The murder trial of Chris Harris from Arminton, Illinois began earlier this month in Peoria, Illinois. Harris is accused of murdering Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children with a tire iron in the family’s Beason home in late September 2009. One of the children, a three-year-old girl, survived the attack. Prosecutors laid out what happened after brothers Chris and Jason Harris, intoxicated from a night of drinking and doing cocaine visited the Gee home in search of marijuana.
A DePaul University report says that the Chicago game development space once dominated by titans such as Midway Games and Electronic Arts is now being mostly powered by independently owned and operated small to medium sized game studios. These studios are focusing on mobile platforms and social games, and many feature a mix of both industry veterans and newcomers trying to make a name for themselves in the industry while remaining faithful to the area.
In March of last year the state of Illinois decided to pass a law that collected Internet sales tax from online companies like Amazon.com and eBay. Commonly referred to as an "affiliate nexus tax," the law passed by Illinois and other states including California, Connecticut, and New York, required online retailers who advertised on "affiliate sites" that had a physical presence in the same state to collect sales tax. The Illinois law had broad support among lawmakers and the state’s governor, Gov. Pat Quinn (D).
Add the Land of Lincoln to the list of states following Schwarzenegger vs. EMA in order to see which side emerges a winner.
Earlier this month we told you about a Delaware politician looking to reintroduce anti-videogame legislation if California was to emerge victorious in its Supreme Court fight, now a Daily Herald story lets us know that an Illinois politician is preparing for the same outcome.
In 2005, an Illinois law that would have governed the sale of violent games, championed by then Governor Rod Blagojevich, was eventually declared unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court Judge.
A relatively new Chicago school that teaches digital media features a leader that calls traditional academic institutions a “joke.”
The New York Times takes a look inside the Flashpoint Academy of Media Arts & Sciences in downtown Chicago. The school offers two-year programs focused on Film & Broadcast, Recording Arts, Game & Interactive Media or Animation & Visual Effects. Tuition runs around $25,000 a year. Founded in 2007, Flashpoint currently houses 450 students and 26 full time faculty members.
Howard Tullman is President and CEO of the school, and is not a fan of more conventional schooling, calling professor lectures a “joke” and labeling most university film schools a waste of time, as they produce nothing more than “coffee fetchers.”
Flashpoint’s Game Development program serves up four areas of focus: Design, Art (3D Modeling & Animation), Programming and Project Management. Graduates are awarded an Associate of Applied Science degree.
One student labeled Flashpoint “the Julliard of digital technology.”
It doesn't get much better than this.
The Illinois Soybean Association will unveil a game exhibit featuring Abe Lincoln and, of course, the soybean at its Farm Progress Show in Decatur next month.
The game, Think'n with Lincoln, celebrates the 200th birthday of the 16th president. Here a description from the press release:
One of the chief draws in the Farm Progress Show exhibit is the new "Think'n with Lincoln" game, a customized video game experience designed to entice visitors to answer trivia questions. Although soybean information is emphasized, Abraham Lincoln trivia is also included to tie in with the 200th birthday celebration and other Lincoln materials within the exhibit.
Positioned in one corner of the main tent, "Think'n with Lincoln" will be projected on a large, flat-panel television screen and is designed to allow up to three players to compete at a time. Each trivia question will appear on the screen with multiple-choice and true-false answers as "Abraham Lincoln" instructs participants, moderates the game and hands out prizes. Randy Duncan, an accomplished Abraham Lincoln impersonator, will act as game host and will encourage visitors to see the exhibits on display and play the game.
Can't make it to the farm show? Fear not. When the event is over, the game will remain available online.
As GamePolitics and other news outlets have reported, the ESA is suing the Chicago Transit Authority over the agency's ban on M and AO-rated video ads.
