Obama to African-American Parents: Put Away the Xbox

July 17, 2009 -

President Barack Obama has - yet again - referenced playing video games as a metaphor for underachievement.

[GP: click here for other recent examples, although Obama has made similar comments going back to at least 2006.]

In a speech in New York last night marking the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, Obama said:

We have to say to our children, Yes, if you’re African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that someone in a wealthy suburb does not. But that’s not a reason to get bad grades, that’s not a reason to cut class, that’s not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands - and don’t you forget that.

To parents, we can’t tell our kids to do well in school and fail to support them when they get home. For our kids to excel, we must accept our own responsibilities. That means putting away the Xbox and putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences, reading to our kids, and helping them with their homework...

 

It also means pushing our kids to set their sights higher. They might think they’ve got a pretty good jump shot or a pretty good flow, but our kids can’t all aspire to be the next LeBron or Lil Wayne. I want them aspiring to be scientists and engineers, doctors and teachers, not just ballers and rappers. I want them aspiring to be a Supreme Court Justice. I want them aspiring to be President of the United States.

BlackPoliticsontheWeb has the full text of Obama's speech. The Washington Post has coverage of the event, which it termed a "tough love message for [Obama's] fellow African-Americans." The New York Times called Obama's speech "a fiery sermon."

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal took notice of our coverage - and of some comments by GP readers...

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NY State Bans Texting, Gaming, Surfing While Driving

July 17, 2009 -

The New York State Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill which bans texting, playing video games or surfing the Internet while driving, reports Buffalo Business First.

The measure, which previously was approved by the New York Assembly, now goes to Gov. David Paterson, who is expected to sign it into law. If so, the new regulations will take effect in November.

Newsday offers a comment from bill sponsor Sen. Martin Dilan (D):

This is a long-overdue safety measure for New York. Texting and burgeoning [portable electronic] technologies continue to pose serious, and sometimes fatal, distractions to drivers of all ages.

Violators of the new law will be subject to a $150 fine. However, the ban on portable electronics is considered a secondary offense, which means that it could only be levied if a driver is pulled over for another violation.

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Activist Urges New CPSC Head To Ban War Toys & Games

July 11, 2009 -

Never mind imposing tougher safety standards on imports from China, writes South Carolina attorney and activist Tom Turnipseed (left).

In an op-ed for The State, Turnipseed urges Inez Tenenbaum, the new chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, to make her first priority a ban on war toys and war games:

It’s easier for children to play with war toys than to learn how to read or play the piano. War toys teach children aggression. Aggression needs an outlet, but aggression can be played out in a non-violent manner with peaceful games.

Children should know what really happens in a war. People are hurt, maimed and killed. War toys, games, television shows and movies using guns seldom show the real effect of what violence does to people...

 

Studies indicate a direct correlation between exposure to media violence, especially interactive video games, and increased childhood aggression...


Better alternatives to children enjoying shooting at people and blowing up buildings are games that encourage the use of their minds, skills and physical dexterity in activities promoting the sanctity of life and peace.

Turnipseed served as a South Carolina state senator (D) from 1976 to1980. He made unsuccessful runs for Congress (1980) and South Carolina Attorney General (1998).

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Mass. Effect: State Legislator Wants Tax Credits for Game Developers

July 7, 2009 -

A Massachusetts legislator hopes to extend the state's tax credit for movie production to video game developers.

To that end, Rep. John Binienda (D, left) has proposed H.2690. The measure will be debated tomorrow in the State House.

Of his bill, Binienda told NECN:

It's basically just tax credits to keep this industry here. It's to bring jobs here, keep jobs here, and stimulate economic development.

 

The idea here is that if you could make some tax credits and some tax breaks, that not only could you get your degree here, but you could work here to keep the best and the brightest minds here, in the [video game development] field.

Passage of Binienda's bill appears uncertain at this point given that some of his legislative colleagues have expressed concerns about giving up tax revenue in the current economic climate. A similar measure failed to pass in 2008.

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Boston Mayor Who Forced GTA Ads from Public Transit Now Appears on Buses Pushing ESRB

July 2, 2009 -

It wasn't that long ago that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino forced the removal of ads for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories from public transit vehicles operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority. Menino's office also pushed (unsuccessfully) for video game legislation last year.

