Players click on cleavage shots and try to avoid clicking the animals and, oddly enough, fruits that appear. As play progresses, tiles vanish with ever-increasing speed. High scores can unlock rewards such as wallpaper and banners.
So what message is PETA pushing with Breasts, Not Tests? From the game's web page:
We all know that breast cancer is a serious disease that affects most of us in some way (either personally or through someone we know), but did you know that it also affects animals?
It's true. Monkeys, rats, mice, rabbits, cats, dogs, and other animals often suffer and die because of horrific tests that are conducted in the name of breast cancer "research." Besides being cruel, the "research" is also ineffective...
THANKS TO: Brett Schenker of the ECA and comic book site Graphic Policy for the tip!
Animal rights group PETA, which long ago mastered the art of using video game criticism to garner publicity for its cause, is at it again.
Kotaku reports today that PETA has targeted an upcoming 2K series based on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. A new campaign urges PETA supporters to petition publisher Take-Two to cancel planned circus games for the DS and Wii.
We've told Take-Two about Ringling Bros.' real-life, lengthy history of animal abuse and neglect and shown it undercover video footage of a standard industry training session, in which animal handlers used electric prods and bullhooks to gouge elephants in the most sensitive parts of their bodies.
Even though it knows that circuses are no fun for animals, Take-Two is still moving forward with its plan to create a Ringling Bros. Wii game. Please send a message to Take-Two CEO Ben Feder urging him to sever ties with Ringling Bros. Let him know that you'd rather play a game featuring a circus that does not beat animals for "entertainment."
In a follow-up report, Kotaku offers comment from Take-Two exec Alan Lewis:
As a matter of company policy, we don't comment on the business affairs of our licensors. We fully stand behind all of our products.
A Ringling Bros. spokesman contested PETA's allegations of animal abuse.
The increasingly game-aware People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will hold a save-the-virtual-baby-seals event in World of Warcraft at 1 P.M. EST on Saturday.
According to a post on the PETA site:
Activists from across the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor are banding together to put a stop to the atrocious seal slaughter. Anyone who slaughters baby seals for their fur must surely be in service to the evil Lich King.
You must be in the WhisperWind realm in order to fight... go to Northrend, where you will find a zone called Howling Fjord, where the baby seals live on glaciers and boats float in the fjords. This will be the battleground to stop the slaughter.
Unfortunately, casual WoW players will not be able to check the event out since characters need to be level 68+ to enter the Howling Fjord zone. One of the reasons why the Ron Paul WoW campaign rally was so successful was that it took place in a starter zone.
In addition, hardcore WoW fans have posted comments to the PETA article and its Facebook event listing pointing out other concerns:
I actually do find this somewhat ironic, as there is soooooo much animal killing involved during the levelling of your characters.
I am a little aghast that you chose Alliance; if you want to be environmental you really want to be looking at the Tauren mythology. They are one with the earth and they are very environmental. As someone who plays mostly Horde characters, this just comes off as prejudiced.
Whisperwind is NOT a pvp server, most likely you are just going to be a witness to the biggest in game seal slaughter and you will be powerless to do anything about it.
Whisperwind is already a very high population server, which means most PETA members are just going to see the queue screen like the Ron Paul people did.
If you're not up to date on the mini-controversy brewing around the need to shoot enemy attack dogs in Call of Duty: World at War, check out our previous story on animal rights group PETA's complaint about the game.
Publisher Activision has just forwarded a response to GamePolitics:
In order to create believable, real-world scenes and heighten the game playing experience, “Call of Duty: World at War” depicts the ruthless and gritty combat of World War II.
Dogs are included in the game for authenticity since they were used extensively by German, Japanese, U.S. and Soviet troops during the war. Activision in no way endorses or condones cruelty to animals, and we don’t believe the game will encourage cruelty in any way.
Last week GamePolitics reported that a group of animal lovers at a Massachusetts high school were outraged by the need to shoot enemy attack dogs in the best-selling Call of Duty: World at War.
Animal rights organization People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has now joined Academy of Notre Dame students in their criticism of the World War II shooter. In response to a request for comment, GamePolitics received this statement from PETA:
Not since we were pitted against Nazi attack dogs when we first escaped from Castle Wolfenstein 17 years ago have we seen such barbaric treatment of dogs in gameplay as we did in Call of Duty, World of War.