Here are excerpts from the justification section of CTA Ordinace 008-147, the document at the heart of the ESA lawsuit:
WHEREAS... the Chicago Transit Board established advertising guidelines permitting certain advertising in or upon Chicago Transit Authority vehicles and facilities; and
WHEREAS, According to an August 2008 Chicago Sun Times article at least 36 Chicago public school students have been killed since September 2007; and
WHEREAS, There is a demonstrable correlation between intensely violent video or computer games and violent or aggressive behavior (see "Video Game Violence and Public Policy" by David Walsh, Ph.D. and "The Effects of Violent Video Game Habits on Adolescent Hostility, Aggressive Behaviors, and School Performance" by Gentile, Lynch, Linder and Walsh; and
WHEREAS, There is evidence that many of these violent video or computer games are marketed toward children under 17 years of age (see Federal Trade Commission study, September, 2000)...
The 2000 FTC report is, indeed, an indictment of video game industry marketing practices. On the other hand, the industry has made remarkable strides since then in restricting the access of minors to violent games.
In its May, 2008 report, the FTC found an 80% overall compliance rate in retail ratings enforcement, with top performer GameStop achieving a 94% compliance rate. Given that the CTA ordinance was passed in November, 2008, it's unclear why the 2000 data was used.
The full CTA ordinance may be found as "Exhibit 2" in the ESA's lawsuit. Click here for a copy of the 70-page PDF.
A spokeswoman for the Chicago Transit Authority has commented on the federal lawsuit filed against the agency's ban on M-rated video game ads yesterday by the Entertainment Software Association.
Reached for comment... Wanda Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Transit Authority, told Kotaku that the authority has not yet been served with the suit but that they feels that the ordinance is defensible.
"The CTA does not allow advertising for alcohol or tobacco products and this ordinance is consistent with that long-standing policy," she said...
Taylor pointed out that they have a number of guidelines in place for determining if an advertisement can run on the CTA. The guidelines, she said, require ads to be truthful and not directed at inciting imminent lawless action. The ads cannot be legally obscene, sexually explicit, depict nudity or portray graphic violence nor can they incite lawless illegal action.
The Entertainment Software Association has filed a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Transit Authority, challenging a 2009 CTA ordinance which prohibits ads for games rated M (17+) or AO (18+) from appearing on its vehicles and facilities.
GamePolitics readers may recall that in April, 2008 the CTA ordered ads for Grand Theft Auto IV removed from buses even before the game was released. The CTA action followed local news coverage of a rash of shootings in Chicago.
Shortly thereafter, GTA IV publisher Take-Two Interactive sued the CTA, charging that the agency had broken a $300,000 contract for the campaign. The parties settled the case later in 2008, with the CTA granting T2 a six-week GTA IV ad run. However, CTA officials moved to block future ads for M-rated games by passing the new ordinance, which took effect on January 1st and prompted today's legal action by the ESA.
ESA boss Mike Gallagher commented on the lawsuit in a press release:
The CTA’s ordinance constitutes a clear violation of the constitutional rights of the entertainment software industry. Courts across the United States, including those in the CTA’s own backyard, have ruled consistently that video games are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as other forms of entertainment. The CTA appears unwilling to recognize this established fact, and has shown a remarkable ignorance of the dynamism, creativity and expressive nature of computer and video games. The ESA will not sit idly by when the creative freedoms of our industry are threatened.
The press release also explains some of the legal rationale behind the suit:
The ESA’s suit contends this new ordinance unconstitutionally “restricts speech in a public forum that is otherwise open to all speakers without a compelling interest for doing so.” In addition, the Complaint argues that the ordinance impermissibly discriminates on the basis of viewpoint and ignores less restrictive means of achieving the supposed ends of the ordinance.
The ESA also stated that the CTA’s ordinance is unnecessary because game-related marketing is already subject to the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s Advertising Review Council (ARC), which strictly regulates computer and video game advertisements that are seen by the general public. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) assigns content ratings to computer and video games, which, in turn, are displayed on the advertisements for those games.
As GamePolitics has reported, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has a similar ban on M-rated game ads, likening them to X-rated movies. It is unclear at this time whether the ESA will pursue a similar action against the MBTA.