Thus, there's irony aplenty to be found in seeing Menino's face plastered onto Boston buses, courtesy of the ESRB.

Last month GamePolitics broke the news that Menino was partnering with the ESRB on a public service ad campaign designed to raise parental awareness of the video game industry's content rating system. The bus ads are just a piece of that campaign which also includes TV spots, radio ads and outdoor print ads.

Locally, the Boston Globe and Boston-based Joystiq blogger Alexander Sliwinski have both taken note of the appearance of Menino's mug on local public transit. According to the Globe, the ESRB forked over $43,195 to the MBTA for the three-month bus ad campaign.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Menino is running for re-election this year. Prof. John Berg of the Suffolk University government department commented on the ads:

They can do this stuff, which is no doubt intended to help the [re-election] campaign, but looks very legitimate because they’re taking advantage of their role as head of the city.

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Obama Honors Creator of Game That Helps Kids Cope with Cancer

July 1, 2009 -

At the White House yesterday, President Barack Obama lauded a California non-profit which publishes a PC game designed to help children and teens cope with cancer.

As reported by the San Mateo Daily Journal, Obama recognized HopeLab and its game Re-Mission as an example of the kind of social innovation that is worthy of support from both the public and private sectors. Praising the work of HopeLab and three other non-profits during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, the President said:

If we work together — if we all go all-in here — think about the difference we can make. Think about the impact we could have with just the organizations represented in this room.

A White House press release praised HopeLab and its game:

HopeLab is dedicated to finding solutions that have broad impact, and works closely with tweens, teens and young adults to create fun, innovative products that meet their needs. Among them is Re-Mission, HopeLab's groundbreaking video game for young people with cancer. Data show that that Re-Mission improves treatment adherence and other key health outcomes... HopeLab is also developing products to combat sedentary behavior in children as a way to fight the effects of childhood obesity.

C-SPAN video of the ceremony is available here. More details of the event are available via HopeLab's Twitter account.

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Once Again, Obama Refers to Video Games As Something to Set Aside for a Greater Good

June 26, 2009 -

While President Obama has never expressed a specific anti-video game sentiment that we're aware of, he does often refer to games as something to put aside in order to do something more worthy.

To wit; on Father's Day Obama urged dads to swap their kids' video games for books. In a recent speech to the American Medical Association, Obama said that children should "step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside." In early June Obama suggested that Chinese and Indian children were pulling ahead of American youth because they watch less T.V., play fewer video games and spend more time on their schoolwork.

Video games came up again yesterday as the President and Mrs. Obama spoke at a United We Serve event at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. eNews Park Forest has a transcript, including the President's comment on video games:

On Monday, we launched "United We Serve," our summer service initiative.  It's going to run all the way through our National Day of Service on September 11th.  We want to ask every American to take some time out this summer to do something for others. 

 

Parents, take your kids -- they're going to have fun, they're going to be in sports camps, they're going to be watching TV and playing video games.  Once a week, take them down -- whether it's to a soup kitchen or to volunteer on a community project -- teach them what it means to be a real citizen.  You'll find that actually the kids love it, and it's going to make a lasting impression on them. 

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In Congress, Rep. Kucinich Argues Against Army's Video Game-Fueled Recruiting Road Show

June 25, 2009 -

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is no fan of the controversial Virtual Army Experience, a traveling, high-tech, video game-driven military recruiting program.

As GamePolitics reported in March, Kucinich urged the House Armed Services committee to eliminate funding for the project, charging that it "give[s] participants as young as 13 years old a naïve and unrealistic glimpse into the world of soldiering..."

In addition, Kucinich has taken the debate over the VAE to the floor of Congress. A C-SPAN video posted yesterday on YouTube shows the former presidential hopeful once again expressing concern over the recruiting program. Engaging in a colloquy with House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO). Kucinich said:

Children as young as 13-years-old are participating in the Virtual Army Experience, which paints an innaccurate picture of war by glorifying it while sanitizing the real effects. More than a mere video game, it includes interactions with real veterans, who appear to be in perfect health. It also requires that the user, regardless of age, share personal information as a condition of participation...

 

I think we can agree that the Virtual Army Experience video game must be revalidated to ensure that its age-appropriate rating is accurate in the context of how it's being employed; that the Virtual Army Experience content should be reviewed to ensure it accurately reflects the consequences of war; and that there must be increased transparency with regard to how the personal information of the participants, collected during participation, will be used by the Army.