To help the folks at Activision Blizzard learn about the ethical treatment of animals, we're offering to let them take PETA's "Developing Empathy for Animals" free of charge and are sending a package of Nintendogs games to their office.
UPDATE: PETA has blogged about their objection to the canine killing in CoD:WaW
If you've played Call of Duty: World at War, you know how nasty those enemy attack dogs can be: They're fast, vicious and frightening (see video at left).
But a group of students at a Massachusetts high school are upset about the need to shoot dogs in CoD:WaW. They're taking their protest to Activision Blizzard, which publishes the best-selling game.
Breanna Lucci, who serves as president of the Animal Rights Club at the Academy of Notre Dame in Tyngsboro, said:
Killing dogs as a form of entertainment ... over and over again. That's one of the objects of the game. Parents need to know what they are buying their kids. Killing animals should not be a form of entertainment...
My little 12-pound Pomeranian, Winnie the Pooh, is sitting next to [my brother, who is playing CoD:WaW], and I'm thinking, 'This looks horrible!' My brother is a sweetheart. He won't be killing dogs after playing. But some people might.
Jen Dupras of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals supports the students' efforts:
I feel like these video games are dangerous for a lot of reasons. We can all rationalize and say it's just pretend. Even so, why pretend shooting people and dogs? They really desensitize kids and adults to what that violence signifies.
Via: Lowell Sun
But a woman named Anne Loucks has found an entertaining - if legally suspect - solution. But then again, EULAs themselves seem a bit legally suspect.
When presented with a EULA, Loucks has her cat, Simba, agree to the terms. She has even created a rudimentary physical apparatus for Simba to employ in the EULA acceptance process:
As Simba is not a legal entity, I don't really know how kitty's agreements would stand up in court, but I like to think he would be responsible for any breaches of contract, assuming the agreement is even enforceable. After all, he is not even of legal age, at least in human years.
First, we must create a way for Simba to push the button. I created a cardboard platform with a long thin protrusion for pressing the spacebar, which is sufficient to activate most onscreen buttons after you TAB to place the focus on them.
Success!! He presses the button of his own free will. Admittedly, he was coerced and rewarded, but really, nobody forced my cat to step on the button and become party to a software license agreement. At the very least, we know he was not under duress.
The download begins and I have personally agreed to nothing.
FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The Entertainment Consumers Association is the parent company of GamePolitics.
Animal rights organization PETA has named Xbox 360 role-playing adventure Fable 2 its Most Animal-Friendly Video Game of 2008.
In announcing its 6th annual Proggy Awards, PETA recognized "companies, people, and products for innovative and animal-friendly achievements." Of Fable 2, the activist group gushed:
Fable 2 is a vegetarian's dream come true. Why? In this virtual fight between good and evil, characters powered by tofu are just as powerful as their meat-eating counterparts—and are more fit and attractive to boot.
Featuring a strong pro-vegetarian theme, eating a plant-based diet helps you rack up "purity" points, whereas eating meat makes your character fat and evil. A fun and innovative game, it's also an effective tool that teaches gamers the real-life benefits of a vegetarian diet.
UPDATE: Edge points out that players can kick chickens and shoot bunnies in the game, which is just the kind of behavior that one might think would anger a group like PETA.
Dan Shannon, a representative for the animal rights group, told Edge:
I'll be honest, it's not our favorite part of the game. But what we like about Fable II and why we gave it the award is because the game presents you with choices, and then you see the repercussions of what those choices are. This is what the awards are based on, and that’s what PETA’s philosophy is—for people to understand how their choices affect the real world.
It’s not like people eat meat to score evil points, but you are supporting an industry that is cruel to animals. People need to be aware that their choices affect the world. We like that message in Fable II.
[The Chicken-Kicking] is done in a light-hearted manner. I don’t think anyone’s going to go out and start kicking chickens in their yard because of this game. Just like real life, you can go kick chickens if you want to, but we don’t think most people get off on that.
GP: Could just be that PETA, which has clearly recognized that talking about games is a good way to create buzz, didn't do its homework on Fable 2?
A Lawrence, Kansas boy's fondess for iconic video game character Sonic the Hedgehog has led to a successful crusade to overturn a citywide ban on the critters.