While the lawsuit also encompasses AO-rated games, as a practical matter, such titles are virtually non-existent in the U.S. market.
DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the lawsuit here (70-page PDF)...
Despite assertions from some quarters that violent video games played a role in the February, 2008 shooting rampage at Northern Illinois University, CNN reports that shooter Steven Kazmierczak had a troubled mental health history and was obsessed with the Saw series of horror films.
Games are not mentioned by CNN, which reports that it was granted access to a copy of the NIU investigative report by an author who claims to have obtained it from a law enforcement source.
GamePolitics readers may recall that, in the days following the shooting, disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson alleged a violent game connection and threatened to sue NIU for records relating to Kazmierczak's supposed use of violent games.
In addition, Illinois legislator Rep. Robert Pritchard (R) blamed violent video games while absolving guns in the rampage.
From the CNN story:
Kazmierczak was known as "strange Steve" to roommates, studied the Virginia Tech and Columbine massacres and idolized the sadistic killer in the "Saw" horror films, according to documents from the year-long investigation into the NIU killings.
The still-unreleased police file on the shootings, which also left 18 students wounded, shows that 27-year-old Kazmierczak had been hospitalized several times as a teenager for psychiatric issues and had a history of suicide attempts...
freshman suitemates recall him as being obsessed with infamous figures such as Adolf Hitler and Ted Bundy...
GP: As we have pointed out in the past, Kazmierczak was 27 at the time of the NIU rampage. Even if he had been a fan of violent games, no age-based content restriction would have applied to him.
But, the fact that games were mentioned in connection with the NIU killer once again reinforces GP's theory that games will invariably come in for blame when mass shooters are under 30 (see: How Old Is Too Old For Game Blame).
UPDATE: Our old pal Jack Thompson writes in to remind us (and call me a "lying son of a bitch" in the process) that there were reports that Kazmierczak played the first-person shooter Counter-strike.
Note to Jack: we've already covered that several times here on GamePolitics.
Today's story, however, is about the CNN coverage of the NIU investigative report which mentions only Kazmierczak's mental health issues and his affinity for horror films.
THANKS TO: GamePolitics reader Jason Bentley for the tip!
The Illinois Senate may have given Rod Blagojevich the boot via impeachment, but game developer Yanki.JP is celebrating the disgraced ex-Guv's reign with with Pay2Play, a new iPhone app.
The game's website lets us know that this is not exactly a hardcore political sim:
Pay2Play is the game of trading and danger. How much money can YOU make selling senate seats? Head all over Illinois trading your way to success!
You have 30 days to pay back the unions, make tons of cash, and get out of town all before getting impeached! Transposing a trading game such as Dopewars with a slick interface on the iPhone.
Also a gaming first! Alcopops make it to the game scene for the first time. See what Illinois politicians have been so worried about!
The alcopops reference is a dig at a recent Illinois law prohibiting the depiction of the sweet, boozy drinks in games aimed at children - not that there has ever been an alcopop depicted in a video game.
Eager to try your hand at corrupt Illinois politics? You'll have to wait a bit longer. Pay2Play is currently on hold pending AppStore approval.
It's only January, but Illinois Rep. Robert Pritchard (R) already seems like a lock for Clueless Politician of the Year.
Pritchard, who absolved guns and instead blamed violent video games for last February's shooting rampage at Northern Illinois University, has outdone himself by attempting to amend a video game content law which was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge more than three years ago (i.e. - it no longer exists).
For an ironic humor bonus, the defunct law which Pritchard seeks to amend was originally pushed through by ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was ousted today by the Illinois State Senate for corruption in office.
Longtime GamePolitics readers will recall that Blagojevich spearheaded his state's ill-fated attempt to legislate video game content. The big-haired Guv signed the game bill into law in July, 2005, only to have it ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly in December of that year.