Skelton's response is of interest in that he didn't exactly disagree with Kucinich:

I support the VAE. At the same time, I know it can be improved. And I would be happy, of course, to work with this gentleman to address the issues that you have so aptly raised.

GP: At this point we're not entirely sure when Kucinich made the remarks in the House; given that they just hit YouTube, we assume that they are recent. Any GamePolitics reader input on the timing of Kucinich's comments will be gratefully accepted.

Thanks to: GP correspondent Andrew Eisen...

Massachusetts Guv Brags About Guitar Hero

June 25, 2009 -

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) did a little bragging on Guitar Hero at a town hall meeting  in Arlington on Monday night.

Patrick, who lobbied game publishers to relocate to Massachusetts during a West Coast junket in February, was enthusiastic about the state's economic prospects during his talk with citizens, according to Wicked Local Arlington:

This is not your father’s [Route] 128. You know that [video game] ‘Guitar Hero’? That was invented here. It was built here.

Route 128 is well-known as a technology corridor in Massachusetts. Guitar Hero creator Harmonix is based in Cambridge.

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Faced with White House National Security Claim, Public Interest Groups Drop Information Lawsuit on Secret Copyright Treaty

June 24, 2009 -

For nearly a year GamePolitics has been tracking ATCA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

As we have reported, ACTA deals in large part with copyright issues and is being negotiated in secret by the U.S., Japan, Canada, the EU and other nations. Details of ACTA are largely a mystery to consumers despite the fact that dozens of corporate lobbyists have been clued in to parts of the treaty, including Stevan Mitchell, VP of IP Policy for game publishers trade group the Entertainment Software Association.

Sadly, consumer interests suffered a major blow last week as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge dropped a federal lawsuit seeking to cast a little sunshine on the ACTA negotiations. The EFF explained that a recent decision by the Obama Administration to claim a national security exemption for the ACTA talks made the lawsuit unwinnable; federal judges have  little leeway to overrule such claims. The move by the Obama White House extends a similar policy put in place by the Bush Administration.

Public Knowledge Deputy Legal Director Sherwin Siy commented on the decision:

Even though we have reluctantly dropped this lawsuit, we will continue to press the U.S. Trade Representative and the Obama Administration on the ACTA issues. The issues are too far-reaching and too important to allow this important agreement to be negotiated behind closed doors.

The worry, of course, is that the United States will emerge from ACTA with a done deal that favors Big IP in the fashion of the consumer-unfriendly DMCA. Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association, expressed concerns about ACTA earlier this year:

Because ECA supports the balance that must exist between the rights of copyright owners and the right of copyrighted material consumers, we do not think it wise to include any portions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) currently being discussed...    

We are concerned that any DMCA language in ACTA may cause enormous, unforeseen negative implications in US law...

GP: As GamePolitics mentioned above, video game publishers lobbying group the ESA is privy to at least a portion of the secret ACTA negotiations while its industry's customers - video game consumers - are barred from knowing anything at all.

That makes us wonder - will the Video Game Voters Network, which is owned and operated by the ESA, commence a letter-writing campaign on behalf of its gamer-members demanding that the White House pull the curtain back on ACTA?

Somehow we doubt it.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The Entertainment Consumers Association is the parent company of GamePolitics.

Portions Via: /.

On Father's Day, Obama Urges Dads To Swap Video Games for Books

June 21, 2009 -

Repeating a theme that he frequently touched upon during his 2008 election campaign, President Barack Obama has once again referenced video games as a metaphor for academic underachievement.

In a Father's Day message published in Parade, Obama writes:

We need to set limits and expectations. We need to replace that video game with a book and make sure that homework gets done... We need to tell our sons, Those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in our house, we find glory in achievement, self-respect, and hard work.

Interestingly, the Parade feature is Obama's third mention of video games in the last 10 days. On June 11th he told an audience in Wisconsin:

The world has gotten competitive. The Chinese, the Indians, they're coming at us and they're coming at us hard, and they're hungry, and they're really buckling down.

And they watch - their kids watch a lot less TV than our kids do, play a lot fewer video games, they're in the classroom a lot longer.

Last Monday the President mentioned games during a speech to the American Medical Association in Chicago:

[Preventive care] starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and the health of our children. It means... raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside.