KTKA-49 reports that Judson King, 11, decided three years ago that he loved Sonic so much that he needed to own a real hedgehog, but...
Lawrence's animal code has long prohibited the fury rodents in the city limits, a fact that didn't particularly upset Judson's mother.
"I thought, that's my out. Now I don't have to get him one. Then he said, 'How do we make them legal?'" mom Rebecca Weeks said.
Judson researched hedgehogs for three years. When he finally got a chance to plead his case with the Lawrence city commissioners late last year, they agreed with him and lifted the ban.
Last week GamePolitics reported on Holiday Snowball Fight, an online game which lampooned, among other celebrities, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Apparently the game, created by PETA, provoked a bit of a dust-up between Palin's people and the animal rights organization. Although details are sketchy, a PETA blog claims that the group was threatened with legal action over the game:
This morning, PETA's Policy Department received a Scrooge-like phone call from someone purporting to be from Gov. Sarah Palin's office threatening legal action against us if we don't play ball...
In real life, the moose and other animals Ms. Palin blows to smithereens don't stand a chance... Though this game is just a bit of harmless payback, Palin's real-life hunting habit is no joke...
The Alaska Report has more, including transcripts of a nasty e-mail flame war between Palin spokeman Bill McAllister and PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. From the e-mail exchange, it appears that the Palin camp claims no knowledge of the alleged legal threat.
GP: Thanks to reader Raymond Martineau for the tip!
As we've found out recently, animal rights group PETA has increasingly taken to spreading its message though the use of video game parodies.
Last month, for example, PETA garnered major attention with Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals, a Flash offering parodying Majesco's light-hearted kitchen game series.
More recently, PETA launched Holiday Snowball Fight. The online game begins by having players target fur-wearers like Madonna and designer Donna Karan, and ends with Sarah Palin as the focus of PETA's ire. Palin, of course, is an avid hunter. The 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee has been criticized by some for taking part in the practice of shooting wolves from airplanes.
Critics have blamed violent video games for a number of egregious behaviors over the years, from school shootings to attacks on homeless people to garden variety aggressiveness.
But an article on the American Spectator posits a new - and baffling - theory of game blame. Writing for the conservative website, author Bill Croke blames violent game fans for the illegal slaughtering of animals.
By way of makinghis case, Croke mentions a couple of research studies linking violent games to negative behavior and, in an impressive leap of faith, draws a link between games and the wanton killing of wildlife:
It's a sickeningly familiar story. Two moose shot and left to rot... Two yearling grizzly bears killed... An increasing wasted antelope body count... Senselessly murdered mule deer left on the ground... All this has nothing to do with the legal autumn hunting seasons... it's "thrill killing," as wildlife managers call it... It's actually a national problem.
According to studies extant, these wildlife atrocities are committed mostly by young men aged 15 to 22, the video game generation. Much has been written about the nihilistic violence that kids are exposed to when they play some of these games...
I think it might be an easy jump to get up from a computer game, go out and pull the trigger on an elk or a deer, and then walk away with a laugh. After all, it's only a game... Yet, I think our four-legged friends will get a break soon, as the video game-thrill killing trend graduates to a higher plane: human beings.
Video games are mindless, as are the parents who let their kids play them.
UPDATE: Following up on GP's coverage, What They Play made a call to the Salmon, Idaho Public Library (Croke mentions watching teens play shoot-em-up games there in a portion of his column not cited by GP):
Interestingly, a call to the Salmon, Idaho Public Library revealed that they do not, in fact, carry video games which obviously casts some doubt over how thorough Croke has really been in his "research" for this piece. "We do not carry games, just books, DVDs, CDs, and books on tape," said the nice lady who answered the phone.
It's so over-the-top awful that it almost sounds like a parody headline, but that's the report on AZfamily.com.
Apparently a pair of unsupervised boys, six and seven years-old, stoned a kitten and then strung it up following a Grand Theft Auto session. They reportedly used the controller cable in lieu of a rope.
The incident occurred in late October in Mesa, Arizona, but details are just beginning to emerge. Here's more from the AZfamily.com coverage:
The investigation began [when] deputies went to the neighborhood of one of the two boys... and found the kitten hanging by its neck from a backyard tree. The boys had apparently used a wire from the video game controller they were playing, Grand Theft Auto, to hoist up the kitten. The animal's head had been injured by blows from a rock.