No one has given much thought to the Illinois game law since then - except, apparently, for Rep. Pritchard, who inexplicably sought to amend the Blago bill yesterday. Pritchard submitted language designed to shield minors from sexually explicit video games. From Pritchard's amendment:
Provides that the exhibition to or depiction to a minor of a sexually explicit video game is a petty offense in which a $1,000 fine may be imposed.
Nice sentiment, but embarrassingly bad execution.
Shawn Recinto of HeadlineGames dropped by GamePolitics the other day to let us know that a pair of games loosely based on the misadventures of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are available.
Blago Run, a Frogger-like affair, challenges players to guide Senate hopefuls past FBI and police patrols in search of President Barack Obama's former seat.
Meanwhile, Blago Red Tape Breakout is a Breakout clone in which Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan must get her supoena past rows of red tape in order to serve Blagojevich with impeachment papers.
An Illinois village's tax on video game machines has forced a small arcade to abandon its games, according to a report in the Courier News.
The Name Your Game store, located in the village of Hampshire, is described by its owners as a "favorite wholesome after-school hangout" that, in addition to games, offers snacks, collectible cards and clothing.
But proprietors Bob and Gina Pearson claim that a steep village tax of $250 annually per machine led them to dispose of their 10-game inventory. For local kids that means no more Glow-in-the-Dark Air Hockey, NASCAR Racing or Ms. Pac-Man. Said Gina Pearson:
We didn't renew the licenses because the machines don't even make what you charge in these astronomical fees... The game companies tell us this is one of the highest fees in Illinois. We wonder if the village really researched how big this should be or if they just slapped a number on it...
We had become a pretty big hangout for kids after school and weekends. But not having the video games this year has made a big impact in just the first two weeks.
A village official told the Courier News that officials set the fee high with the understanding that the game machine distribution companies pay. However, Gina Pearson indicated that such arrangements only occur with establishments which serve alcohol.
In Illinois, a new law restricts certain content in video games.
However, unlike the 2005 game violence law championed by recently-indicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the video game industry is unlikely to mount a legal challenge in this case.
The new measure, aimed at keeping alcopop beverages away from would-be underage drinkers, bars their depiction in games whose audience is primarily children. Here's the language from SB2472:
No entity may advertise, promote, or market any alcopop beverages toward children. Advertise, promote, or market includes, but is not limited to the following... (4) the display of any alcopop beverage in any videogame, theater production, or other live performances where the intended audience is primarily children.
As a practical matter, the wording of the new law seems to indicate that it would only come into play with games rated T and under. Historically, we can't recall any commercially-produced games featuring alcopops.
Yesterday, GamePolitics pointed out the hypocrisy of indicted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who publicly fretted about Grand Theft Auto's cartoon crime but himself managed to carry out what the U.S. Attorney alleges was a political corruption crime spree.
The Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal blog has come up with a different video game angle on the Blagojevich affair, remarking that the disgraved Guv should have paid more attention to this year's failed EA-Take-Two merger:
Before Illinois Gov. Blagojevich allegedly tried to auction off President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder, he might have taken a closer look at the state of deal making this year–which would have told him it never would have worked.
Deal Journal compiled some lessons from this year’s M&A market that might have kept Blogajevich from following temptation into a federal indictment.
Don’t assume you are the only game in town: If prosecutors are right, Blagojevich, accused of looking for either lucre or favors in return for Obama’s Senate seat, made an oft-seen mistake: he believed he had more leverage than he did. Take-Two Interactive Software–maker of the Grand Theft Auto videogame–made the same mistake when it pushed rival Electronic Arts to bid up, up, up for the company. But EA tired of being toyed with and walked away.
The WSJ also jokingly relates Blagojevich's relentless pursuit of graft to several other non-game biz deals.
Pop Quiz - the following line is from:
I’ve got this thing and it’s f***ing golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for f***in’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there.
The answer, as you might have guessed, is Rod Blagojevich.