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Obama Names Video Games as Health Concern in Speech to A.M.A.

June 15, 2009 -

In a speech to the American Medical Association in Chicago today, President Obama mentioned video games as a factor in unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles.

As reported by the New York Times, Obama addressed the AMA as part of his drive to build support for sweeping healthcare reform. The Wall Street Journal's Health blog has the full text of the President's remarks. Here's what he said about video games:

The second step that we can all agree on is to invest more in preventive care so that we can avoid illness and disease in the first place. That starts with each of us taking more responsibility for our health and the health of our children. It means quitting smoking, going in for that mammogram or colon cancer screening. It means going for a run or hitting the gym, and raising our children to step away from the video games and spend more time playing outside.

In other speeches, Obama has frequently linked video games to academic underachievement.

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XBL Indie Game Turns Obama Into Side-Scrolling Scrapper

June 15, 2009 -

A recently-released Xbox Live Community Game (MS recently announced that these will soon be called Indie Games) features President Obama as a side-scrolling, 2-D brawler.

Angry Barry is available for 400 points on Xbox Live. We didn't spring for the game although we did check out the free demo.

Hillary Clinton makes an appearance in the game and the screen shot at left appears to feature Sarah Palin. From the game's XBL page:

Angry Barry is a sidescrolling, political parody, 1-2 player 2D beat 'em up in the tradition of many classic arcade games. Take control of Barry as he tries to take over the Presidency of the United States!

Obama: Chinese & Indians Kids Play Fewer Video Games, "Coming At Us Hard"

June 12, 2009 -

Returning to a theme that he touched upon often during the 2008 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama told the audience at a town hall meeting in Wisconsin that American kids spend too much time playing video games and watching television.

But Obama added a new wrinkle to yesterday's remarks, linking them to the United States' ability to compete in the global marketplace:

Even with the good schools, we've got to pick up the pace, because the world has gotten competitive. The Chinese, the Indians, they're coming at us and they're coming at us hard, and they're hungry, and they're really buckling down.

And they watch - their kids watch a lot less TV than our kids do, play a lot fewer video games, they're in the classroom a lot longer.

So here's the bottom line. We've got to improve, we've got to step up our game. While the average public school is actually doing a reasonably good job... we are falling behind when it comes to math; our kids are falling behind when it comes to science...

We used to be head and shoulders above other countries when it came to education. We aren't anymore. We're sort of in the middle of the pack now among wealthy, advanced, industrialised countries.

Via: IANS

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Video of L.A. Mayor Welcoming E3 2009 to Town

June 9, 2009 -

We posted a story on this last Thursday, but here's exclusive video footage from GP's mobile phone which shows Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa welcoming E3 2009 to town.

To the left of Villaraigosa is ESA boss Mike Gallagher.

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Kansas Attorney General Teams Up with ESRB on Ratings Awareness

June 9, 2009 -

Steve Six (D), the Attorney General of Kansas, has become the latest high-level state official to sign on in support of the video game industry's ESRB rating system.

A press release posted last week on Six's website includes the A.G.'s reminder to parents to make use of ESRB ratings:

With school out for the summer, kids may spend more time playing video games.  Parents must be vigilant about the media they allow into their homes. There's simply no substitute for parental involvement and responsibility, and it's important that parents play an active role in choosing games for their children. 

 

ESRB ratings are an effective and informative resource that allows parents to decide if the video game their child wants is appropriate, and rating summaries provide even more insight into exactly what a parent would want to know about in a game.  I'm proud to be educating parents in our state about the tools at their disposal.

Six will deliver the ESRB message on public service announcement on radio and T.V. in Kansas. The televised version PSA can be viewed on the ESRB website (scroll down to "Statewide TV").

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Obama Advisor To Make Second Life Appearance

June 8, 2009 -

Kevin Werbach, who served on the FCC segment of the Obama transition team, remains with the Administration as a part-time advisor on broadband issues.

Over at New World Notes, Wagner James Au reports that Werbach, who is a veteran of the Second Life metaverse, will make an SL appearance later this week:

Werbach will be back in-world this Wednesday at 1pm Pacific to appear on the Metanomics show, for an extremely apropos topic: "The Age of Obama: Virtual Worlds, Open Government, and Policy"...