[Maricopa County Sheriff Joe] Arpaio questions why these young children were allowed to play such a violent video game.
“This game allows players to kill cops and rape women,” Arpaio says. “It’s little wonder why they perpetrated such violence against that little animal.”
The boys are too young to prosecute under Arizona law and, for some reason, don't meet the guidelines for intervention by child protective services.
What's next for PETA and video games?
Was Link somehow unkind to Epona? Is it okay to shoot those killer attack dogs in Call of Duty: World at War? Does a Wookie count as an animal?
gamesindustry.biz reports what GamePolitics readers may have already surmised: Advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is finding that video game controversies are a terrific way to stir up publicity for their cause. An unnamed PETA spokesperson told gi.biz:
We use games to highlight the cruelty to animals because they appeal to people who are interested but may be turned off by more direct appeals... We first turned to videogames years ago in an effort to reach out to young guys, but as we dug deeper, we realised that the gaming audience was much bigger and more diverse than we had initially thought. Given the huge success that we've had with Super Chick Sisters and Mama Kills Animals, we will definitely be creating many, many more games.
We plan on continuing to use videogames as a way of engaging the public, both by continuing to create our own games and by engaging with gaming companies, as we did when we approached Sega with the request that it not use apes in its adverts. Gaming, both casual and hardcore, is on the rise, and we recognise that as a medium, gaming is as important as music, movies, and television.
We're not taking aim at Majesco specifically, or the Mama character. We only want to raise awareness that the world - be it real or virtual - is very meaty. We want everyone, including Majesco, to offer more cruelty-free, vegetarian options...
Our game isn't an attack on the videogame industry. It's an attack on the meat industry. We love games (that's why we've created so many), and we love the Cooking Mama series."
GP: Like many other advocacy groups, PETA is using games to deliver its message. What's fascinating, however, is that they have also trained their sites onto games.
That was quick.
On Monday, Animal Rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) took a bite out of Majesco's new Cooking Mama title for featuring too many meat-eating recipes.
By Wednesday, Majesco had issued a rather mild response, pointing out that roughly half of the recipes in Cooking Mama: World Kitchen are meatless.
Eager for the last word, PETA closed out the week by petitioning Cooking Mama to commit to an all-veggie edition of the popular game franchise:
…It’s great to hear that you want to “make the world a happier place,” because that’s pretty much what we want to do too (though it seems that we might have different tactics …). I do hope that you seriously consider making a vegetarian diet a part of your strategy for world happiness.
By adopting a vegetarian diet, you can save more than 100 animals per year. Plus, vegetarians live longer and have a considerably lower carbon footprint. I know that—as you are a digital being—these benefits don’t exactly apply to you, but I still urge you to take the pledge to be veg for 30 days.
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen...
UPDATE: Popzara has an interview with a PETA spokesperson on the Cooking Mama saga...
Earlier this week, animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) took a bite out of Majesco’s Cooking Mama: World Kitchen.
To make its point, PETA offered Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals, a parody which features a blood-thirsty Mama coaching the player through slicing and dicing a Thanksgiving turkey (already dead, despite the title).
PETA apparently took issue with the new Wii title's meat-heavy menu, calling the game "so heavy on dishes that are made from dead animals that the only things missing are the blood and gore...”
Not surprisingly, Majesco disagrees with that view. Yesterday the game publisher issued a response to PETA:
[Of 51 total recipes] Cooking Mama World Kitchen includes more than 25 vegetarian-friendly recipes including delicious breakfast, dinner, dessert and snack options. And, while Mama is not a vegetarian, she fully supports the humane treatment of animals, particularly for her canine protégé Max who makes his doggie debut in World Kitchen.
While a press release is not as awesome as responding with a parody flash game of its own, Majesco still had a bit of fun by including a quote from Mama herself:
I would never put rat in my Ratatouille. Like any accomplished cook, I create my recipes to appeal to a broad range of tastes and preferences. My only goal is to ensure you leave the table well fed.
-Reporting from San Diego, GP Correspondent Andrew Eisen is an omnivore…