The foul-mouthed Guv was picked up on FBI wiretaps trying to figure out how to trade his constitutional ability to name a replacement for Barack Obama's remaining term in the Senate for something of value to himself. The chicanery over the Senate appointment is but one of several corruption charges against Blagojevich.
And, in a yummy twist of fate, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly, who ruled in 2005 that Blagojevich's video game law was unconstitutional, was one of two federal judges who authorized recent FBI wiretaps that led to Blagojevich's downfall.
In fact, a reading of the FBI's complaint against Blagojevich shows that both the Guv and his wife have a penchant for dropping the F-bomb. And this is the guy who was so concerned about the mature content in GTA?
In still more LOL-type Blagojevich news, GP reader amuler1 reminds us that - at least according to Jack Thompson - Blagojevich asserted that violent video games were behind February's shooting rampage at Northern Illinois University. In a February 16th press release, Thompson wrote:
Today at 3:55 pm, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was interviewed on the Fox News Channel about yesterday’s massacre at Northern Illinois University. When asked why these school shootings are occurring, the Governor stated, “A lot of people smarter than I can be asked that question, but I believe we have to look to the violent entertainment that glamorizes and motivates and trains people to engage in these behaviors, most especially video games.”
The Governor echoes what Miami attorney Jack Thompson said on Fox News this morning at 10:15 am this same day, as he noted that the Virginia Tech and other school shooters have been immersed in these murder simulators.
At the time we were unable to confirm Thompson's assertions regarding Blagojevich's linking of NIU and violent games, although we have no reason to doubt that Thompson is correct concerning what the disgraced Guv may have said.
He claimed to be incensed about the content of the Grand Theft Auto series of crime games, but federal prosecutors allege that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was himself a criminal.
Blagojevich and his closest advisor are in FBI custody today, reports CNN:
Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of Illinois.
Federal prosecutors say Blagojevich, Harris and others conspired to gain financial benefits in appointing President-elect Barack Obama's Senate replacement, according to the statement.
Blagojevich, Harris and others are also alleged to have withheld state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field. The statement says this was done to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members who were critical of Blagojevich.
The Chicago Tribune cites remarks by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald:
The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering. They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism.
GamePolitics readers will recall that it was Blagojevich who championed his state's 2005 video game sales law. The statute, however, was ruled unconstitutional before the year was out. Ultimately the failed legislation would force Illinois taxpayers to reimburse the video game industry more than a half-million dollars in legal fees.
In 2004, Blagojevich lobbied to to have ads for GTA San Andreas removed from Chicago Transit Authority buses.
GP: Naturally, we're adding Blagojevich to our list of anti-game hypocrites.
Big thanks to: GP readers Norm and BlindJustice15 for the tip!
His approval rating is at an abysmal 13%. He is said to be under federal investigation. And Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich would do it all again.
Despite those horrendous approval numbers (even President Bush manages to score in the mid-20's), CBS-2 reports that Blagojevich wants to run for a third term. He is best known to GamePolitics readers as the man who rammed through a video game sales law in 2005, only to see it go down in flames by year's end when a federal court judge ruled that it was unconstitutional.
Adding insult to injury, Blagojevich's administration couldn't come up with the legal fees that it owed to the game industry and had to raid the budgets of several government agencies, thus impacting their ability to deliver services to the people of Illinois.
DUring his administration Blagojevich also lobbied against ads for violent games on Chicago's public transit system. Earlier this year the Chicago Transit Authority banned ads for Grand Theft Auto IV, prompting GTA IV publisher Take-Two to sue, resulting in further wast of tax dollars. The case was ultimately settled. It's unknown whether Blagojevich played a role. But, hey, he's a man of the people, even if the people don't like him much at all. Here's what the embattled Guv said at an event on Thursday:
All of those things happened because we had to push and prod and fight through the system to get it done for people, and if I get bloodied up in the process, and there are some times when people are just not generally approving, I feel honored to get my ass kicked for the people.
Big thanks: ...to GP readers AM and Yukimura for the heads-up!