 

Kevin tells me he can't discuss the particular policy advice he gave the Administration about virtual worlds, but I suspect he'll provide some great insider perspectives on how they're being shaped. 

Werbach and his Second Life avatar appear at left.

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Spotted at E3: L.A. Mayor Cuts Ribbon to Welcome 2009 Expo

June 5, 2009 -

On Tuesday Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa officially welcomed E3 back to the City of Angels with a presentation to ESA boss Mike Gallagher and a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

And, why not? As the Los Angeles Times reports, E3 2009 generated more than $15 million in commerce for the city.

There's no truth to the rumor, by the way, that those giant scissors are a new Wii peripheral.
 

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L.A. Mayor To Officially Welcome E3 to Town

June 1, 2009 -

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D, at left) will extend an official welcome to E3 2009 tomorrow afternoon, according to a press release issued by the Entertainment Software Association, which operates the expo.

The 3:30 p.m. ceremony will mark the official opening day of E3 and will feature a ribbon cutting by Mayor Villarigosa, ESA boss Mike Gallagher and Mark Liberman, head of LA INC.

The event will take place outside the West Hall lobby of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

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Boston Mayor to Partner with ESRB on Ratings Awareness Campaign

May 27, 2009 -

He has been one of the video game industry's most aggressive critics in the past, but GamePolitics has learned that Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D) will partner with the ESRB on a public service ad campaign designed to raise parental awareness of the video game rating system.

The campaign, unveiled in Boston by Menino and ESRB President Patricia Vance, will feature T.V. and radio ads as well as outdoor print ads. Of the media blitz, Menino said:

Parents want control of the media that comes into their homes, and the entertainment that their children enjoy. That’s why it’s so imperative that we educate parents about useful and informative tools like the ESRB ratings and rating summaries, so they’ll be empowered to make informed choices about which games they deem appropriate.  I’m proud to be educating parents in our city about the tools at their disposal.

With today's news, Menino joins a number of high-profile elected officials around the country who have partnered with the ESRB on game ratings awareness campaigns over the past several years. Given Menino's track record as a video game industry critic, the turnabout is especially significant.

In 2006 Menino led a campaign to have Grand Theft Auto ads removed from public transit. In 2007 his office flirted with video game legislation authored by Jack Thompson. The Boston Mayor's video game bill was eventually submitted to the legislature in 2008, but died in committee.

Menino, who earlier this year touted Boston as a game industry-friendly city in an effort to attract jobs, is running for an unpredecented fifth term as mayor.

Mayor Hopeful Names Video Games as One of Top Problems Facing Washington, D.C. Youth

May 27, 2009 -

City Councilman Michael Brown (I, at left) hopes to mount a challenge to incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) next year for the top job in Washington, D.C. city government.

The Brookland Heartbeat reports that in a recent speech, Brown listed video games among the top problems facing youth in D.C.:

Mr. Brown criticized Mayor Adrian Fenty and DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee... Mr. Brown also criticized the District’s school modernization program for failing to address what he said were the real problems facing District youth: lack of vocational/technical schools, gunfire, excessive video game playing, and lack of neighborhood amenities such as grocery stores.

Until those problems are solved, “it doesn’t matter how pretty the school is,” said Mr. Brown...

GP: Ironically, in 2005, while still a member of City Council, Mayor Fenty unsuccessfully tried to legislate the sale of violent video games to minors in D.C.

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Bethesda: We Didn't Seek Bill Clinton For Fallout 3

May 23, 2009 -

Following up on yesterday's report that Blindlight, a Hollywood firm which recruits voice actors for video game projects, had approached Bill Clinton for the role of the president in Fallout 3, Chris Morris of Variety contacted F3 publisher Bethesda, which seemed non-plussed by the news.

Pete Hines, VP of PR for Bethesda, told Morris:

Before they would pitch us on someone like Clinton, they may first go ask if he would do something like that. In no way, shape or form, did we say is President Clinton is who we want for this role or [tell Blindlight to] go chase him.

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Congressional Anti-Piracy Caucus Singles Out Five Nations

May 22, 2009 -

On Wednesday game publishers' lobbying group ESA issued a press release praising members of the bipartisan Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus for singling out Spain, Canada, Mexico, Russia and China as anti-piracy priorities for 2009.

ESA CEO Michael Gallagher praised the IAPC in a press release:

We thank the Caucus for this year issuing a challenge to Canada and Mexico to pass additional legislative protections – such as prohibitions on ‘mod chips’ and other circumvention devices that are used to play pirated games – and to follow through with greater enforcement and border controls.

We also thank the Caucus for highlighting the severe problems that exist for our industry and other copyright industries in Spain. Online and peer-to-peer piracy are rampant and virtually unchecked in Spain and in other major European markets...

But Nick Farrell of the U.K.-based Inquirer, doesn't think much of the caucus, implying that the senators and representatives on the IAPC have been lobbied by the RIAA and other IP rights holders. Farrell writes:

The RIAA has got its tame politicians in the US congress to rail at other nations that don't hold such a jack-booted attitude toward copyright infringement as the Land of the Free...

[IAPC] singled out Baidu, China's largest Internet search engine, as being "responsible for the vast majority of illegal music downloading in China." That's interesting, because Baidu does the same thing as Google which, as a powerful US company, the music industry has not dared to denounce...

It seems almost as though the entertainment mafiaa would like the US to mount a cross-border raid into Canada over its perceived lack of draconian copyright enforcement and wants the US to treat its NATO ally Spain as a pariah for having the temerity to say that peer-to-peer file sharing over the Internet isn't a crime.

Bill Clinton Turned Down Voice-over Role in Fallout 3

May 22, 2009 -

Fallout 3 was maybe the best game of 2008. Could an appearance by Bill Clinton have made it even more memorable?

In an interview with Edge Online, Lev Chapelsky, general manager of Blindlight, a Hollywood-based firm which connects actors, writers and musicians with game projects, mentions that he tried to recruit the former president for voice work in Bethesda's best-selling action/RPG:

Celebrity acquisition applies not just to celebrity actors but to sports figures, politicians – we’ve made offers to Bill Clinton for videogames and gotten great responses with attorneys who have said, ‘The former president will not participate in one of your videogame products, thank you very much’...

What project did you ask Bill Clinton for?

 

I think that might have been to play the president in Fallout 3. Wouldn’t that have been brilliant? You get to that point in game and you hear that voice in the ether coming from off-camera and you’re like, ‘I know that guy!’

Via: Fidgit

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Online Video Game Predators Among Those Targeted by Alabama Bill

May 18, 2009 -

In a time when pedophile cases in which suspects contact their victims through online video game networks are on the rise, Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) will consider legislation that seeks to protect children from high-tech predators.

WAFF-48 reports that SB 120 is headed to the Guv for his signature after the Alabama House passed the bill on Friday. The measure, proposed by Sen. Myron Penn (D, at left) had previously gained the approval of the State Senate.

SB 120 makes illegal any use of an electronic device to solicit a child and includes cases in which law enforcement personnel are posing as children. From the WAFF report:

The bill outlaws many new ways that predators try to solicit minors... predators can be prosecuted for luring text messages from cell phones, PDA's and even video game systems...

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New York Bill Would Add Fat Tax to Video Games, DVDs, Junk Food

May 14, 2009 -

A bill currently before the New York Assembly would add a one-quarter of one percent tax to the sale or rental of video games and video game hardware.

The measure, A02455, was proposed by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D, at left) of Brooklyn. The bill would also tax the sale and rental of movies, admissions to movie theaters and the sale of snack foods and sweet drinks. In addition, corporations would be barred from taking a New York tax deduction for expenses incurred in advertising any of the affected items, including video games and systems.

The proposal is currently before the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee, where it seems likely to remain. This is Ortiz's fourth attempt at similiar legislation since 2003; none have made it out of committee.

Ortiz's proposal is motivated by his desire to address the current obesity epidemic. In the justification for A02455 he writes:

Almost all experts agree that the primary reasons [for the obesity epidemic] are increased consumption of larger quantities of high calorie foods, snacks and sugar sweetened beverages... and lack of physical activity as vigorous play is replaced by sedentary activities such as watching more television, movies and videos and playing video games.

This bill would raise revenues from modest surcharges on the very food products and sedentary activities that are linked to the lifestyle changes involved in the explosion of childhood obesity in the last 20-30 years.

Ortiz estimates that his bill would raise $50 million in revenue which would in turn be used to fund programs designed to counter childhood obesity. Conservative magazine The American Spectator refers to Ortiz as "perhaps the nation’s most prolific author of vice taxes:"

[Ortiz] has a litany of bills before the New York state legislature imposing a $10 tax on visitors to strip clubs, a 25¢-cent tax on bottles of beer and wine, and a fatso tax on soda, sweets, and video games.

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How Obama's SCOTUS Choice Might Affect Video Games

May 4, 2009 -

With the pending retirement of Justice David Souter from the U.S. Supreme Court, President Barack Obama will have the opportunity to name a replacement.

His choice could have a major impact on the constitutional issues relating to video games, especially if California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decides to ask SCOTUS to consider February's 9th Circuit Court ruling that his state's 2005 video game law is unconstitutional. That decision from Schwarzenegger will come later this month.

Among names being floated for Souter's seat are Gov. Jennifer Granholm (left) of Michigan and 7th Circuit Court Judge Diane Pamela Wood (right). Both have a track record with video game issues.

As Governor, Granholm signed into law a 2005 video game blocking minors from purchasing violent games. The video game industry filed suit and the measure was ruled unconstitutional later that year by a U.S. District Court judge.

For her part, Judge Wood has a rather different history with games. In 2001 she was part of a three-judge Circuit Court panel which overturned an Indianapolis law that sought to limit the access of minors to violent arcade games. That case, AAMA v. Kendrick was the first of what has become an uninterrupted string of court victories in such cases for the video game industry.

Whether Obama appoints Wood, Granholm or another choice, this could be the year that the constitutionality of restricting violent video game sales makes it to the Supreme Court. The possibilities become even more interesting given conservative Justice Antonin Scalia's 2008 comment that such restrictions might pass constitutional muster.

DOCUMENT DUMP: AAMA v. Kendrick

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ESA Cheers as Obama Administration Spanks Canada

April 30, 2009 -

Those pesky Canadians have finally pushed the U.S. Government to the brink.

If the Bushies were still in power we might now be glued to CNN, watching the 82nd Airborne para-dropping into Ottawa. But as it is, the Obama administration has settled for delivering a nasty slap via the office of U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk (left).

The issue is copyright protection and the USTR, a cabinet-level post, has been making unpleasant noises in Canada's direction for several years. Today Kirk dropped the hammer, placing Canada on the "Priority Watch List" along with China, Russia, Algeria, Argentina, Chile, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela. From the USTR report:

Canada is being elevated to the Priority Watch List for the first time, reflecting increasing concern about the continuing need for copyright reform, as well as continuing concern about weak border enforcement.

The Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies on behalf of U.S. video game publishers, was quick to applaud the action in a press release. No surprise there, as the ESA has been pushing hard in recent years for Canada to outlaw mod chips and adopt its own version of the consumer-unfriendly Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

In fact, with DMCA-like legislation an issue that Canada's Parliament will soon be considering, a cynic might be forgiven for thinking that the USTR's action was timed for its persuasive value as much as anything else.

Of today's announcement, ESA CEO Michael Gallagher commented:

Putting Canada on the ‘Priority Watch List’ is a signal of the Obama Administration’s commitment to strengthening global intellectual property protection, and its intent to address this issue firmly with the Canadian government. Canada’s weak laws and enforcement practices foster game piracy in the Canadian market and pave the way for unlawful imports into the U.S.

So what does the ESA want from Canada? They have a laundry list:

  • Enact legislation outlawing game circumvention devices, such as “mod chips” and “game copiers,” in line with Canada’s international treaty obligations
  • Create adequate legal incentives for internet service providers (ISPs) to work with copyright owners in combating online piracy
  • Provide Customs officials with adequate authority to make ex officio seizures of counterfeit and pirate product at the border; and,
  • Provide adequate resources to anti-piracy enforcement efforts and make prosecution of intellectual property crimes a high priority.

New iPhone App Delivers Audio & Text of JFK's "Ask Not" Inaugural Address

April 29, 2009 -

For JFK fans or those with an interest in history, a just-released free app for iPhone/iPod Touch delivers the full audio and text of President Kennedy's January, 1961 inaugural address.

The best-known line from that speech, of course, is:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

4 comments

Quick Exit: ESA's Head Lobbyist Out After a Month

April 24, 2009 -

Earlier this year GamePolitics reported that the Entertainment Software Association hired Jennifer Manner (left) as its new head of government relations (i.e., lobbying).

Apparently, the ESA and Manner were not a good fit. The National Journal reports that the ESA's new head lobbyist is gone after just a month in her new position:

Manner, a long-time Democrat, didn't appear to have extensive Capitol Hill or administration experience. Her background included stints as a vice president of regulatory affairs at Skyterra Communications, chair of the Satellite Industry Association, and senior counsel to former FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy. She has also... taught as an adjunct professor of law. ESA is not advertising any new job openings on its Web site.

An association spokesman confirmed that Manner had departed but gave no further information.

By our count, Manner is the third ESA VP to leave in the last 12 months. Others include former senior VP and general counsel Gail Markels and Ed Desmond, whose position was filled by Manner.

As we mentioned when Manner's hiring was announced, an ESA press release made it a point to refer to her as a "long-time Democrat." ESA CEO Mike Gallagher is a former Bush administration official.

Culture clash?

7 comments

 
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PHX Corphttps://trustygem.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/windows-10-insider-preview-phase-3/ My Thoughts on Windows 10 Insider Preview07/02/2015 - 6:17pm
Matthew Wilsonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?t=18&v=CbGmrySQLIg looks like Inafune is giving capcom the middle finger.07/02/2015 - 5:05pm
TechnogeekUnfortunately, the shoutbox moves fast enough that I can't find why I got that impression, so if was indeed erroneous I do apologize.07/02/2015 - 4:34pm
TechnogeekBut yeah, as far as my earlier comment re: you and the article, I did get the impression at some point that you felt there should have been some sort of reprecussions for the article's existence.07/02/2015 - 4:34pm
TechnogeekI got expletive-censored for posting something a few weeks back wherein I expressed my shock that I agreed with you about something, Skunk; so you're not the only one being hit with that stick.07/02/2015 - 4:31pm
Andrew EisenI know you don't. And you haven't recently so all's well.07/02/2015 - 4:25pm
Goth_SkunkI don't think I misrepresented anything.07/02/2015 - 4:24pm
Andrew EisenHeavy profanity is not permitted in the Shout box. Words like "moron" are but we ask that our readers not resort to name-calling.07/02/2015 - 4:23pm
Goth_SkunkSo I can't say a 4-letter curse word, but Mechacrash is free to call me a moron. Acknowledgment: Mecha was warned about his conduct, but his post was not edited, as mine was.07/02/2015 - 4:20pm
Andrew EisenWhat people took issue with was your misrepresentation of what the author said. Now that you're criticizing what she actually said, no one has a problem (though they might disagree with your opinion).07/02/2015 - 4:19pm
Andrew EisenThat's not comparable at all. One is advice, one is a rule.07/02/2015 - 4:17pm
Goth_SkunkBut apparently, people seem to take issue with my justification and have been jumping down my throat about it for... 24 hours?07/02/2015 - 4:17pm
Goth_SkunkAnd now we've just had an example wherein I was forced to moderate myself in order to minimize offense.07/02/2015 - 4:16pm
Goth_SkunkThat's what this whole conundrum's been about! I strongly disapproved with the Wired article writer's suggestion and made that opinion known here in the shoutbox.07/02/2015 - 4:16pm
Andrew EisenPlease keep such strong language out of the Shout box. Anyway, that's fine. If there's something you want to write about. Go right ahead. Don't like someone's suggestion? Feel free to say so.07/02/2015 - 4:13pm
Goth_SkunkIf I get a response "this rape scene you wrote was offensive. You should've done it differently. Consider examples A, B, C, or D" I would happily take it under advisement should I decide to write something similar in the future.07/02/2015 - 4:12pm
Goth_SkunkIf I get backlash for such a decision consisting of "this rape scene was offensive," that's fine. If I get criticism like "this rape scene was so offensive, you shouldn't have written it," I'll respond "Go (expletive) yourself"07/02/2015 - 4:11pm
Andrew EisenMatthew - Oh, absolutely. But no one's saying any specific trope or subject should be taboo.07/02/2015 - 4:11pm
Andrew EisenA few have opined that I should have left the "I'm on a whore" line out of my Old Spice Parody video. I don't see why that's a problem.07/02/2015 - 4:10pm
Goth_SkunkHypothetical: If I'm writing a story and in my story there is a rape scene, and that rape scene is present because I want it to be there, and it is very relevant to the story as a whole, I'm going to write it.07/02/2015 - 4:10pm
 

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